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Deputy President Ruto options amid sustained political attacks

By Eric Wainaina
Tuesday, January 14th, 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta with his Deputy William Ruto at a past function. Some leaders have challenged the DP to resign over claims of undermining the President. Photo/PD/GERALD ITHANA
In summary
    • Ruto and Raila camps are sharply divided on how to proceed with the BBI report, with the opposition leader pushing for a referendum on the Constitution, which the Deputy President is opposed to.
    • Supporters of the Building Bridges Initiative led by Opposition leader Raila Odinga have kicked off a series of meetings and rallies to drum up support for a referendum to amend the Constitution.
    • But Deputy President William Ruto and his Tanga Tanga allies are accusing Raila’s camp of plotting to use the BBI to drive its 2022 election agenda.

Deputy President William Ruto is caught between a rock and a hard place with his political woes, some of which appear to be deliberately erected to stop his 2022 presidential bid, piling by the day.

Ruto, who since the 2017 election has concentrated on his presidential bid against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s wish, is a man under siege from his own political party, but has continued to put up a brave face, in the wake of attacks and humiliation from his opponents.

From alleged mistreatment by State officers, sustained onslaught within Jubilee Party to scathing attacks from the Opposition, especially after the March 9, 2018 Handshake between the President and Raila Odinga, Ruto has been on the receiving end of sustained political salvos.

Yesterday, at a press conference addressed by a section of leaders from Jubilee and ODM, nominated MP Maina Kamanda challenged the DP to resign from the party and government over claims of undermining the President.

“If you (Ruto) are part of that (Uhuru’s) administration, you should be gentleman enough and do what is honourable, which is to resign and say, I am leaving this party and government, and because it’s about two years to 2022, I will champion my own path, until I get the presidency because I can’t work in a government I don’t believe in,” Kamanda said.

Amend constitution

On Friday, during a Building Bridges Initiative caucus in Kisii  town, Borabu MP Ben Momanyi said he would propose a constitutional amendment to give the President a free hand to sack his deputy if the Principal Assistant becomes uncooperative.

“The DP now thinks he’s strong enough to challenge the President and his boss can do nothing about it.

We need to change the law to give the President freedom to sack his deputy when he so wishes,” the MP said.

The MPs spoke as the President published names of the BBI taskforce in the official Kenya Gazette, the latest indication that he is prepared to push ahead with changes to the Constitution, despite protests from Ruto and his allies.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (second left), with his deputy William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and BBI taskforce chairman Yusuf Haji during the launch of the BBI report at Nairobi’s Bomas of Kenya. Photo/PD/FILE

But even as the Ruto onslaught continues, analysts are divided on the options available to the DP, with some cautioning that any blunder could cost him dearly especially because the President is disinterested in discussing his 2022 candidature.

Parallel organisation

Denis Moturi, a political analyst, yesterday said that because Ruto is unlikely to succumb to the push by the President’s allies to quit, he should be prepared to stomach all forms of humiliation he is likely to be subjected to.

“Ruto doesn’t not have the option of walking out of Jubilee because he needs power and needs to be in office probably to earn sympathy since there are people who wonder why Uhuru will not support him.  He will not want to leave because he will have nowhere to go,” he said.

The DP, he said, would want to stay in Jubilee so that party diehards may support him and also to inherit the party as his 2022 election vehicle when the President leaves.

“He will create a parallel organisation elsewhere to support his ideologies but he will not exit. 

For him to succeed with Uhuru and anyone who is working with Uhuru, he has to stay in Jubilee, otherwise new players will come on board,” he warned.

Muran’ga Senator Irungu Kan’gata said though some leaders want the DP to quit, he cannot afford to do so or start a confrontation with the President who has been working with Ruto’s perceived foremost enemy, Raila.

The majority deputy whip in the Senate said the DP must continue playing obedient even with all indications of a fallout between him and the President, because he stands to lose central Kenya support in case of a direct confrontation with the Head of State.

Ruto in Soy
Deputy President William Ruto in Narok before heading to Soy in Uasin Gishu County PHOTO/PD JONAH MWANGI

“He should support the President come what may. It is never wise to fight a boss who holds all levers of power.

It is never wise to outshine your boss. Uhuru’s powers have been enhanced, with the opposition now supporting him.

He is, therefore, not a person one would wish to face,” the Senator said. The DP has in the past fired back at those asking him to quit, saying the Jubilee Party remains united and that he is President Kenyatta’s principal assistant by virtue of the Constitution.

But for how long will he do this and what does it mean for his 2022 ambitions? 

Lawyer and political commentator Danstan Omari thinks that for Ruto to succeed, he should resign and do something drastic like provoking an arrest to earn public sympathy and support from Kenyans.

According to Omari, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became president courtesy of detention by the colonial government, Daniel arap Moi reaped from the frustrations of the so-called Mount Kenya mafia during Mzee’s reign while Mwai Kibaki, too, suffered frustrations before being elected Kenya’s third president.

Attract sympathy

Likewise, Uhuru reaped big from the International Criminal Court case, which was later terminated, while Raila has a huge following courtesy of his detention history, but Ruto has nothing that can attract sympathy and therefore he must create some reason.

“Ruto should provoke the President so that he is arrested, take a plea in court and he will create a fanatical constituency. For him to succeed he must be outside (the government), be thrown to Kamiti, if need be.

What would happen if Ruto was arrested and a photo of him with handcuffs is shared? His followers will have a reason to fight for him. But will he take this advice, the decision is his,” Omari said.

But still, he says Ruto would be afraid to quit the party and government because he might be locked out of 2022, which will expose him to bigger risks that might kill his ambitions.

“William Ruto will not resign. If he resigns, the first thing they will do is arrest him on any offence to paint him as unfit to run for the top office in 2022. The Deputy President’s post is his insurance,” he said.