What you need to know:
- In theory, Dr Ruto ought to be the second most powerful man in Kenya
- Dr Ruto in March claimed that the death of Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei, a police officer attached to his Harambee Annex office, had been orchestrated by the system to tarnish his name and that of his office.
Of late, Deputy President William Ruto seems to have accepted his political fate – and so is his inner circle. Isolated in government and his allies punished for associating with him, the DP is not only walking a tightrope, but looks dejected; his erstwhile confidence gone with the winds.
Dr Ruto’s body language, during a recent TV interview, portrays an unhappy man at the tether end of a bad relationship. Perhaps, with a reason: “Jubilee has been hijacked by busybodies, conmen and brokers,” he says of the people who have pushed him out of President Kenyatta’s inner circle.
Having been President Kenyatta’s right-hand man for almost six years — he acted as President once when the Head of State transferred power to his deputy to attend his International Criminal Court trial — the DP’s fortunes have since dwindled, and reduced to an onlooker from the outside; or just a random bystander.
In theory, Dr Ruto ought to be the second most powerful man in Kenya. But in practice, the entire government machinery has opted to ignore, ostracise and shun him.
Of late, he doesn’t appear to mind being branded an outsider, latching onto the Covid-19 scandal to gleefully declare that at least he will not be blamed for that theft that he suggests was orchestrated by influential persons.
His political camp had previously had the uncanny tag of being populated with personalities associated or charged with graft and they openly claim they were specifically targeted for political reasons.
Others say they were removed from lofty positions for simply supporting the DP’s candidature in 2022.
“Let us not sugarcoat things for us to look diplomatic, or good. As a matter of fact, the President is persecuting his deputy, and the question Kenyans are asking is that: Is it the right thing to do?” Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who was ousted as Senate Majority Leader in a purge targeting the DP’s allies, told Citizen TV in an interview.
It now appears that the DP and his allies have gone for the jugular, claiming all that was happening to the DP had the President’s blessing.
For the DP, his outsider status has now become a badge of honour, all too happy to cite his isolation in government when discussing corruption, the latest being the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) scandal.
“The corruption ‘consultants’, brokers and conmen, some bankrupt in 2013, are now billionaires after looting while scapegoating William Samoei Ruto. Their overgrown impunity is shamelessly making them steal even from the sick in a pandemic. The end is nigh. Nowhere to hide. No more scapegoating,” said Dr Ruto on Wednesday.
In the past six months, the DP has taken on government officials and the so-called system, and Deep State, which he accuses of frustrating him and his office in protests that ordinarily would come from the opposition.
Through these outbursts — like the one in March when he alleged an organised scheme for his downfall — the DP seemed to have positioned himself as the de-facto leader of opposition, rather than the second most powerful politician in Kenya.
Dr Ruto in March claimed that the death of Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei, a police officer attached to his Harambee Annex office, had been orchestrated by the system to tarnish his name and that of his office. “I know there is a bigger scheme to destroy my office and ensure I do not go anywhere. The schemers are trying to threaten, undermine and demean my office in a bid to stop me, they may have the system, but I have God,” Dr Ruto then said.
Fight tooth and nail
And last month, the DP again claimed that the system was on an overdrive to derail his bid for the presidency in 2022, vowing to fight tooth and nail to prevail.
And when his allies, including Mr Murkomen and his National Assembly counterpart Aden Duale, were kicked out of house leadership positions and committees, Dr Ruto termed the move a blessing in disguise.
He urged his troops to focus on serving the people, and work as though they were serving a higher power, and not an earthly master.
The entry of President Kenyatta’s new ally Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has hastened Dr Ruto’s isolation, and occasioned a reversal of roles in which the former prime minister seems a government insider more than the DP.
Keen to shape the debate against Mr Odinga and his March 2018 Handshake with President Kenyatta, Dr Ruto has called out the ODM leader for his stand on corruption allegations in Kemsa, questioning his move to call for a special audit, a process he said he will not have demanded were those accused seen to be close to the DP.
“The perpetrators of this heist are lucky they do not carry the tag ‘Ruto allies’, otherwise they would have taken political responsibility, stepped aside, written statements, companies investigated, individuals arrested and hauled to court,” said Dr Ruto again acknowledging his camp no longer wields power.
Interestingly, the Ruto camp does not dwell on previous corruption heists that have bedeviled the Jubilee Party, too.
But according to Mr Murkomen, the DP’s new status was a direct consequence of his boss’s decision to “kick the ladder” in what he said was “because they feel they have gotten what they wanted and they can discard and throw away the DP.”
“The legacy of Uhuru Kenyatta is not going to be the brick and mortar. It is going to be about the initial vision of Jubilee, a party I participated in its formation. He will be remembered by how he has treated his deputy,” Mr Murkomen said in the TV interview.
He posed: “Those of us with the DP just ask ourselves, what is that one thing, Mr President, that one thing that William Ruto did that washes away all the good things he had done for you since 2002?”
He listed the blocking of the DP’s access to the official residence in Mombasa, the arrests and intimidation of people associated with him, and a deliberate move, the senator said, where Dr Ruto was locked out of key meetings, including those he is constitutionally mandated to attend, “by using Covid-19 as an excuse.”
MPs allied to Dr Ruto were among the vocal critics of government evictions from public land in Kariobangi and Ruai that sparked public outrage.
The other thing that the DP has often opposed is the Handshake, with his recent comments that Kenyans should not be rushed through a referendum being construed to mean he was preparing to oppose one.
Political analyst Charles Munyui said the latest statements by the DP and his allies, were a common practice in politics, especially by those who felt betrayed by those they initially supported and trusted.
Leading the push to vanquish the DP from the inner sanctums of State control is the outspoken Jubilee vice-chairman David Murathe, a man Dr Ruto called a “broker and a conman”, who he alleged had led a group that had hijacked Kenya’s largest political party and “were running it in a way that is unbelievable . . . They are running it by fiat.”
Mr Murathe, on his part, accuses the DP of letting his 2022 presidential ambitions cloud the need for Uhuru’s government to deliver on his pledges.
The top Jubilee official said the DP was on probation and had failed the test.