You should have quit, Uhuru tells Ruto as spat gets ugly

Labour Day

President Uhuru Kenyatta addressing the nation during Labour Day celebrations at Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on May 1, 2022.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

President Kenyatta yesterday launched a scathing attack on his deputy William Ruto, accusing him of absconding duty, inciting Kenyans against the government and refusing to pave way for a replacement.

The DP’s response was immediate and pointed. He accused his boss of sabotaging his own government, party and their relationship by sidestepping him in favour of other government functionaries, refusing to hold Cabinet meetings and going to bed with opposition chief Raila Odinga.

The Head of State was speaking barely a day after the burial of former President Mwai Kibaki in Othaya, Nyeri County, where the political bad blood between him and his deputy was there for all to see. Earlier, at the start of the viewing of President Kibaki’s body on Monday and during the Friday state funeral, the two did not shake hands when they met.

Abandoned Kenyans

Addressing workers at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi where he led the country in Labour Day celebrations, the President talked of an absentee deputy who abandoned Kenyans and resorted to attacking his administration over claims of high cost of living and other challenges bedevilling the country.

Both the DP and Mr Odinga did not attend the ceremony.

President Kenyatta wondered why the DP hadn’t resigned if he felt the Jubilee government was not living up to its promises.

“Instead of helping me end the situation, you are all over in the market places inciting people to ask me about the situation. And then you call yourself a big leader, I don’t know what big number, in this country. Why didn’t you then resign and leave me to search for a person who could help me?” the President asked.

“Time has come for us to tell ourselves the truth.”

But DP Ruto told the President he had himself to blame over the challenges facing the country.

A phone call away

The DP, who told his boss that he was only a phone call away, said the President had brought the problems on himself by embracing Mr Odinga, whom he termed his “project”. He also blamed the Head of State for assigning other individuals his duties.

“Sorry my boss. I feel your pain. Those you assigned my responsibilities & ‘project’ mzee have let you down miserably. They bungled our Big4 (agenda), killed our party & wasted your 2nd term. Wao ni bure kabisa (They are useless). Boss, am available. Just a phone call away,” the DP posted on his Twitter account.

“Sadly last Cabinet was two years ago,” he added, suggesting that he did not have the platform to articulate his views on government issues.

In Nandi, DP Ruto’s allies—National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi, Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi and Nandi County Governor Stephen Sang—said the buck stops with the President and he should not blame anyone else.

“When the gods want to punish you, they make you go crazy and it’s late in the day to complain. You had record numbers of leaders in the August House but instead of brainstorming how to handle issues, you scattered them only to come back and complain that you were abandoned,” Speaker Muturi said.

Mr Mudavadi said: “The President needs to tell us the last time he had a full Cabinet meeting to deliberate on the issues affecting the common citizen. ”

Mr Sang said the President signed an executive order that gave DP Ruto’s powers to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, so he should be fair to his deputy.

“No one is a visitor in Jerusalem. Everyone knows the de facto Deputy President is ODM leader Mr Odinga. In the first term, you achieved a lot because you allowed your deputy to work with you. It’s now unfair for you to call out DP Ruto for the misgivings in government,” the governor said.

Regretting Handshake

Another ally of the DP, Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, claimed that the Head of State was simply regretting that his Handshake with Mr Odinga meant to sideline his deputy, had failed.

“In 2019, he issued Executive Order No.1 stripping the DP of any responsibilities, which left him exposed, clueless and rudderless. He has no one to blame but himself,” Mr Murkomen wrote on Twitter.

Former National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, who was kicked out of his role in 2020 for siding with the DP, said all started going downhill in 2018 when he started a scheme to alienate leaders purported to be backing his deputy, including House leadership, “to destroy our careers, our government and our Jubilee party”.

“You hounded us out of our parliamentary offices unceremoniously, humiliated us in public, discharged your Deputy of his constitutional function through an Executive order, and used the criminal justice system to parade our colleagues in court.

“Mr President, you replaced us with our historical adversaries. Having worked with us, as our leader, we still respect you and leave the rest to the Almighty God. We are sorry for the pain you are going through but we can do little as we have moved on, Mr President,” Mr Duale wrote on Twitter yesterday.

Tharaka-Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, one of those angling to deputise Ruto, should he become president, accused Mr Kenyatta of conspiring with some “incompetent leaders to isolate and humiliate” his loyal foot soldiers.

“At the tail end of a painful second term that has destroyed Kenya’s economy, you need whose help? We loved you but Tinga (Mr Odinga) loved you more, just complete and exit,” Prof Kindiki said.

In his speech, the Head of State also revisited his plans for constitutional changes following the collapse of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), arguing, although the courts halted the plans, there is need for the changes to improve the governance system.

“Do you want us to amend the constitution and improve it or what? We want to improve it to ensure justice for all,” said the Head of State.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions Secretary-General Francis Atwoli reiterated that President Kenyatta was still young even as he heads into retirement, insisting that the country would still need his wise counsel.

“This being the last Labour Day for you to attend before you exit, remember you are the first president of Kenya to exit while you are still young. I know for sure that you are just going on leave after the end of your term.

“But this does not mean you can’t come back. You being young, there is nowhere you will hide; we will come for you for advice and support,” Mr Atwoli told the President.

He went on: “As you exit, please support Azimio and its aspiring candidates without fear or favour. I’m certain that come August 9, we shall win the elections and many will break their radios and televisions as they will not believe it.”

Mr Odinga has previously stated that he would offer President Kenyatta an advisory role in his administration if he wins the presidency.

‘Unfit to be President’

Following the Ruto rebuttal, President Kenyatta’s allies hit back, accusing the DP of what they said was the highest form of disrespect, which should lead to his exit from government.

Mr Odinga’s presidential campaign spokesperson Prof Makau Mutua accused the DP of disrespecting the Head of State, arguing, his Tweet against the country’s chief executive was in bad taste.

“This is proof...that William Ruto is unfit to be President. Such petulant, immature and childish language is unbecoming of the person who holds the second highest office in the land, and is seeking the highest, that of President of the Republic and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

“Mr Ruto’s public bile and viciousness against his boss hasn’t been witnessed anywhere in the world. It’s truly a remarkable display of bitterness and utter inability to control his emotions,” Prof Mutua said.

Sad state of affairs

He went on: “One can’t imagine what he would do in power with such a fragile ego and temperament. I’ve never seen this anywhere. They say he doesn’t drink alcohol but the tweet isn’t sober at all.”

Former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth, who is seen as a possible running mate to Mr Odinga, described the exchange with the Head of State on social media as a sad state of affairs.

“It’s very sad that one can degenerate to such levels,” he told the Nation.

Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri said the DP has shown the highest level of arrogance against his boss.

“He’s showing Kenyans that he can easily respond to the President’s concerns yet that is his boss. He’s being cheeky. He has demonstrated the highest level of contempt against his boss, a behaviour which does not befit a holder of such an office,” he said.

“He feels he is on the same level with the Head of State; that’s why he is showing him disrespect and this demonstrates why they have been completely unable to work [together],” the MP added.