Ruto: I pushed Uhuru to run in 2017 repeat polls

President Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) chats with Deputy President William Ruto during the launch of the National Defence Policy and Gender Policy documents at the National Defence College, Karen on May 3, 2017. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Deputy President William Ruto was locked in a heated argument that almost turned into a physical confrontation with his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta in the hours following the annulment of their 2017 election win, a leaked audio recording has revealed.

The recording, in which DP Ruto is heard addressing Kikuyu elders in a meeting held on Friday at his official Karen residence in Nairobi, sheds light on the tense hours following the unprecedented judgement of the Supreme Court.

DP Ruto told the Kikuyu elders that President Kenyatta was so distraught by the Supreme Court judgement, which ordered a repeat of the election, that he nearly gave up the fight for a second-term in office and it was only due to his insistence that he agreed to run again in the second poll that was boycotted by the opposition National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate Raila Odinga.

The Deputy President, who has since fallen out with his boss, says that he went to State House to meet the President on September 1, 2017 after the Supreme Court had delivered its decision, where he held a tense discussion with him: “So, ndiyo huyo… Oh, sasa, hii maneno, sijui nini, mimi sitaki, mimi nataki kuenda Ichaweri, sasa mimi sitaki, wacha tuachane na hii kitu.” (Here is the President and he says he is not keen on taking part in the repeat elections and that he wants to go to Ichaweri (his home village in Kiambu County), that we should abandon this thing.”

“Mimi nikamwangalia, nikamwambia ‘wewe’! Ni vile tu nilikua na heshima, ningemchapa kofi. Ati sisi tuache?” (I looked at him and told him ‘you!’ It’s only that I was being respectful, I would have slapped him. How could we just quit?)

The Kikuyu elders who visited DP Ruto at his Karen residence included President Kenyatta’s cousin, Captain Kung’u Muigai.

Only persons with official invitation were allowed at the meeting as is the norm with admission to the State House and the DP's official residence, but the Sunday Nation has obtained a recording of part of the DP Ruto’s address to the elders. Attendees of the meeting, including Capt. Muigai and Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, corroborated the contents of the recording.

The DP claims to have repeatedly asked President Kenyatta to take a “keen interest” in the Supreme Court petition, which at the time was led by retired Chief Justice David Maraga, to avoid being caught off-guard by an adverse judgement.

“I had told the president to take a keen interest... He assured me that he was in-charge and everything was fine,” said DP Ruto. “In reality, the door had been left wide open and some people went in and spoilt everything. Isn’t that so?” he posed.

The Deputy President further claims to have told President Kenyatta that there was no way the ruling Jubilee party could have lost the polls.

“Ati tutoke hapa?’ Hapana, hapana, hapana. Na ni kura tumeshinda? Kwani alikua ametushinda wapi? Tumeshinda wabunge, tumeshinda ma governor, tumeshinda senators wengi—tumefanya hiyo kazi yote. (I told him there was no way we could just quit when we had won the election. We had more MPs, more governors and senators. We had done a lot of work),” Mr Ruto told his guests.

After the conversation, the DP says, they both left State House and headed to Burma market, as the President began to digest what had just happened.

It was at the market that a tough-talking Mr Kenyatta made the ‘we shall revisit’ remark, as he hit out at the Supreme Court for nullifying his re-election.

“Before the Supreme Court ruling, I was the president-elect but Maraga and his team have declared the election as null and void...I am the incumbent President with full powers. Maraga should know he is dealing with a sitting President,” he said then.

Both Mr Muigai and Mr Kuria who were present at the Friday meeting confirmed the details of the recording of the deputy president’s address.

“That came up and he was very clear that Uhuru was so disappointed and discouraged and actually thought about not participating in the repeat election. Personally, I can attest to that. That is true. It is Ruto who told him ‘No, you can’t do that. You cannot walk away like we have been defeated’. I am in very close proximity to both of them. It is Ruto who said that they could not just quit,” said Mr Muigai.

Mr Kuria also corroborated the statements uttered in the recording.

“The DP said he was with the President, and the President was almost giving up but he told him he could not give up. He was just overwhelmed. It is the DP who made him strong and told him he could not give up. The president was fatigued with the fight,” said Mr Kuria yesterday.

A former high-ranking State House bureaucrat, however, dismissed the claims, saying the president did not need any convincing to run in the repeat election.

“I can tell you we had already put a contingency plan and we are the ones who executed the campaigns ahead of the repeat election. In our scenario planning, we envisaged a situation where the election would be contested. That is what we do in the back office. We knew the court process could go in any direction and the second phase of our campaign was ready, the one we called Uhuru ni Wetu. We had it prepared before the first election. That is why we were able to roll it out immediately after the court decision,” the former State House official, who requested anonymity citing confidentiality requirements of his job told the Sunday Nation.

The DP was addressing 1,200 elders from Kiambu, the President’s home county,  in the Friday meeting.

Attendees of the meeting say the underlying message was to show that he stood with the President all through, and never undermined him as has been claimed.

Mr Muigai stated that one of the reasons they went to visit the DP was to get an assurance that a Kenya Kwanza administration would let the president enjoy his retirement. “The DP told us that Uhuru is still his friend and that if he assumes office, Uhuru will be treated with respect and will be accorded all the benefits of a former Head of State,” said Mr Muigai.

The DP also made a remark that suggested that his frosty relationship could have started way before the 2017 polls. He told the elders how it was widely expected that he would not back Mr Kenyatta for the repeat poll due to some perceived differences then.

The revelation could discount the DP’s publicly stated position that it was the ‘handshake’ between the president and Mr Odinga in March 2018 that drove a wedge between them.