Uhuru allies gang-up to resist ploy by Ruto to make him a lame duck president


President Uhuru Kenyatta inspecting a guard of honour PHOTO/PSCU


Deputy President William Ruto’s lecture at The Royal Institute of International Affairs in London was not only loaded with his views on constitutional reforms but also indications on how he relates with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The DP used the London occasion to register his disagreement with the proposal for re-introduction of the prime minister’s position.

During the discussions, Mr Ruto boldly indicated that he does not support calls for constitutional changes that are going to trim the powers of the president through the creation of a premier and two deputies as advocated by a section of politicians in the country.

His position also seems to be at variance with President Kenyatta’s proposal on the ‘winner-take-it-all” current constitutional provision that ensures whoever wins the presidential race forms a government with his allies.

Last year, President Kenyatta suggested that this constitutional provision needs to be re-looked at given the prevailing circumstances in the country.

Speaking at the Mamboleo showground in Kisumu County in December last year, the president said the winner-takes-it-all system of elections was doing the country more harm than good.

In the winner-takes-it-all system, Kenyans supporting a losing candidate in elections have a tendency of feeling left out of government resulting in friction among different communities in the country.

President Kenyatta has repeatedly explained that one of the prime reasons for him and ODM leader Raila Odinga deciding to work together through what is now famously known as ‘the handshake’ was to unify all Kenyans.

“This thing of winner-takes-all… we will have to look into it because we want to unite our people,” the president was quoted saying.

Political observers view these sentiments as an indication of President Kenyatta’s support for constitutional  reforms to address the consolidation of powers in the presidency.

However, Mr Ruto seems not to favour this position and instead favours constitutional changes that will ensure the Executive headed by the president remains intact but “Cabinet Secretaries to be Ex Officio MPs”.

Mr Ruto also wants the “Deputy President automatically nominated MP” and to assume the role of the Leader of Government Business in Parliament.

The DP also wants the “First runners-up in presidential election and running mate automatically nominated as MPs and to assume Leader of Opposition and deputy respectively.

He wants this scenario replicated at County level with deputy-governor and runners-up for Governor becoming Members of County Assemblies (MCAs) and Leader of Government Business and Leader of Opposition in County Assemblies respectively.

Mr Ruto also suggested that The Senate should become Upper House meaning it can veto the National Assembly.

The DP has questioned the necessity of a referendum at a time when the country is planning to conduct an expensive census and boundary review before the next General Election in 2022.

While fielding questions after his keynote address at Chatham House, Mr Ruto said Kenyans will decide whether the referendum should happen alongside the 2022 General Election or sooner, and if at all it is necessary altogether.

His aides indicate the  lecture at Chatham House is part of a wider strategy to woo foreign influential think tanks to his side ahead of the 2022 General Election.

However, his position on the desired constitutional reforms has ignited furious reactions from both ODM leader Raila Odinga and President Kenyatta’s supporters.

ODM MPs have accused Mr Ruto of being dishonest with Kenyans regarding the proposed referendum alleging that he only flew to London to engage efforts to undermine it.

The legislators indicated that the DP London lecture was an anti-referendum ploy with the aim of getting the support of the international community.

Siaya Senator James Orengo and ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna also accused Mr Ruto of campaigning against the peaceful co-existence of Kenyans fearing that this would derail his 2022 ambitions.

And a section of leaders from Mt Kenya region allied to the president have formed a group known as Mt Kenya and Diaspora Leaders Forum to defend him from rebels associated with DP Ruto.

The group led by Nominated MP Maina Kamanda says it wants to tame the rebels calling themselves Team Tanga Tanga.

Those perceived to be Team Tanga Tanga in Mt Kenya region include MPs Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), Woman Rep Wanjiru Chege (Muranga), Irungu Kangata (Muranga Senator), Prof Kindiki Kithure (Senator Tharaka Nithi) among others.

The latest developments come at a time Ford Kenya leaders led by Moses Wetangula have renewed calls for Mr Ruto to retire alongside President Kenyatta in 2022.

