William Ruto’s meteoric rise to become Kenya’s fifth President

Watch: Ruto's long journey to State House

What you need to know:

  • What has now become clear about this man is that he was not an ordinary political mind and his foresight was perhaps guided by genius calculations.
  • While retaining networks that fed him with intelligence and the government’s policy data, Dr Ruto is said to have employed the power of agility and stamina to dominate ground visits.
  • Dr Ruto is described as a political phantom that managed to transform the Mt Kenya region to adopt him as their most trusted politician and not President Kenyatta or Martha Karua.

For Dr William Ruto, to end up as the fifth President of Kenya would be a fairy tale come true, beating the odds and defining a scheming mind never analysed objectively.

After battling for space in Kanu since 1992, the desire to become President gripped him in 2007. He instead went to the International Criminal Court and became Deputy President.

But he was relegated to the sidelines as his boss elevated juniors to take up his roles, and then the Supreme Court scare.

He is now just a heartbeat away from substantively occupying the ultimate seat of power in the land, on which he had sat as acting President between October 5 and 8, 2014 while President Uhuru Kenyatta travelled to defend himself at the ICC.

This is now the man who on September 13 will raise his Bible and the Constitution high and swear that he will truly and diligently serve the people and the republic of Kenya in the office of the President.

He will also swear that he will discharge his duties and perform his functions guided by the principles of justice to all in accordance with the Constitution and the laws of Kenya without fear, favour, affection or ill will.

President-Elect William Ruto

President-Elect William Ruto delivers a speech at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Bomas of Kenya Tallying Centre in Nairobi on August 15, 2022.  

Photo credit: Tony Karumba | AFP

Those who know him well affirm that he has no fear and has affection, but what remains to be seen is whether he favours and if he can be tempted to execute an ill will.

Genius calculations

What has now become clear about this man is that he was not an ordinary political mind and his foresight was perhaps guided by genius calculations.

“Those of us who have interacted with him for the past nine years since we united to form the Jubilee government have with time come to appreciate him as a perfectionist in organising himself and his allies. He is a critical thinker and I at times thought he was better off being in the military,” said Nyandarua Woman Rep Faith Gitau.

Kandara MP Alice Wahome told Nation.Africa: “Ruto can cry to imagine that he will fail in leading his supporters to his promised destination … When our stay in Jubilee Party became untenable, he said he will build for us a brand-new party and it will within two years be the dominant one”.

Ms Wahome said many of Dr Ruto’s allies in Jubilee were pessimistic about how he could achieve that feat, especially on finances, but “he laughed it off, saying he believed in the God of abundance”.

“Ruto told us to hold still and know there is a God in heaven and that when all curtains will come falling, it shall be revealed that there are three things that are not in vain — faith, hard work and prayer,” Ms Wahome said.

She said that Dr Ruto spelt out only three things he needed from those who believed in him: perseverance, discipline and loyalty.

Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara, who hosted Rigathi Gachagua, Moses Kuria, Ndindi Nyoro and Ms Wahome in his Naivasha home on March 21, 2018, to scheme how to save Dr Ruto from the effects of the March 9, 2018 handshake between Mr Raila Odinga and President Uhuru  Kenyatta, said Dr Ruto “is a patient man but in his silence, he sees, reflects and calculates deeply”.

Deputy President William Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua.

Deputy President William Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua share a light moment during a Kenya Kwanza campaign rally at Karatina town on May 21, 2022.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Ms Kihara said Dr Ruto had sensed that Mr Kenyatta, immediately after he won a second term in 2017, had started behaving strangely and there were telltale signs that he would be edged out.

“As a Deputy President who is not bound by slow thinking, his networks had hinted to him that there was a game plan being rolled out to frustrate him out of government and clip his wings in his own Kalenjin community so as to keep him out of the 2022 succession plan,” she said.

Grip on Mt Kenya

The team that assembled in Ms Kihara’s house had one agenda — to help Dr Ruto hold on in the Mt Kenya region.

Mr Gachagua, later picked as Dr Ruto’s running mate, told Nation.Africa that Dr Ruto assured them that he had a game plan to transform all of Mr Odinga’s strongholds into battlegrounds and split them “and as early as 2014, he was already on the ground building bridges for 2022”.

