Revealed: Inside Ruto's last 24 hours before clinching presidency
Intrigues into the last 24 hours that led to President William Ruto’s declaration as the winner of the election in August have come to light, with Sunday Nation piecing together never-heard-before accounts, talks of a leaked security report and a regional-based tallying system adopted by the Kenya Kwanza Alliance.
Multiple sources have said the networks Dr Ruto had assembled within the security establishment leaked the daily situational report to him and his trusted allies, which had indicated that he was set to be declared the winner of the August 9 General Election.
Those assembled were his wife Rachel Ruto, Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Prime Cabinet Secretary Musalia Mudavadi, Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Dr Alfred Mutua, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, Zaheer Jhanda (Nyaribari Chache), Mr Ben Washiali among other leaders.
“I was at Karen on that Monday [August 15] very early in the morning and the boss [Dr Ruto] congratulated me for my victory. I asked him how things were and he told me that this [the presidential contest] is concluded and the people of Kenya had spoken. The boss had come up with a very powerful and formidable network who were informing him of what was going on. He knew of his victory through the Monday morning security report,” Mr Jhanda told Sunday Nation.
The last six hours before being declared the winner, President Ruto asked those who were with him to kneel down for prayer and, after that, his aide Farouk Kibet asked everyone to proceed to Bomas of Kenya to wait for the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) leader.
It is not clear when the President’s mother, Sarah Cheruiyot, was informed to proceed to the national tallying centre of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) because no one spotted her at Karen.
Even as the team at Karen was preparing to leave for the Bomas of Kenya, anxiety was building up among Dr Ruto’s allies who were at the national tallying centre as both camps claimed victory.
Unlike in 2017 when leaders allied to National Super Alliance were absent at the national tallying centre having known that their candidate, Mr Raila Odinga, had lost to President Uhuru Kenyatta, this time, the situation was more confusing.
Both leaders allied to Kenya Kwanza Alliance of Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga’s Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party were optimistic that they had won, with the outcome only known to the chief agents.
For Dr Ruto, by August 13, two days before the declaration of the election results, a win was on the horizon, following an assessment of the performance of the strongholds and the lead he had maintained from tallied results. But he still needed to tread with caution, as Mr Odinga was not too far behind.
“We noticed that President Ruto was heading for a victory from our own tallying centres. Agents had delivered results from all the polling stations and that is how we knew that it was coming home. Apart from our national tallying centre, every region had its own tallying centre. Ours was in Kakamega,” said former Mumias East Benjamin Washiali, a senior member of President Ruto’s inner circle.
This was corroborated by Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba, who said they collected all the forms 34A and collated the results to establish that they had actually outsmarted Mr Odinga.
On August 15, the President assembled a few of his allies at his Karen office as they monitored the Bomas events. He disclosed that the election was concluded while telling his lieutenants that all was well and there was no need to panic.
At this time, however, accusations were rife that the electoral agency was being intimidated to favour one of the presidential candidates while others were suspicious of IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati.
Kept in the dark
Elected leaders who had assembled at Bomas from both camps were kept in the dark over the outcome of the presidential results leading to a conclusion that both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio may not have had their own tallying centres.
Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign board chair Ndiritu Muriithi told Sunday Nation that they started being suspicious of Mr Chebukati on Saturday, August 13 when IEBC stopped live streaming results. There were claims that Mr Chebukati had hijacked the verification process by asking Returning Officers to first see him before meeting party agents.
“He changed the rules and, once he did that, it fuelled rumours that [results were being doctored],” he added. As Azimio was raising issues with the process, Kenya Kwanza was on the other hand blaming Mr Odinga’s team and the state for trying to subvert the will of voters.
Murang’a Governor Irungu Kang’ata claims that one of the Jubilee Cabinet secretaries issued a stern warning to a media organisation to stop the tabulation of results and pull it down from their website.
He also claims that, within the same period, Kenya Kwanza came to learn that IEBC officials were under pressure from government operatives not to declare Dr Ruto as the President.
“We can confirm threats were issued to IEBC and the media. Of course, these demands were ludicrous because the data was on an open portal available to everyone,” said Dr Kang’ata.
With agents of both camps having not been invited to inspect the completion of the tallying process, the Azimio team was left worried about what could be happening.
“If Chebukati could have done things rightly, there could be no suspicion. Chebukati had promised the agents that he was going to invite them to inspect the tallying once it was complete. Then that did not take place,” said Mr Muriithi.
According to Belgut MP Nelson Koech, they only came to understand that Dr Ruto had won when chief agents were summoned by IEBC to the backroom.
“Before 4 pm, both sides of the aisle were ecstatic and hopeful and we were even able to stand, sing and dance along with the choir as one full house. The Kenya Kwanza side was full to capacity and the Azimio side was at least three-quarters capacity given that our coalition tallies had confirmed Ruto as the winner and a media house associated with his opponent had stopped broadcasting the results when it realised that [Dr Ruto was winning].”
“This nonchalant jubilation went on until around 4 pm when chief agents and their deputies were summoned by IEBC to the backroom,” Mr Koech, who was part of the Kenya Kwanza team at Bomas, recounted.
“When our agents reappeared, they confirmed the results were in our favour with Dr William Ruto not only leading but had garnered over 50 per cent plus one. Still, we held our peace and remained, reserving celebrations for the final announcement. The Azimio side started consulting those who had been summoned in low tones to confirm that indeed Dr William Ruto was the President-elect,” he added.
At this time, the Azimio camp became uneasy leading to a press conference by Mr Odinga’s chief agent Saitabao Ole Kanchory, while Dr Ruto, who was accompanied by his allies, were in the waiting room and the four commissioners were set to address the nation from Serena.
“The mood in the Azimio camp shifted from chatty to melancholic with the passing of time as reality began to sink in that their candidate had lost. The Azimio crowd began to thin and some in the squeezed Kenya Kwanza side started taking seats on their side. Meanwhile, the families and friends of the President-elect and Deputy President-elect arrived and took their seats and the Kenya Kwanza crowd continued to swell,” said Mr Koech.
Immediately Mr Chebukati accompanied by two commissioners and the CEO arrived from the backroom, and a scuffle ensued, making the Kenya Kwanza camp believe that it had been planned because the police officers in blue uniform were not acting.
“In no time, a violent scuffle ensued which was clear to everyone present had been planned and choreographed as the goons behind it had been on standby in the Azimio side waiting for action on notice.”
“It is an indictment on the outgoing government and National Police Service that to this day, the police are yet to arrest and charge the culprits. But even more shocking was seeing police in blue uniforms standing by doing nothing to stop the melee.
“It was clear that they were acting on instructions not to stop the assault on the IEBC commissioners and their staff. It took the arrival of the GSU [General Service Unit] officers a few minutes later to stop the madness but IEBC staff and clergy at the podium had scampered for safety by then,” said Mr Koech.
Then cometh the hour, cometh the man; Mr Chebukati, with his steady slow but sure steps, he walked into the packed and expectant auditorium to perform his last constitutional duty before he bows out.