What you need to know:
- State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo Tuesday said Dr Ruto had been invited to the summit.
- But Emmanuel Talam said the DP was not invited to the conference, suggesting it has become the trend.
- The Covid-19 conference programme had listed DP Ruto as speaking after ODM leader Raila Odinga.
- Mr Ruto’s “rebellion” against the government started in March.
Deputy President William Ruto was invited and confirmed attendance of the Monday Covid-19 conference that he gave a wide berth.
The absence of the DP at a national function attended by leaders from the political divide, including Chief Justice David Maraga, who last week advised President Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament for failure to enact the two-thirds gender rule, was conspicuous.
State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo Tuesday said Dr Ruto had been invited to the summit that discussed Kenya’s six-month battle with Covid-19.
“State function programmes are done once someone has been invited and confirmed attendance. I don’t do the invites, but the information we have is that he was invited,” she told the Nation.
However, director of communication at the DP’s office Emmanuel Talam said the DP was not invited to the conference, suggesting it has become the trend.
“I’ve no idea [why the programme showed he was scheduled to speak]. He’s rarely invited to Covid-19-related events. That’s on record. I don’t know about yesterday’s. But it would be interesting for anyone to suddenly realise that the DP is a stakeholder on matters of national importance,” Mr Talam said.
The Covid-19 conference programme had listed DP Ruto as speaking after Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga. He was to make some remarks before inviting the President.
The duty of inviting the President then fell on Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who is charged with chairing the Cabinet Coordination Committee.
Mr Ruto’s “rebellion” against the government started in March when he accused unnamed Jubilee officials of “working to undermine my office” during the funeral of Sgt Kipyegon Kenei, a security officer attached to his office.
A matter of strategy
In April, the DP’s press conference on Covid-19 raised more questions than answers when he appeared to broadcast his isolation on TV. He said his absence from Covid-19 briefings and meetings was a matter of strategy rather than being left out.
Early this month, the DP smiled with glee over reports of misappropriation of Covid-19 funds, saying, he could not be linked with the theft as he was isolated from a government he is supposed to serve.
The DP has on numerous occasions accused anti-corruption agencies and Kenya Revenue Authority officials of using theft allegations and tax demands to intimidate those close to him.
During an event in Nyeri later, Jubilee Party vice-chairman David Murathe said the DP’s roles had been taken over by Dr Matiang’i.
“He has no job if the President is around. His only job is to deputise the President. You know his job was taken over by Matiang’i, who is the one in charge of coordinating other ministers,” Mr Murathe said.
The Jubilee vice-chairman even suggested that the DP could be on his way out of government.
“He’s on record, saying, he has no job, so let’s wait and see,” Mr Murathe said.
But even as the DP and State House communication teams traded words, Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot and other politicians allied to him said he was right to skip the conference.
“Let us stop the hypocrisy. If William Ruto’s contribution counted, how come he has never been invited to government Covid-19 response meetings? Now you want him to join the Covid-19 millionaires in sharing their loot? We say no to sanitising the Kemsa thieves,” Mr Cheruiyot said.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah, who was kicked out of the powerful National Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee chairmanship, for reportedly associating with the DP, said it was wrong to expect the latter at the conference, “yet he has been sidelined during similar events in the past”.
“After deliberately keeping him out of their meetings since March, hoping to use the pandemic to shine, they want to use Ruto to sanitise their filth. The only achievement from the pandemic has been the Kemsa scandal,” Mr Ichung’wah said.
The DP avoided talk on the conference Tuesday. He instead chose to centre his message on his “hustler nation” campaign slogan when he met 70 youth and women’s groups from Nairobi at his Karen residence.
Hardly solve problems
“The problem with Kenya is that many leaders are detached from the problems facing ordinary people. They despise them for their small beginnings and do not see the small businesses as being important,” the DP said.
“This is why we hardly solve problems facing Kenyans. We want to put these leaders on notice: That is a conversation we will have, however uncomfortable and however difficult.”
Kenya’s second-in-command said he would not stop supporting youth and women’s groups “since hustlers are the backbone of this country’s economy”.
“People are angry with us when we give out wheelbarrows, carts, salon equipment and other items to young people and women. They know jobless people are easy to mobilise to demonstrate on their behalf,” he said.