Ruto, the unwanted guest at last year's Madaraka Day celebrations, now runs the show

President William Ruto presides over the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations at the Moi Stadium Embu. Inset: then-deputy president, Dr Ruto follows proceedings during the 59th Madaraka Daya celebrations at Uhuru Gardens, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

He was ignored and undermined at last year's Madaraka Day celebrations, but today President William Ruto is the main man leading the country in celebration of its 60th year of self-rule.

President Ruto's predecessor — Uhuru Kenyatta — neither acknowledged his presence nor allowed him to address the nation during the last celebration at the height of their falling-out in the run-up to the elections.

On this day last year, Dr Ruto found himself in an embarrassing situation when he found himself at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi as the rest of the Cabinet broke into song and dance at what was Mr Kenyatta's last National Day celebration as President.

How Taifa Leo captured the events of the day back in 2022.

During the final celebration, Mr Kenyatta acknowledged all the dignitaries except his deputy.

He then broke protocol by delivering his speech before Dr Ruto could address the gathering at Uhuru Gardens in Nairobi.

Normally, the Deputy President would speak before inviting the President. This was the tradition, including during Mr Kenyatta and Dr Ruto's tenure since 2013.

But things changed as their bickering escalated in the run-up to the 2022 General Election.

Mr Kenyatta backed the opposition's Raila Odinga in the election and occasionally broke protocol to let him speak at national events.

On some occasions, it also appeared to be a deliberate attempt to undermine his deputy by having Mr Odinga speak after him.

But today, the speech by the man who was an unwanted guest exactly a year ago is the highlight of today's celebrations at Moi Stadium in Embu County.

Dr Ruto was running the show yesterday, deciding who addresses the gathering. Unlike last year, the President did not break protocol today.

He allowed his deputy Rigathi Gachagua to make his speech before he took the stage. He invited selected guests of honour to make their speeches before he delivered his address, which marked the climax of the celebrations.

Today's celebration is the first time Dr Ruto has led the country in celebrating Madaraka Day. However, it is the third time he has presided over Jamhuri and Labour Day celebrations.

However, the 59th Madaraka Day celebrations took a shocking turn when Mr Kenyatta recognised all dignitaries present except his then deputy. It was also the first time in their 10 years in office that he denied his deputy the chance to speak. It was the culmination of the bad blood between the two, who showed camaraderie in their first years in office, sometimes walking while holding hands.

During the event, Mr Kenyatta only invited Sierra Leone's President Julius Maada Bio, who was the chief guest, to give his speech.

The programme for the event also showed that Dr Ruto was not invited to speak, suggesting that the decision to ignore him was deliberate.

Earlier in the day, Mr Kenyatta had left his deputy out of a brief State House function where a choir entertained him ahead of his last national event as head of state.

Mr Kenyatta held a meeting with his entire cabinet at State House. Dr Ruto was not invited to the event. While the choir entertained Mr Kenyatta and members of his Cabinet, Dr Ruto was kept waiting to receive guests at Uhuru Gardens, the venue of the celebration.

It was not the first time Mr Kenyatta had broken protocol in what appeared to be an attempt to undermine his deputy.

On June 1, 2021, during the 58th Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu, Mr Kenyatta invited Mr Odinga to address the public after his then-deputy had spoken.

As is tradition, Dr Ruto made his speech and then invited Mr Kenyatta to speak.

"You will forgive me but let me break protocol today and invite my brother, Raila Odinga, Jakom, to greet you and deliver his Madaraka Day message," Mr Kenyatta said.

Mr Odinga then broke protocol too, by inviting Mr Kenyatta to give his speech.