Former Jubilee Party leader vice-chairman David Murathe and President Kenyatta’s close confidante has also taken a similar position.

However, all these machinations point to only one thing; resistance to make Uhuru a lame duck president. A lame duck president is a president who is in the last part of his/her term in office, who cannot stand for re-election.


Independence President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his then vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. PHOTO/COURTESY

It is believed that the onslaught against DP Ruto and his allies is heavily borrowed from a script Independence President Jomo Kenyatta applied during his rivalry with his then Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the father of Raila Odinga.

According to a book written by the then US ambassador to Kenya Mr William Attwood , The Reds and the Blacks (1967), rivalry emerged between President Jomo and Mr Jaramogi immediately after independence setting the stage for the latter’s political downfall.

Jomo and Jaramogi had met in the early 50s, before developing a great political rapport that would see them deliver Kenya’s independence.

This resulted in Kenyatta being elected President with Jaramogi becoming his Vice President. However, immediately after the 1963 Independence elections relations between the two leaders became strained.

Jaramogi emerged as a highly ambitious, shrewd and conniving Vice President who was focused on succeeding Kenyatta at all costs. This was to later lead to a fallout between the two powerful politicians.

Kenya is currently at this stage now where relations between President Kenyatta and DP Ruto are at their lowest ebb. Political observers believe that Mr Ruto is too obsessed with succeeding President Uhuru at the cost of the president’s legacy.

Since President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga announced a unity deal in March last year, Mr Ruto has been behaving like campaigns for the 2022 presidential polls have started.

He has not only been shuttling from one corner of the country to another but also receiving MPs and delegations from different parts of the country at either his Harambee House Annex office or at his official residence in Karen.

This development has thawed relations between the two setting the stage for a political scenario that resembles the Jomo Kenyatta presidency and his then vice president Jaramogi.

According to Mr Attwood, Jaramogi earned Kenyatta’s gratitude, “for lending him money during the struggle for independence and demanding his release from detention.

Later he helped Kenyatta become first, the Prime Minister then President, by working hard for a Kanu victory in the 1963 Independence elections” according to a report by Sunday Nation columnist Kamau Ngotho.

“But Odinga had ambitions of his own. Just past 50, he saw himself as Kenyatta’s logical successor. At public ceremonies, he took pains to be seen and photographed at Kenyatta’s side, properly conspicuous in his distinctive Chinese-style pajama suit and waving his fly-whisk like Mzee’s understudy.”

Attwood says: “So convincingly did he play the role of No 2 that the Russians and the Chinese, figuring that Kenyatta was becoming senile, decided to make Odinga their main man in Kenya.”

This is the political scenario currently evolving in Kenya.  There’s no doubt about the role Mr Ruto played in President Uhuru’s election in 2013 and the two subsequent elections in 2017.

However, just like when the Chinese and the Russians were said have discreetly supported Jaramogi in his supremacy wars with Jomo, Mr Ruto is also to have close walking relations with the two countries.

Mr Attwood reveals in his book that both the Chinese and the Russians made some major miscalculations with respect to Odinga.

“Odinga may have been shrewd and crafty, but he was also emotional which, in big-league politics, can be fatal. Also Mr Kenyatta was by no means senile, as they were led to believe. So they put their money on the colourful but erratic leader.”

Attwood says Odinga’s political assets were “his charm and crowd-pleasing platform manner; ample source of funds from the Communist bloc, and fanatic loyalty of the majority Luo.”

DP Ruto is currently displaying similar characteristics. He is not only a charming orator with a near fanatical following among his Kalenjin people, but he is said to have amassed a political war-chest running into billions of shillings from multi-million tender deals mainly from Chinese companies.

He is said to be using this immense wealth to buy political loyalty from politicians from both President Uhuru’s led Jubilee party and Raila Odinga’s led ODM party.

Mr Attwood records the first open showdown between Kenyatta and his deputy which came at a time when Kenyatta was due to travel to London for a Commonwealth conference.

