William Ruto’s rise to the pinnacle on first stab sets new high

William Ruto

President William Ruto holds a sword received from former Commander in Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces Uhuru Kenyatta at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, on September 13, 2022.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

At exactly 12.44pm, William Ruto put his hands on the Bible as he uttered the first words of oath of office, kicking in motion an eight-minute transition from President-elect to the fifth President of Kenya.

Exactly an hour after making his way to the 60,000-strong stadium amid ecstatic welcome, the 55-year-old was now President Ruto, shedding the long prefix of president-elect that had tagged along with his name since the evening of August 15.

Under the watchful eyes of Chief Justice Martha Koome and Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi, the long political journey that began three decades ago reached its pinnacle, having begun when he joined Independence party Kanu ahead of the 1992 election campaigns.

The man of the moment signed documents pertaining to his new office as chants of “si uchawi, ni maombi” rent the air from an ebullient crowd that had braved the early morning chill and scorching sun thereafter to witness the occasion.

The highlight of the ceremony, however, came 15 minutes later as President Uhuru Kenyatta handed over to his successor the instruments of power, including a copy of the Constitution and the presidential ceremonial sword.

Power transition

A brief ceremony, but packed with significance, and Dr Ruto was now the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, and to signify the power transition, Mr Kenyatta’s aide-de-camp, Lieutenant-Colonel Timothy Lekolool, swiftly moved to stand behind his new boss.

And with that, the now former President Kenyatta and ex-First Lady Margaret Kenyatta slowly retreated from the inauguration arena at exactly 1.40pm to give way to the new President.

Kenyans in droves trooped into the stadium, braving the cold Nairobi weather after hours of travelling from across the country to witness a power handover after a hotly contested presidential election.

Parents held their children by the hand, with the younger ones hoisted onto shoulders to give the future voters a better view as each scrambled for a vantage point.

Long queues of more than a kilometre long formed as they made way to the stadium. Even attempts by the National Police Service to get Kenyans to watch the proceedings from the comfort of their homes did not deter the hundreds that made their way to Kasarani.

Inside the stadium, they lit and waved their flashlights at 6am— symbolic of a new light in the country or that the sun was yet to rise.

And when the sun finally shone bright, the yellow clad crowd went on, dancing and waving flags to music whose selection seemed to have been picked to describe the journey of the son of Sugoi.

Cultural and gospel songs were served in plenty. The eager Kenyans patiently sat in their seats and on the floor, the exhaustion of travelling evident on their faces.

Big moment

However, eyes glued to the screen before them, they kept track of the leaders that had started streaming in as they waited for the big moment.

They spoke of hope that the new era would bring with it an easier life, wealth and markets for farmers, ease of doing business, and cheaper fuel and maize flour.

The President-elect made his way to the stadium seven minutes before noon, accompanied by the incoming First Lady Rachel Ruto. This was more than 20 minutes after the arrival of his deputy, Mr Rigathi Gachagua, accompanied by his wife, Pastor Dorcas Rigathi.

At 11.36am, the military took over the function as the clock ticked towards the much-awaited moment, with the man of the hour on his way to the jam-packed stadium.

Five minutes past noon and after the arrival of his successor, Mr Kenyatta and his wife Margaret followed, setting the stage for official proceedings after his last inspection of the guard of honour.

Prayer moments

As morning gave way to afternoon, it was time for invited clerics to take to the inauguration arena.

Evangelist Teresia Wairimu, founder of Faith Evangelistic Ministries, brought down the curtains on the spiritual bit, summing up the event as “a new season, a day that the Lord has made, that we might rejoice in it”.

The Judiciary would take over after the prayers, minutes past 12.30pm, with Deputy Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Paul Ndemo commencing the inauguration, which involved Dr Ruto and his deputy taking the oath of allegiance and that of execution of functions of their respective offices.

Ms Amadi raised the mood of the thousands at the sports complex by calling forward the UDA leader to start off the process.

Communication mishap

After the President had taken the oath of office, it was his deputy’s turn to undergo the same as the clock ticked towards 1pm.

True to his element, Mr Gachagua did not disappoint, with a brief communication mishap during which he stumbled several times on the word “diligently” during the oath taking, and then moving ahead of Ms Amadi to read the rest of the oath, instead of repeating after her.

Six minutes later, he was Deputy President, with the CJ handing him over to the nation. By then, he was already trending on the internet, thanks to his earlier goofs.

A 21-gun salute by the military would follow before the day came to an end with speeches from select invited heads of state and the Deputy President, with the President bringing the curtain down on a day that will remain in the annals of Kenya.