Political Marriage Between Uhuru and Ruto Irreconcilable over Corruption

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By Blamuel Njururi, Kenya Confidential Editor-in-Chief, Nairobi – June 22, 2019

Marriages are broken by irreconcilable differences between couples and the political one between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto CANNOT be salvaged. Their differences over Corruption are irreconcilable.

Those talking about the vows made by Uhuru during political courting in 2017 can forget about them the same way divorcing couples forget their marriage vow of “staying together for good and for worse until death does them part”.

The moment Ruto said he does not “believe CORRUPTION can STOP a Leader from delivering” he actually was telling the President, who is committed to fighting the social economic EVIL, that he is wasting valuable time to make money because he will institutionalise the social vice the moment he takes over in 2022.

That is why Uhuru can no longer support Ruto Presidency. It’s like a wife walking over to her husband at bedtime and telling him; “I don’t believe you can give me the baby I want”, then she goes to Koinange Street to satisfy her desire.

Ruto used the word “believe”. He said he does not ‘BELIEVE” corruption can stop “a leader from delivering” (development projects) when the country is dotted with billions of shillings in white elephant projects, initiated by former dictator Daniel arap Moi among others, stalled because of corruption by contractors and tenderpreneurs – projects some Kenya politicians choose to forget chasing Ruto money.

For a man said to be a “committed believer in the Holy Scriptures” and indeed, God, he was NOT using the word “believe” lightly or in vain on the international platform of Citizen Television talk show. He meant it and even in Eldoret yesterday, he said that he supports the President in many things among which he did not mention War on Corruption – a national pre-occupation and Enemy Number ONE!.

Ruto sees nothing wrong with corruption because no beneficiary of graft, from public or private sectors, can see anything wrong with enriching oneself in such a selfish manner

Ruto’s Press unit proudly circulated the statement on Twitter and other social platforms popular with Kenyan youth which blames CORRUPTION as purely a government failure – to drive his point home – that he does not support the president on the fight against corruption.

Ruto has NOT retracted that statement. He has NOT qualified its context – so he meant CORRUPTION will be part of his government the same way fictitious “Harambee” receipt books were in every government office during Dictator Daniel Moi era – his political and financial Godfather.

That is why when he spoke at Rivatex official opening he listed the areas of cooperation like uniting Kenyans, which he is NOT doing in his constant war with Luo kingpin Raila Amolo Odinga. CORRUPTION was not in his vocabulary or those of his supporters who were indirectly reminding Uhuru of 2007 political Marriage vows totally ignoring that Ruto is seen as a home-breaker who is busy inheriting the Presidency when Uhuru is still ALIVE – even with an abundant warning that he should STOP that behaviour.

The UhuRuto marriage is over and both Uhuru and Ruto speeches and body language clearly played out in Eldoret during the Rivatex event. The differences between the two are irreconcilable. Ruto is not the person Uhuru would like to inherit him and frustrate the War on Corruption – let alone his Big 4 Agenda whose finances will go into private pockets overnight! 

Uhuru wants to advance Kenya to where his father wanted – like the Far East Tigers, before corruption started biting in his last six years after civil servants chose graft to be their private business in 1972 and 24 years of Moi era freewheeling corruption. He is building on the foundation built by former President Mwai Kibaki on the ruins he found after the ravages of Moi era. Ruto wants to reverse both the Uhuru and KIbaki gains in his “pseudo-philosophy” that Corruption cannot stop a leader from delivering in Kenya. He did not give an example of any country where corruption aided prosperity other than benefiting criminal cartels and business dynasties.

President Uhuru does NOT want to make the grave mistake his father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta made with Moi when he had the opportunity to stop a man who reversed all his government’s gains over 24 years of dictatorship driven by CORRUPTION when he had ample time to stop him. 

Ruto’s statement on CORRUPTION reminds me of a chat I had with the first head of Civil Service in Kenyatta era Duncan Ndegwa over dinner in his fabulous Mombasa Continental Resort during 2007-2008 Post Election Violence. My wife and I had flown to Mombasa for a holiday after elections when hell broke loose.