In his absence, he appointed a minister in his office, Joseph Murumbi, to be acting Prime Minister.

Jaramogi, who had led his backers and supporters to believe he was No 2 man in the Kenyan hierarchy, was so outraged “he refused to come to the airport to see Kenyatta off — a characteristic display of temper that did him no good.”


President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. PHOTO/PSCU

Mr Attwood reckons that after that snub, it became common knowledge things were no longer at ease between Kenyatta and his deputy.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s handlers seems to be borrowing a leaf from these developments in dealing with DP Ruto since the ‘handshake’ between him and opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Against President Uhuru’s advice, Mr Ruto has been on a whirlwind campaign in different parts of the country to position himself as Uhuru’s heir apparent.

President Uhuru insists that politicians in both Jubilee and the opposition should shelve campaigns for 2022 presidential election and focus on helping build his legacy through the implementation of the Big Four Action Plan that focuses on boosting manufacturing, universal health coverage, food and nutrition security and supporting the construction of at least 500,000 affordable houses by 2022.

To demonstrate his uneasiness against his deputy, President Uhuru recently through executive order number 1 of 2019 gave Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang’I far-reaching powers.

President Uhuru appointed Dr Matiang’i to chair a committee mandated to supervise all government projects, including the Jubilee government’s legacy-driven ‘Big Four’ agenda.

Dr Matiang’i will chair the newly constituted National Development Implementation and Communication Committee, and will be deputised by his Treasury counterpart Henry Rotich.

Jomo Kenyatta pulled nearly a similar political stunt to deal with Jaramogi’s rising political rivalry shortly after independence when the Kanu constitution was amended to abolish the position of Vice President and create eight vice- presidents from across the country.

While President Uhuru did not amend the Constitution to cut his deputy to size by giving Dr Matiang’i sweeping powers, he seems to have borrowed a leaf from the 1963 political shenanigans between Jaramogi and Jomo.

Mr Attwood says the political knock-out punch landed on Jaramogi came by surprise. He writes: “Surprise was essential; Odinga had the money to buy votes if given time. As it was, he tried hard.”

Jaramogi’’s slush fund for the election, reveals Attwood, was estimated to be more than $150,000, much of it in green dollars provided by the Chinese embassy in Dar es Salaam and converted to shillings in Mombasa.”

The resolutions and election results at the hurriedly convened Kanu conference were predictable.

Delegates overwhelmingly approved Kanu’s new constitution where Odinga’s post of deputy party Vice-President was abolished and replaced with eight vice- presidents from across the country.

Odinga didn’t wait for the conference to end. “He walked out in a rage and into Kenyatta’s trap”, says Attwood.

A few days later, Odinga resigned as Vice- President and quit Kanu to form the opposition Kenya People’s Union.  He remained in political opposition until his death in 1994.

The onslaught against Mr Ruto continues. The other day we witnessed CS Defence Rachel Omamo read President Uhuru’s statement during a function in Nyanza in the presence of DP Ruto.

This is similar to what President Kenyatta did to Jaramogi at independence when during a UN Day celebrations; he delegated a cabinet minister to read his speech on his behalf.

When the minister rose to read the speech, he declined to acknowledge the presence of Vice-President Odinga who was seated next to him.

Attwood summarises the story of the elder Kenyatta/Odinga fallout with recollections of a private meeting with Kenyatta.

He writes: “I went out to Gatundu one weekend not long after Odinga resigned. Kenyatta and I sat and drank coffee and talked of Kenya’s future in the living room.”

“I am not bitter about Odinga”, Kenyatta told me. “I like Odinga. When I first met him, he was a successful businessman. Then I persuaded him to come into politics. That was a mistake. He doesn’t understand politics.”

Kenyatta smiled and rubbed his chin: “Now I think he should go back and be a businessman again. That would be good for him and good for Kenya.”

Unless he treads carefully, and because of his obsessions with cutting deals instead of providing servant leadership, Mr Ruto could end up being consigned to opposition political benches come 2022 the way Jaramogi ended up there after falling out with Jomo.


