What you need to know:
Mr Isaac Ruto, the Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party leader is a political figure known for speaking his mind and often going against the grain. As the first Council of Governors chairman, Mr Ruto engaged in a spat with President Uhuru Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto and senior Jubilee administration technocrats and politicians on implementation of devolution laws.
He has had a hot–cold political engagement with the deputy president, but recently buried the political hatchet. But there are political undercurrents between the two senior politicians that have sucked in other leaders and their supporters.
Mr Ruto, a former Bomet Governor, has refused to disband CCM and join UDA ahead of the next election. In a no-holds barred interview with the Saturday Nation, Mr Ruto opens up on a myriad of socio-economic and political issues affecting the society.
A year ago, you mended fences with the Deputy President William Ruto. What informed that decision, seven years later after a public fallout?
Differences in politics are never permanent . Earlier, there were issues that we differed on including the push to have political parties merged and the question of devolution. I am an ardent devolution proponent and I would like it actualised as it is in the constitution. I would prefer a much more improved system of devolution. Dr Ruto was the chairman of the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council (IBEC) when I served as the Council of Governors chairman where I was pushing for counties to get more resources.
They (Dr Ruto and Jubilee team) steam-rolled the late Dr Joyce Laboso to have a woman face in the gubernatorial contest. They have confessed to that repeatedly, that they did what they had to do. I have differed with my friends on political issues, but we patched up our differences. With President Uhuru Kenyatta first, then the DP.
With the DP, we met at the home of Joyce Korir, the Woman rep, in January last year. Of course he was of the view that I fold Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) and join him in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), but I was quite categorical that we will support him as a party.
When President Daniel Moi retired, we agreed at a meeting in Eldoret with MPs Joseph Lagat, Charles Keter, Musa Sirma, David Koros and I that we will support him for the long haul, after he sought our backing.
Moi had retired and was receding in the political scene, but still felt he was around (as a community leader) after retirement.
There was absolutely nothing wrong when we mended fences with Dr Ruto in January last year. I have no quarrel with him on personal issues.
When the DP started expressing concern about the people in the juakali sector, I realised we had the same concerns.
What would have been your chances in the Bomet gubernatorial race were you not have been in Nasa in 2017?
If I had gone to Jubilee, I would not have survived the nomination. It is the same case if I go to UDA today. Someone can interfere with the nomination.
After the 2017 polls, you backed President Uhuru Kenyatta and Jubilee immediately despite ODM boss Raila Odinga disputing the presidential vote tally. Why?
We did not dispute the entire election. But within Nasa, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka and I thought we should go to court. But others wanted to have the country split into Kenya A and Kenya B. That was simply not acceptable to me. I thought, where should Bomet then go to? A or B? I disagreed with my Nasa co-principals on that.
Eventually, we agreed to put the facts before the courts and prosecute our issues. We said even if the Judiciary does not agree with our position, we will have prosecuted it in the public court.
Around the same time, President Kenyatta called me and said we should not drive the country into a chaotic situation. Nevertheless, I told him the election had been mismanaged. We engaged four times, and he asked which was of a greater good, the complain about mismanagement of the election or saving the country from going into chaos.
Was there external influence?
I agreed to work with the President because of the engagement and also after a talk with the then US envoy Robert Godec.
Where does the new political shift leave you in relation to Kanu chairman Gideon Moi?
I have no problem with Gideon Moi, just like Uhuru Kenyatta and the others, we talk regularly.
What rating can you give President Kenyatta’s on devolution and economic policies?
I have a long history with Mr Kenyatta. I drummed up support for him to be nominated in Kanu back then. I may differ with him on some issues, but we remain friends. I can, therefore, not rate a friend. Perhaps if I was to rate the Jubilee administration, that would be different.
So what can you say of the Jubilee government?
I can give Jubilee administration 45 per cent out of 100… They have done well on infrastructure. Even though the standard gauge railway is a good idea, the cost involved is another thing. On the school laptops, they dismally performed.
The push to amalgamate parties is not right.We cannot roll back the gains on multipartism. The disagreement between the President and his deputy is not good for government.
What is your take on increased borrowing by the government?
The debt situation is not right as it runs contrary to the principle of shared resources as we are loading loans on the future generations, thus they will not be able to do much.
There are criticisms that the Council of Governors you once led is today an appendage of the Executive. How can the two levels of government keep a healthy relationship?
The republic is one. But under Article 6 of the constitution, the two levels of governments are distinct, shall conduct their affairs through consultation and cooperation. I still believe there are 48 governments in Kenya.
The Jubilee government has transferred functions and retained resources. That is where we had differences.
The CoG has become timid. They started intimidating us even with the leased medical services equipment. I stood out as the only governor who did not sign it. Do not make governors to be county commissioners. They must remain leaders…Devolution still has room to grow, the two levels of government must co-exist.
There has been push to revert management of the health care to the national government. Do you subscribe to that school of thought?
No. Health care has greatly improved under counties as compared to when it was under the national government. It was in total shambles before devolution, but now even the worst performing counties are way ahead.
In fact the problem counties face is interference by the national government.
Training, policy and standards remain national government functions, but the operation is under counties.
In 2014, Governor Ali Roba reported to the Council of Governors that the first ever caesarean section operation had been successful. We chose to cry instead of celebrating as since independence, mothers and unborn babies had been dying for lack of caesarean deliveries. In my view, health care is best managed by county governments.
But when you were injured you chose to fly to South Africa for treatment in a clear lack of confidence in the local health system that was under the management of county governments...
That is an insult to me. I was hit by a teargas canister causing internal bone breakages. I was bleeding from the nose and local doctors said they could not quite understand it and I had to seek specialised treatment.
An x-ray taken at Nairobi Hospital showed I had multiple nasal bone breakage. Four professors who reviewed the case said I was lucky to be alive and walking. They said there must be immediate surgery to be conducted under seven days.
It was their position that the face would terribly be disfigured if I don’t seek specialised treatment and the eye was to be removed. They said a tear bag was just below the injured side and an operation locally may interfere with it leading to the drying of the eye.
They gave us an option of travelling to the United States, India or South Africa. But they ruled out the US due to the fact that I had to use a pressurised plane which was not safe.
South Africa was picked as the best option, but they insisted I had to be accompanied by a surgeon. One of the doctors with a diplomatic passport volunteered to accompany us. The surgery was conducted within six hours of landing in South Africa.
The operation was to last for two hours, but on resuscitation, I could not breathe. They reviewed the process and realised that there was a blood clot, and that was removed and the issue sorted.
Unfortunately, people claimed I went to South Africa to have a cellotape removed from my face. I have not quiet fully recovered from the injury.
Tomorrow in the Sunday Nation; How we will relate with Ruto moving forward and the Day Moi left me at airport tarmac after we differed.