Over dinner one of the evenings our conversation drifted over national issues into Corruption, Ndegwa told me of how President Kenyatta had sent his vice President Moi and Attorney General Charles Mugane Njonjo to shop for three locomotive engines in Britain after the break-up of the East African Community.

While out there, Njonjo of the CMC Motors public funds pilfering shame that started in the last year of Kenyatta rule, and Moi of the notorious Goldenberg International financial heist, conspired to buy two engines instead of three and share the cash for the third engine.

Duncan Ndegwa: Kenyatta’s Head of Civil Service and first Central Bank Governor

Mzee Kenyatta was informed of the deal even before Moi and Njonjo returned to Nairobi. On their return, Kenyatta summoned Njonjo to State House. In Ndegwa’s presence as Head of Civil Service and Secretary to the Cabinet, Kenyatta asked Njonjo in Kikuyu, “Wonia Rumbwa (reference to Kalenjin in Kikuyu) kuiya mbeca cia muingi ni ukamwiganiria?” (You have shown a Kalenjinn how to steal public funds, will you ever satisfy him?)

Retrospectively, dictator Moi lived up to Mzee Kenyatta fears. He was never satisfied in his greed for wealth accumulation from looting the Central Bank through Goldenberg International to Mau Forest destruction of East Africa’s biggest water tower in order to grow tea for personal income – to which he still clings even today as the head of a multi-billionaire-shilling (perhaps trillions) family wealth.

Incidentally, Ndegwa chaired the Commission that in 1971 recommended that civil servants could engage in private business along with their public service. By so doing he opened the flood gates for civil servants to drive corruption as their main business through bribery from those seeking government services, tenders and contracts. They also robbed departing foreigners of European and Asian origins of their businesses, assets and land.

The Uhuru-Ruto difference today has all the hallmarks of the final years of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta when political skirmishes flared up between Moi supporters and Kenyatta’s supporters over his succession. A typical case of history repeating itself as is so often in Kenya politics. Kenyatta did not endorse Moi as his successor – death did with a helping hand from the then Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

Kenyatta had an opportunity to offload Moi from assuming the reigns of power two years before his death in 1978. Some Kikuyu politicians hatched the Change-Constitution-Movement that would have stopped Moi to automatically succeed him on death. The idea was extinguished by one Kikuyu from Kiambu, popularly referred to as Kabete, Njonjo who harboured the idea of succeeding Kenyatta himself. 

Ruto has another Kikuyu in Kiambu called Ferdinand Waititu supporting his presidency in what they are calling “Hustler Nation” come 2022. Waititu expects to deliver the Kikuyu vote as Ruto’s running mate.

Read the Change-Constitution-Movement debacle from one of its architects the late Njenga Karume recollection:

When Kenyatta agreed to the formation of GEMA, I doubt that he knew what a force GEMA would become. I say this because I personally witnessed a time when Kenyatta became quite uncomfortable with the influence of the organisation and even rebuked its leaders, telling them to stop imagining that they were the government – the problem his son Uhuru is facing with some of his Jubilee party politicians.

He thought of GEMA as a cultural movement and allowed its formation in order to retain the support of his lieutenants. Whatever the case, he permitted its creation and subsequent events were virtually beyond his control.

GEMA was registered under the Societies Act in a single day by the then Attorney General, Charles Mugane Njonjo, who was acting under the instructions of Kenyatta. However, Njonjo later came to intensely detest the movement. He never attended GEMA meetings nor did he want to see his name associated with it in any way. In general, we have had a somewhat cold relationship over the years.

Meanwhile, the organisation had managed to take control of Central Province and Nairobi politics and all the MPs who had won in the 1974 General Elections in those areas were backed by GEMA. Furthermore, other GEMA officials and I were very close to the President.

Little by little, GEMA was becoming an overwhelmingly strong and influential body and this caused alarm and concern in certain circles. I, as the Chairman, had just become a nominated MP, but to some people it seemed that I had more power than many high-level government officials. The tribal exclusivity was also making many outsiders uncomfortable.

Kenyatta was also growing older, and many people outside GEMA’s inner circle felt that the organisation was an impediment to the eventual Kenyatta succession. Complaints and grumbling grew and opposition to GEMA’s insidious power was becoming more and more obvious.

