Ruto swearing-in will go ahead with or without Uhuru, says Rigathi

Rigathi Gachagua

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua.

Photo credit: Joseph Kanyi | Nation Media Group

Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua has insisted that president-elect William Ruto’s swearing-in will go on with or without the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he, nonetheless, urged to be a gentleman and attend the ceremony.

While President Kenyatta has not pronounced himself on the ceremony, Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance adherents have read into his silence and failure to congratulate or communicate with the outgoing DP for his election win as signs of the possibility that the Head of State might skip the inauguration of his estranged deputy.

President-elect William Ruto and Rigathi Gachaua

President-elect William Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachaua after receiving their election certificate at Bomas of Kenya on August 15, 2022.

Photo credit: Tony Karumba | AFP

But on Thursday, following a meeting with religious leaders, President Kenyatta assured that power transition will be smooth. The media dispatch, however, made no mention of any specifics to do with the handover ceremony, which by law should happen 14 days after IEBC declares the President-elect if there's no court petition challenging the results. 

President Kenyatta meets religious leaders

Mr Gachagua says they will not force him to congratulate the duo or attend their inauguration. All is needed, the DP-elect reckons, is the presence of Chief Justice Martha Koome and Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, Ms Anne Amadi, who will conduct the oath taking ceremony. 

“Up to now, President Kenyatta hasn't spoken to President-elect Ruto either through phone call or any other means. It is his right because we cannot force him. If he doesn't want to congratulate the president-elect, it is okay...but plans for William Ruto to take over leadership of the country is going on smoothly since it is in the Constitution,” said Mr Gachagua in a Wednesday night interview with Kass TV, a Kalenjin vernacular TV station. 

Mr Gachagua says that the military procession and handing over of the sword -- which he insisted was just ceremonial -- does not require the presence of President Kenyatta. Handing over of the sword is usually done by the outgoing President to the incoming one. 

“Even the military process of handing over the sword is ceremonial, and it is not in the Constitution. What is in the Constitution is the Chief Justice and Chief Registrar of Judiciary. Only these two people are needed then it takes place in an open field two weeks after the declaration; and be between 10am and 2pm. That’s what is in the Constitution,” he said.

Former president Mwai Kibaki and successor Uhuru Kenyatta

Kenya's fourth president Uhuru Kenyatta (right) receives a sword as a symbol of authority from his predecessor Mwai Kibaki on April 9, 2013.

Photo credit: File | AFP

While the Constitution does indeed not talk about the sword and its handover, the Assumption of the office of President Act (2012), which guides the handover process, does talk about the sword.

“Upon signing the certificate of inauguration, the outgoing President shall hand over to the President the following instruments of power and authority a sword; and the Constitution,” Section 14 of the Act states.

In the TV interview, Mr Gachagua asked Kenyans not to worry, saying that the Assumption of Office Transition Committee has already activated its work as far as swearing-in ceremony is concerned.

“I want to tell Kenyans not to be worried, it is our hope that President Uhuru Kenyatta will be a gentleman the same way President Mwai Kibaki handed him power, he will also be democratic and attend the event, hand over the sword, say some few things then we proceed to State House together for some induction but if he doesn't do it, it is okay because the plan will go on.”

“It is our prayer that President Uhuru Kenyatta whom we have worked together for 10 years, it would be good for him to be a gentleman, democratic, respect people's decision, attend the ceremony, hand over the sword and bid Kenyans goodbye,” said Mr Gachagua.

The ceremony, he added, will go on as did the inauguration of US president Joe Biden, a ceremony President Donald Trump skipped

“Even on the day we'll go to Kasarani, if President Uhuru Kenyatta will come, we'll be grateful and we'll be happy but if he doesn't come, the swearing-in will go on because he has no powers legally to hand over power to William Ruto. In America, Donald Trump didn't turn up for the inauguration of the current President Joe Biden,” said Mr Gachagua. 

What the law says

The law dictates that upon the declaration of the final results of a presidential election, the Assumption of the Office of President Committee shall ensure the President-elect and Deputy President-elect are accorded adequate security.

Under the Assumption to the Office of the President Act 2012, which streamlines the transfer of presidential power, public officers are compelled to share information with the President-elect.

The assumption of office is overseen by a committee headed by the Secretary of the Cabinet and other state officials in various ministries. The committee’s role is not limited to overseeing the transitional issues and the swearing-in ceremony but other roles, including planning security for the President-elect and his deputy.

This team is expected to prepare the swearing-in programme. The inauguration must be done in Nairobi and the day is a public holiday. The oath of office should be taken between 10am and 2pm.

The Act has a requirement for the handing over of instruments of power and authority, which are a sword and the Constitution. The Deputy President-elect also takes his oath into office before the Chief Justice and only then is an inauguration speech delivered by the new President.

The president-elect has already forwarded two persons to the transition committee to represent him in the planning even as Azimio team heads to the country’s apex court.
He also said they have been given enough security as required by the law, noting that those who had been frustrating him in government have been forced by the law to do so.