Playing dirty: Ruto, Raila camps resort to foul tactics as campaigns hot up

Presidential candidates Raila Odinga and William Ruto

Presidential candidates Raila Odinga (left) and William Ruto. 

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

The leading camps in the presidential contest pitting Kenya Kwanza’s William Ruto against Azimio’s Raila Odinga have resorted to foul tactics, raising political temperatures only four days to the August 9 General Election, and just ahead of the Saturday deadline for campaign rallies.

As the pace of campaigns got frenzied in the past two weeks, both the Ruto and Odinga camps have abandoned all references to their manifestos and gone hammer and tongs at each with insults, slander and all manner of unproven allegations.

Even President Kenyatta, who ramped up his campaigns for Mr Odinga, changed from his usual reticence to tear viciously into his estranged deputy, who replied in kind, presenting an ugly picture of the pair that once walked hand in hand.

Last Friday, the Deputy President, in one of the strongest diatribes since his falling-out with President Kenyatta, accused the Head of State of threatening him and his Kenya Kwanza brigade instead of being a unifying factor.

“As long as you don’t kill my children, I’m ready to face you in this election with your project,” the UDA presidential candidate said.

“Mr President, you shouldn’t be the source of threats in Kenya. Stop threatening Kenyans. Your work is to ensure that all Kenyans are safe. Stop telling us that we will know that you’re the President,” added the DP in Kapsabet during a campaign tour of Nandi County.

‘Height of political deceit’

As dirty campaigns continue to characterise President Kenyatta’s succession, he has been painting his estranged deputy as a liar.

On Tuesday, the visibly agitated President said it was the “height of political deceit” for the UDA presidential flag bearer to talk ill of the handshake and development initiatives undertaken by the Jubilee administration.

“Wengine wanasema wajinga wameisha Kenya ilhali wanatuongelesha kama wajinga (Some are saying there are no fools in Kenya but they’re talking to us like we’re idiots),” he said.

“He is lying to Kenyans and he is in this that honesty?” he posed.

The two camps Wednesday accused each over the latest spat.

Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe, who is in Mr Odinga’s camp, laid the blame on the DP’s camp, arguing that their latest outbursts targeting the President were signs of “desperation ahead of the elections next week.”

“Why are they targeting the President who is not on the ballot? We can understand their frustration. You can see the anger and the vitriol,” Mr Murathe said.

He added that the DP’s team had decided to personalise the campaigns and not deal with the issues at hand.

‘Obsessed’ with President Kenyatta

Mr Murathe also accused the DP’s running mate, Mr Rigathi Gachagua, of being “obsessed” with President Kenyatta.

“Instead of discussing their manifestos, Rigathi mentioned Uhuru 53 times during their debate. He didn’t mention Ruto, mama mboga, hustler or bottom up,” Mr Murathe said.

Sensed defeat

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth said the DP’s camp had sensed defeat, hence the latest outbursts.

“Their outbursts are for sympathy seeking,” Mr Kenneth said.

Meanwhile, Dr Ruto’s party Wednesday petitioned the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to investigate “hate speech, incitement to violence, misinformation and disinformation online by Azimio coalition party officials and constituent party.”

In a letter to the commission by United Democratic Alliance (UDA) secretary-general Veronica Maina, the party accused Azimio secretary-general Junet Mohamed and council member Hassan Joho of circulating a manipulated video clip through their official Twitter handles in a bid to “cause, elicit and spread hate, incitement to violence, ethnic discrimination and disharmony.”

“The video has also been intentionally edited with a deliberate aim and objective to cause ethnic hatred, fear and intolerance during this peak political season,” Ms Maina stated.

Lack of discipline

UDA chairman Johnson Muthama Wednesday cited lack of discipline in the major political outfits as the cause of the dirty campaign tricks and negative attacks.

Mr Muthama, who rose to infamy during the 2017 campaigns with unbridled attacks on President Kenyatta and Dr Ruto when he was in the Odinga camp, cautioned politicians to guard their tongues.

They “need to measure their words. In the run-up to 2017 elections, politicians were arrested for making fair comments yet today people are making unsubstantiated remarks, but are left to go scot-free. If someone can talk about the burning of Kiambaa Church and how people died, isn’t such a person simply trying to incite people?”

Post-election violence

Mr Muthama was responding to a Junet Mohamed slur aimed at the DP in relation to one of the most frightening incidents from the 2007-08 post-election violence.

Just a day after the DP launched a scathing attack on President Kenyatta, his running mate Mr Gachagua would later launch yet another onslaught targeting the President while at a campaign rally in his Nyeri backyard, cautioning him against any plans to assassinate him.