One of the factors that made GEMA hated among other communities was that it took its slogan of Kuuga na Gwika (words matched with action also adopted by Jubilee Party)to the extreme. Other tribes and tribal organisations had watched GEMA buy thousands of acres of land (in Rift Valley), a large clay industry, and saw its membership soar to hundreds of thousands of registered and active members. 

Among all the other critics, there were two people to whom the whole concept and existence of GEMA was an abomination. These anti-GEMA individuals were Daniel arap Moi, the Vice President, and Charles Njonjo, the Attorney General. To my mind, Charles Njonjo was an arrogant and self-conceited fellow who felt that he was intellectually superior to all those who were close to Kenyatta.

Charles Njonjo was the son of Josiah Njonjo, a colonial chief, and as such he had been born into a privileged childhood. He had attended the best schools and attained a law degree from Fort Hare University in South Africa. He then proceeded to England for his pupilage before coming back to Kenya. 

Kenyatta appointed him to the post of Attorney General shortly after independence and since his appointment, he carried on in a supercilious and haughty manner, ignoring or sneering at those who did not agree with his ideas. 

All those who knew him describe him as an ambitious man who had the aspiration of becoming the President upon the death of Jomo Kenyatta. He was close to the President, who was somewhat of a father figure to him, and Njonjo would never contradict Kenyatta openly. But once out of the President’s vicinity, he made no secret of his opinion that Kenyatta was surrounded by idiotic advisors.

Then there was Moi, a loyal Vice President to Kenyatta and who was, according to the Constitution, supposed to be the successor, should Kenyatta die. Moi served loyally, never disagreeing with his boss, and he was a patient man who knew his time would eventually come. After all, he had willingly made a sacrifice and dissolved his party, KADU, in order to join KANU and support Kenyatta – Ruto dissolved his party United Republican Party Kenya (URP) to join Uhuru’s The National Party (TNA). 

Ruto’s URP supporters paraded in Kiambu

Despite being a Kikuyu, there was no love lost between Njonjo and GEMA. He especially loathed Mwai Kibaki, a graduate of the London School of Economics who was now the Minister for Finance. Kibaki was the favoured intellectual among GEMA leaders and he carried out his job as expected and did not engage in petty politics. 

But Njonjo feared Kenyatta. He knew that those who had shown the slightest bit of insolence or contempt to Kenyatta had done it at their own peril. Njonjo therefore, befriended Moi, probably believing that he would be able to manipulate him and the law, when the right time came. And given Kenyatta’s age by the mid-1970s, the time was not far off.

However, Njonjo underrated the power of GEMA, as he discovered when the “Change the Constitution Movement” began. This movement began with a conversation that took place on a plane one day in 1976. Kihika Kimani (the father of Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika a Ruto supporter) and I were flying to a meeting in Geneva. 

We were discussing a topic that had become the subject of many discreet conversations in and outside the corridors of power. We were talking about Jomo Kenyatta’s declining health and what would happen if and when he died (the same with the 2022 premature Uhuru succession debate today).

Kihika, who was the MP for Nakuru North, was a somewhat arrogant politician with questionable ideas of his own grandiosity (like father, like daughter). He was reasonably wealthy and had helped settle many people, especially the Kikuyu, in Rift Valley Province. He had accomplished this through setting up land-buying companies such as Ngwataniro Mutukanio Company and thus many Kikuyu in the Rift Valley had a great deal of respect for him.(His daughter is an established lawyer who was the first Speaker of Nakuru County Assembly. She is also the First Vice President of the Bureau of Women Parliamentarians.)

Susan Kihika; Reversed rolls

He was also Kenyatta’s eyes and ears in Nakuru and the Rift Valley and had clashed with Moi over many issues including power politics and supremacy in the province.

I often told Kihika to be careful about how he talked about Moi in public since Moi could become the President someday and then he, Kihika would be in a tight spot indeed. Kihika was however least bothered. He could simply not envision the possibility of a Moi presidency. 

Now, as we flew over the continent below us, I shattered that assumption.

“How would Moi become President?” Kihika asked, astonished by this possibility. “Where would our Kikuyu leaders be, if and when this happened?”