President Uhuru Kenyatta with ODM leader Raila Odinga when they announced their plans to work together through what is now famously known as ‘The handshake’. PHOTO/PSCU

And if the remarks made by President Uhuru Kenyatta at Ihura Stadium in Murang’a during a funeral service for multiparty crusader Kenneth Matiba is anything to by, then Mr Ruto, needs to change strategy.

Mr Ruto needs to know that Kenya is a country defined by interests and it is these interests that shape its politics.

During the occasion in Muranga, President Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga criticised those who are opposed to their unity deal which, they said, had nothing to do with 2022 succession politics.

The leaders, who said they are united in creating a new path for the country, spoke just hours after Mr Ruto tore into a proposal by Mr Odinga to amend the Constitution to create more posts and regions.

The President and Mr Odinga said their formula for working together was not pegged on the 2022 succession politics and that those linking the March 9 unity deal to succession politics are wrong.

The President went ahead to say that not very many were pleased with his unity deal with Mr Odinga adding that is their problem (shauri yao) and emphasized that he was going to continue working with the ODM leader and urged other leaders to join them.

If Mr Ruto is a shrewd politician as he claims to be, he should be aware that the President had drawn the red line. You are either with him or his enemies. As the President’s principal deputy Mr Ruto needs to change strategy.

It is unfortunate that Mr Ruto is emerging as a worried man over the 2022 succession politics and he is ready to take on anybody he believes is a threat to his presidential ambitions.

But the DP should remember that politics is about interests and the President’s interests supersedes those of his deputy.

Since President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga announced a unity deal Mr Ruto has been behaving like campaigns for the 2022 presidential polls have started.

He has not only been shuttling from one corner of the country to another but also receiving MPs and delegations from different parts of the country at either his Harambee House Annex office or at his official residence in Karen.

He has even unleashed his attack dogs like Nandi Kiprotich Cherargei and Elkeyo Markwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and other leaders to malign other politicians in the name of defending or protecting his presidential ambitions.

Last year, Mr Sonko alleged there is a plot by a section of leaders from the Mt Kenya region to scuttle Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential ambitions in 2022.

Without delving into much detail, Governor Sonko claimed a section of political leaders from the region are holding night meetings to craft a plan to field a presidential candidate.

“We are aware that some politicians from Mount Kenya have been holding night meetings in Nairobi to craft plans on how to support one of their own in 2022,” he said on Sunday during a service at Presbyterian Church of East Africa in Runda, Nairobi, presided over by Mr Ruto.

The governor later singled out PS Njoroge Kibicho as among those out to frustrate DP Ruto’s 2022 succession plans. Since then the two have been involved in a bitter exchange of words.

All these are signs of early campaigning for the 2022 presidential elections where he hopes to be succeeding President Kenyatta.

Mr Ruto’s relentless opposition to any amendments to the Constitution to create the position of Prime Minister and a Deputy Prime Minister has exposed his political underbelly.

Power comes from the people and if Kenyans want Constitutional changes or not this is a decision that can be made through a referendum.


Independence President Jomo Kenyatta and his then Vice President Daniel arap Moi. PHOTO/COURTESY

Mr Ruto is forgetting that Kenya is a dynamic society and that is why it has produced nine Vice-Presidents and only two managed to become presidents.

Kenya has a long list of vice presidents as they used to be called then who never made it to the presidency. They include independence VP Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Joseph Murumbi, Joseph Karanja, George Saitoti, Musalia Mudavadi, Kijana Wamalwa, Moody Awori and Kalonzo Musyoka.

So his possibility of succeeding President Kenyatta is not cast in stone. Moreover, he knows the benefits that came with his decision to drop out of the presidential race in 2013 to support the incumbent and as a result even if he does not become president he has already been adequately compensated.