“In the next eight days, come to Sagana and pack your belongings and go home. You (President) called an elders’ meeting and said I will know you are the President.”

“I helped you for 20 years. I got you from the bar and now you are threatening me. Please, don’t kill us like your father [Mzee Jomo Kenyatta] killed JM Kariuki,” Mr Gachagua charged.

The President would, however, later tell off the DP and his allies, challenging them to focus on issues that can transform the peoples’ lives.

“Haven’t you insulted me for three years? Haven’t I been the holder of this office for those three years? I had the power to do so. Now, when I’m getting ready to hand over, and have limited powers, do you think I have the time to look for you? Please focus on your campaigns and sell your manifesto. I’m finishing up on my work. Leave me alone,” the President said.

In defence of the President, Mr Mohamed questioned the Ruto camp about the murders of former IEBC Head of ICT Chris Msando in the run-up to the 2017 polls and of ICC witnesses Meshack Yebei and Kipyegon Kenei, a security officer at the DPs office.

‘Paid to support Uhuru’

The DP and his running mate’s outrage followed attacks from the Executive Director of Azimio and former Secretary-General of Jubilee Party Raphael Tuju that Dr Ruto was paid to support President Kenyatta both in 2013 and 2017.

“Well-wishers used money to have Ruto come on board. For a man who says that Sh7 billion is ‘only’, your guess is as good as mine. He was paid in billions. It’s not surprising because there’s a very senior politician from the Western region who asked Raila Odinga for Sh900 million before he could give him support. That is the character of some of these politicians and Ruto is one of them,” Mr Tuju said on Wednesday last week.

No evidence was offered to back the claims. Still. Mr Tuju said that, even after the cash payment, the DP insisted on taking some ministries in a power-sharing arrangement.

The claims have been rubbished by the Ruto team, saying, the ‘Deep State’ was using Mr Tuju to fight the DP.

“I heard Tuju saying Ruto was paid to support Uhuru in 2013. When Raila became the State Project, was he also bought? If they are saying people are being bought, then it seems like Raila was bought,” retorted Mr Musalia Mudavadi, the leader of ANC party which is in the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

Video and audio clips

Meanwhile, a flurry of sleazy video and audio clips of some Kenya Kwanza politicians swindling prominent foreigners of hundreds of millions of shillings in fake gold deals seem to have been dumped in recent days, further muddying the campaign waters.

The videos are meant to show Kenya Kwanza leaders as corrupt and hence cannot be trusted with the leadership of the country.

Similar videos were circulated on social media in 2017, then targeting Mr Odinga, who was running against the incumbent President Kenyatta.

It was later established that the videos that portrayed Mr Odinga as evil and dangerous were created by Cambridge Analytica Ltd, a British political consulting firm that folded after the Facebook data harvesting scandal.

Black money scam

Recent video clips have also been used to portray the DP as irredeemably corrupt and a beneficiary of the black money scam (wash-wash) and therefore unfit to be President.

More such videos, audios and paper documents are expected to pop up just four days to the August 9 polls.

With Mr Odinga, through his political allies, trying to portray DP Ruto as a land grabber, the Kenya Kwanza leader has also hit back at his arch-rival.

And since the former Prime Minister has pegged his campaigns on fighting corruption, Kenya Kwanza leaders have been citing molasses land in Kisumu and Dominion Farm in Yala, Siaya County to link him to graft.

‘Sway such people’

“Even my competitor, the Dominion and molasses lands have been mentioned about him. Does that make him guilty? Not at all,” Dr Ruto said at the presidential debate, which Mr Odinga failed to attend.

According Political analyst Prof Gitile Naituli, the mudslinging and other dirty tricks will only get worse.

“I think there will be more. The impact may be minimal at this stage because people have already decided who they’ll vote for. But there are still many Kenyans who wait until the last minute to make up their minds. It can sway such people,” Prof Naituli said.

The dirty tricks include manipulation of videos and photos to either portray larger crowds or reduce the size of opponents’ crowds.

Itumbi’s old clip

After Mr Odinga’s recent campaign foray in Meru, Dennis Itumbi who works in the Ruto presidential campaign secretariat, posted a video claiming it was from that campaign event. In the video the crowd appears to be chanting Mr Ruto’s name in response to Mr Odinga. Captioned “Meru told Raila the truth…Enough is enough”, it turned out it was an old clip from October 2021.

The official campaign period for the 2022 General Election kicked off on May 30 and will end 48 hours before the August 9 polls, on August 6.

Both Ruto and Raila are expected to wrap up their campaigns with mega rallies in the capital city on August 6.

Reporting by Justus Ochieng, Onyango K’onyango and Walter Menya