Mr Gachagua said that “in Dr Ruto, I identified a man who means business, who will take the bullet for you if you were fighting his cause”.

“He endeared himself in Kenyatta’s government as that man who would listen and reason with you when the arrogant kitchen cabinet was spreading terror in the exercise of unfettered power”.

It is said in security organs that Dr Ruto built a ring of loyalists who would execute his errands and by 2018, he controlled “where the action of the state is ignited and he held the key to frustrate any negative move against his allies”.

It is also said that this is the reason, even after many of his allies were targeted by the justice system, through his influence, he managed to have the attack dogs end up impotent at the critical time of trying to bite.

Dr Ruto reportedly once saved a senior Judiciary officer from getting kicked out of office, which is why he is passionate about Uasin Gishu Woman Rep Gladys Boss Shollei, whose ties to the Judiciary as a former High Court registrar helped him bond with people in that branch of the government.

On the campaign trail, Dr Ruto came out as a man who knew where to pump his bullets. In his projections, it never escaped his mind that the common enemy was the package called Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, headed by President Kenyatta and supported by the deep state system and its billionaire allies.

“The strategy that Dr Ruto gave us to implement was simple: Tackle the outfit’s chairman in his Mt Kenya backyard, discredit his project (Odinga) and deny him his traditional strongholds. With Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula in his tether, the main battle was laid out,” says a member of his campaign think tank.

While retaining networks that fed him with intelligence and the government’s policy data, Dr Ruto is said to have employed the power of agility and stamina to dominate ground visits.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto

President Uhuru Kenyatta is welcomed by Deputy President William Ruto when he led the country in viewing the body of former President Emilio Mwai Kibaki Parliament Buildings in Nairobi on April 25, 2022.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

“There was a day he did about five rallies in Marsabit County and in the night, he did three hours of a TV interview … Such that when he painted Mr Odinga as old, sleepy and tired, many believed him,” said Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi.

Mr Sudi told Nation.Africa: “Dr Ruto has no favourites when it comes to discipline and loyalty and unless you are his mother, wife or child, he will toss you under the bus at the first hint that you cannot be relied upon to play as a team [member].”

He said that Dr Ruto can read people’s minds and allocates strengths from your speech and attitude.

That explains why he knew Mr Gachagua was the best for the ground battle, Kithure Kindiki as a good legal helper adviser and “he will shock you with the Cabinet he will craft and how he will, behind the scenes, get things moving in all arms of government”.

"Political phantom"

Career Administrator Joseph Kaguthi defines Dr Ruto as “a political phantom that managed to transform the Mt Kenya region to adopt him as their most trusted politician and not President Uhuru or Martha Karua”.

Mr Kaguthi said, “that is one strength in him that should form the basis of any evaluation of his scheming mind since it has never happened in Mt Kenya”.

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga during the installation ceremony of Bishop Anyolo as Archbishop of Kisumu at Uzima University Grounds in Kisumu on January 12, 2019.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega | Nation Media Group

“It is the first time we are seeing our people with such free will abandon say they trust a political outsider in his own party and on his own terms”.

Born on December 21, 1966, in the family of Mr Daniel Cheruiyot and Ms Sarah Cheruiyot, Dr Ruto was on August 15 declared President-elect by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati after he garnered 7,176,141 (50.59 per cent) of the valid votes cast. Mr Odinga came in second with 6,942, 930 (48.85 per cent).

Dr Ruto attended Kerotet Primary School before proceeding to Wareng Kapsabet Boys High.

He joined the University of Nairobi, graduating in 1990 with a degree in botany and zoology. In 2011, he obtained a master’s degree in plant ecology, and several years later, on December 21, he received a PhD from the same university.

His research paper was titled “Plant Species Diversity and Composition of Two Wetlands in the Nairobi National Park, Kenya”.

He has been married to Rachel Chebet since 1991 and together they have six children — one adopted and, by his own confession, another with an ‘outside’ lover.

He served as minister and assistant minister in Daniel Moi’s regime. He also served in the Mwai Kibaki administration as a minister in the Agriculture and higher education dockets.

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