But Mr Ruto has to remember that the situation he is facing now  resembles the 1970s scenario, when there was the ‘change the constitution’ movement spearheaded by a group of powerful Kikuyu supremacists going by the name ‘Kiambu Mafia’ who wanted to block the then Vice President Daniel Moi from automatically succeeding Kenyatta.

Mr Moi faced opposition from the Kiambu Mafia who would have preferred one of their own to be eligible for the presidency. This resulted in an attempt by this change-the-constitution group to prevent the vice-president automatically assuming power in the event of the president’s death.

However, their schemes were scuttled by then Attorney General Charles Njonjo who instead backed Mr Moi and the shy and reserved former primary school teacher, took the oath of office to become Kenya’s second President in 1978 following Jomo’s death.

To succeed Kenyatta, Mr Moi endured humiliation, some of it physical, from opponents that included powerful men who had access to Kenyatta. But Mr Moi used, among other things, his open and unquestionable loyalty to Kenyatta as a stepping stone to power.

If Mr Ruto is a good political student he should learn from Mr Moi on how he maneuvered through highly treacherous political terrain to become Kenya’s second president.

The perception that Mr Kenyatta owes the DP any debt because of supporting him in 2013 and 2017 is misplaced because the political marriage between the two was based on interests. Maybe the only political debt Mr Kenyatta has is to retired President Moi who inducted him in politics.

In hindsight, today, Mr Ruto is probably the most hated politician in different parts of Kenya by both politicians and businessmen.

He destroyed political careers of many politicians from different parts of the country through what has come to be known as ‘computer-generated MPs and senators’.

He has made things difficult for tender chasing businessmen because there was no tender that was awarded in this country without him shoving his head in. How does he expect to become the president of Kenya by antagonizing these two powerful groups?

Mr Ruto needs to know that politics in Kenya is controlled by powerful individuals who work behind the scenes to determine who rules the country or becomes the president.

During President Jomo Kenyatta’s tenure they were called the Kiambu Mafia, during retired President Daniel arap Moi’s rule they became the Kalenjin Mafia, at the time of retired President Mwai Kibaki they became Mt Kenya mafia and word has it that the Kiambu Mafia have come back to handle the Uhuru succession. But one group that is not mentioned is the British mafia who have a lot of interests in Kenya having been our colonisers.

In Kenya, the term mafia refers to a secretive powerful group of people with the ability to control key instruments of power that include security, media, the intelligence service and the business class for political convenience.

Mr Ruto should remember that he is a creation of Mr Odinga who has lost three presidential elections under controversial circumstances due to the alleged plot by these so called ruling elite but he is willing to work with Mr Kenyatta.

The DP should also know politics in Kenya is about ethnicity and party politics. As he head towards 2022, Mr Ruto is party-less after disbanding URP.

Dr Maurice Nyamanga Amutabi a lecturer at Central Washington University in his research paper “Beyond Imperial Presidency in Kenya: Interrogating the Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki Regimes and Implications for Democracy and Development,” says to understand presidential politics in Kenya, one has to examine the nature of party and ethnic politics.

He says it is through understanding of the place of ethnicity and party politics in Kenya that we can understand the history of presidential politics in the country.

He adds that ethnic groups have become vital building blocks for Kenya‘s democracy, as seen in the scholarship on ethnicity in Kenya.

Dr Amutabi asserts that to enhance their political premium nationally, politicians have used populations of their ethnic groups as a bargaining chip.

They have created alliances based on their ethnic numbers and support and the more numerous an ethnic groups is, the better recognition its leaders get in the re-configuration of alliances and attention from the political schemers.

But there’s a number of questions that DP Ruto needs to ask himself as he prepares for the 2022 presidential race.

Will the International criminal court (ICC) post-election violence crimes against humanity case pending at The Hague come back to haunt him? Will the disfranchisement of the Kikuyu owners of capital during the retired President Moi’s tenure influence the way Mt Kenya region will vote in 2022? And will he withstand the integrity test given the massive corruption allegations thrown at his personality?

These are political lessons that Mr Ruto needs to learn if he is serious about his presidential ambitions come 2022!

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