With epic answers during vetting, JSC nominee Isaac Ruto leaves MPs dumbfounded
It’s no doubt that former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto is a fiery and strong opinionated leader.
Mr Ruto, 62, has never shied away from taking clear positions, whether popular or unpopular, regardless of the political ramifications especially when faced with a matter of national importance.
When he appeared before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) of the National Assembly today for vetting following his nomination by President William Ruto to Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Mr Ruto, who also served as Chepalungu MP for 10 years, did not disappoint.
Mr Ruto has a net worth of Sh363 million largely in residential buildings in Nairobi and Bomet, land and livestock among others.
Prior to his nomination, Mr Ruto served as Bomet Governor from 2013 to 2017 before losing to former Sotik MP the late Joyce Laboso after he took a position contrary to President Ruto, then deputy president, who enjoyed massive support in Rift Valley.
He was first elected Chepalungu MP in 1997 on a KANU ticket but lost the seat in the 2022 General Election after disagreeing with then President the late Daniel Arap Moi.
He stayed in the cold for five years and in 2007, he recaptured his seat on an ODM party ticket.
The former Bomet Governor has been previously quoted saying that he was once left stranded at a military airport in Pretoria, South Africa by former President the late Daniel Arap Moi after allegedly disagreeing with him on a matter and trying to give him a piece of advice that was not required.
At the time he was a Cabinet Minister.
Yesterday, Mr Ruto, who also served as Minister for Environment with retired Head of Civil Service Amb Francis Muthaura then as his Permanent Secretary, did not hide his abrasiveness especially when responding to questions from the committee members even as he pushed back on his brand of politics.
He also had a stint at Vocational Training as Minister for Agriculture as Assistant Minister. “I am not sure I am abrasive and fiery. But with age, you get wiser and learn to listen,” Mr Ruto, the former Chairperson of the Council of Governors (CoG), said.
Mr Ruto was nominated alongside Ms Caroline Nzilani to represent the public to the 11-member JSC, chaired by Chief Justice and the President of the Supreme Court.
If approved by the National Assembly for appointment, Mr Ruto and Ms Nzilani will replace Mr Felix Koskey and Prof Olive Mugenda, whose five year-term is expiring in November 2023.
While Prof Mugenda is still a member of the commission, Mr Koskei left the commission in October 2022 to become the Head of Public Service in the Kenya Kwanza administration and President Ruto’s Chief of Staff.
But even as he pushed back on his style of politics, Mukurwe-ini MP John Kaguchia was the first to get a clear test of Mr Ruto’s philosophical responses when he sought to find out whether he owns choppers.
“Senior government officials have previously made a claim that I have three choppers. But I want to say that I own no chopper. I wouldn’t mind having them anyway. If this committee can identify and bring them to me, I will use them to fly around because I have been having problems moving around,” Mr Ruto responded.
He continued; “If I get them, I would donate one to the JSC, another to this committee and the other one to the Kenya Red Cross.”
Mr Kaguchia also demanded that he explain why Bomet hired and paid Sh600,000 a month for the ambulances and he did not hesitate in his response.
“We had six ambulances that we hired and paid Sh600, 000 a month. One was for the referral hospital. We were very frustrated by government hospitals,” he said.
When JLAC chairman George Murugara (Tharaka) questioned his political loyalty, his response was straight.
“The president hasn’t told me that he nominated me on the basis of loyalty but the best service to the people,” he said and did not miss a moment to lecture the current crop of MPs.
“You are representing Kenyans in your constituencies not your parties or party bosses.”
Mr Ruto also told the committee that he has never been charged in court in his lifetime after Mr Murugara wanted to know whether, if approved for appointment as JSC member, he will use his influence to manipulate justice.
“We are not going to JSC to load over the people in charge of dispensing justice but to facilitate the administration of justice. I have no conflict of interest because I have never been prosecuted. I have always stepped on the right side of the law,” he said.
The fiery politician cut his leadership niche at the University of Nairobi. At 20 years in 1982, while at the University he was already the Vice Chairperson of the Student Organization of Nairobi University (SONU), now University of Nairobi Students Association (UNSA).
At the time, Titus Adungosi, then a third year student of Architecture at the University, now deceased, was SONU’s first Chairman.
However, things got thicker for the SONU when a section of its leadership including him and Adungosi among others were arrested and detained over linkages with the failed 1982 coup attempt.
While Mr Adungosi spent six years at Kamiti maximum prison until his death in 1988, Mr Ruto spent three months in police custody.
Six years after the failed coup attempt.
Yesterday Mr Ruto told the committee members how they helped their colleagues who had joined the coup plotters to escape the police dragnet.
“At SONU were simply against the introduction of loans in University. Adungosi died but I continue to mourn him. He never participated in the failed coup,” he said.
“Some of our colleagues came back in military uniforms and guns and dumped them in the hostels. We gave them clothes to wear otherwise what could we have done to them?” posed the former Governor.