No handshake please, Ruto tells opposition leadership

William Ruto

President William Ruto gestures as he interacted with wananchi at Karatina town in Nyeri County during his five-day tour of the Mountain on August 5, 2023.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto yesterday visited Mt Kenya region in the first of his five-day campaign-like tour, where he ruled out a power sharing deal with opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance leader Raila Odinga.

President Ruto, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua and their Kenya Kwanza allies said they would not entertain any form of “handshake” in the crisis talks between the ruling alliance and the opposition that are to begin on Thursday.

“These people pushed (presidents) Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta and got into handshakes. They are trying to do the same to me, but they will not get half the government. There will be no handshake,” Dr Ruto said when he landed in Kirinyaga County, the of Azimio co-principal and Mr Odinga’s running mate in the 2022 presidential election Martha Karua.

The President began his tour of Mt Kenya with a stop in Githurai 45 where his message was the same.

Serena talks

Dr Ruto maintained that he would be “tough” on the opposition “if they dare stage anti-government protests that have resulted in deaths, injuries and destruction of property”.

“Kenya is governed by the rule of law and no one will be allowed to destroy public or private property,” he said, adding that the Kenya Kwanza government is doing all it can to bring the cost of living down.

The opposition has listed the high cost of living as one of the items for discussions in the talks with the government.

“My government is working to address the high cost of living and youth unemployment. We have a programme and part of it is through the affordable housing scheme,” he said in Githurai 45.

Like his boss, Mr Gachagua said Kenya Kwanza is not ready for handshake talks, insisting the alliance won the General election fairly and legally.

“The people of Mt Kenya voted for Ruto to be their President. They voted for you to a man. They have said in one voice that they don’t want any handshake,” the DP said.

National Assembly Majority Leader, Kimani Ichung’wa, who is the Kenya Kwanza coalition leader in the talks with Azimio la Umoja One Kenya, urged Kenyans to ignore the opposition, “which is pushing for a handshake”.

“Kenyans have said no to handshake. Kenyans know what we will be discussing at Serena Hotel,” the Kikuyu MP said.

Mr Ichung’wa said the talks to be led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo are a plot by the opposition to sneak into government.

He added that Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition is using “inclusivity” as the alternative word for handshake.

“I will be in the Obasanjo talks to shoot down any handshake idea. We are only willing to discuss the end of violence in our politics, how to accept election results and admitting that the country’s president is Dr Ruto. The talks will not be about personal gains,” he said.

Prime Cabinet Secretary, Musalia Mudavadi, said the opposition is disorganised and only wants to get into government.

“President Ruto’s plan, which he has shared with us, does not talk of helping the opposition. It is not the responsibility of the Kenya Kwanza government to organise the opposition. If they are disorganised, that is not a problem of the government,” Mr Mudavadi said.

“They say they want inclusivity. While selecting their representatives to that committee, why did they exclude Mt Kenya leaders? They are crooks and self-centred.”

Kiharu MP, Ndindi Nyoro, told President Ruto not to bow to pressure from Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition for a political agreement.

He said focus by Kenya Kwanza should be fulfilling the promises made to the people during the campaigns.

“We as Kenya Kwanza will not allow any handshake. Avoid any handshake and work for the people so that we move the country forward,” Mr Nyoro said.

In Kirinyaga County, Mr Gachagua said there were plans to rig last year’s election in favour of Mr Odinga, “but I quashed them due to my vast knowledge of the deep state”.

“I told them there was no deep state that I did not understand. There is no system that I did not understand. I even knew that they were planning to steal our votes and I told them that their mission was impossible,” the DP said.

“They tried but failed. Now, they think they can push us into having a share in the government. Whose government are they eyeing?”

Mr Gachagua claimed that then-president Uhuru Kenyatta used Sagana State Lodge to strategise how to “terrorise” his deputy Ruto, and plan to stop him.

“It is at Sagana State Lodge that the regime planned to stop Ruto from taking power. He will spend the night at the same Sagana State Lodge today. The State Lodge will be used to plan the economic development of our nation,” he said.

President Ruto opened the Sh800,000 Githurai 45 market whose construction started in the first term of the Jubilee government.

He also commissioned a Sh1.2 billion water project in Kagio, also started during Mr Kenyatta’s reign.

Dr Ruto said a Sh1 billion Export Processing Zone (EPZ) would be established in Sagana to create jobs for about 30,000 young people.

Rejecting accusations that he was launching projects started by his predecessor, President Ruto’s office said they had been neglected.

“The projects were launched in the previous administration, but they have been completed by Dr Ruto’s government,” a State House official said.

Said Mr Ichung’wa: “Show me one footage of Uhuru commissioning the projects as complete. In any case, tell me who was the deputy president at the time.”

Muranga Senator, Joe Nyutu, referred to Mr Kenyatta’s loyalists as mediocre.

Report by James Murimi, Simon, Mwangi Muiruri and George Munene.