I reminded Kihika that there was the small issue of the law.

“The Constitution,” I informed him, “states categorically that the Vice President takes over as acting President if the President dies in office.”

This shocked Kihika. He had no idea that the law had anything to say on the matter. As he thought over the matter, Kihika hatched an idea which he shared with me.

“The best option,” he said, “is to campaign to have that ridiculous clause in the document changed, to ensure that Moi never becomes acting President.”

We both knew that Moi would have a distinct advantage in any presidential election if he had already occupied the position in an acting capacity for 90 days – a position Njonjo used to impose Moi on Kenyans illegally planning to replace him referring to his presidency as a passing cloud.

We devised a plan. We would campaign, both in Parliament and outside, to have three different individuals stand in as acting President for those 90 days. The three individuals we had in mind to stand-in were the Head of the Civil Service, the Parliamentary Speaker, and the Chief Justice. 

Kihika Kimani – hatched Gema organisation

When we returned to Kenya, this is just what we did. We secretly began to canvass for supporters among our parliamentary colleagues.

The first meeting of the “Change the Constitution Movement” was held in Nakuru in 1976. Thousands of Kenyans attended and leaders from various tribes addressed the crowd. 

They spoke unflatteringly of Moi’s style of leadership and told the people that the person who would take over from Kenyatta should be a strong character who could steer the country forward. They depicted Moi as the antithesis of this person and urged wananchi to support their goal of changing the constitution – retrospectively, how right they were?

“Let me tell you people,” Paul Ngei, then Minister for Cooperatives and Housing, told the crowds in Afraha Stadium, “If my wife, Emma, and I were to go to State House and I was in the acting capacity of President for three months, I would never get out for any other person to occupy the seat. Not even the strongest animal in the world would pull me out of there.”

This Nakuru meeting caused a stir all over the country and spread alarm among Moi’s supporters. 

Njonjo, Moi and his camp were not surprised by the tactics and strategy of the “Change the Constitution Movement” but they were appalled and shocked by the enormous popular support from the leaders of other tribes. (Moi and Njonjo are the oldest politicians in Kenya. Njonjo will clock 100 years in January 2020. Ailing Moi will be 95 this coming September.)

After considerable deliberation, Njonjo came up with a fairly simple, yet totally devastating solution which surprised the rest of us. As the Attorney General, he called a press conference and announced that all those who addressed the Nakuru rally would be arrested and charged with treason. 

Njenga Karume: Gema founder and life chairman

The Penal Code had an interesting little section which stated that it was an offence for anyone to imagine the death of the sitting President. The offence amounted to treason, whose sentence, according to the same document, was death. 

Therefore, Njonjo said, those who had addressed the Nakuru rally had not only imagined the death of the President, they had stated it outright, through the use of loudspeakers. They were on record for having uttered words that insinuated the President’s death, and Njonjo told the press that he had a watertight case against them. No doubt Njonjo was congratulating himself as he spoke. His counter-attack was ingenious.

I was up before 5 am and started my day by reading the newspapers. I was absolutely stunned to see my name and those of the other leaders who had spoken in Nakuru, on the front page.

I immediately understood, with great dismay, that Njonjo actually had a water-tight case against all of us. Kenyatta was in Nakuru that weekend, and we decided to go and see him at State House. We realised that our only sure source of protection was Jomo Kenyatta himself.

So the four of us, Ngei, Gichuru, Angaine and myself, together with Kihika Kimani, who joined us later, sat at a table at Midlands Hotel in Nakuru and reviewed our predicament before we went on to see the President. If Njonjo actually carried out his threats the lot of us would be in prison in a short time. 

I dialed the Nakuru State House number from the hotel land line,which we all knew by heart, and asked for the President. As I waited to be connected, my courage just trickled away, I lost my nerve and, in a fluster, I gave the phone to Gichuru.

Kenyatta told us to join him at State House and so we all drove there.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta

As usual, the inscrutable Kenyatta appeared to know nothing of the reason for our visit. Although he obviously was well aware of what had been going on, he allowed Gichuru to struggle with the explanation of the whole embarrassing story. 

It was not easy to mention that so many people were virtually anticipating Kenyatta’s death but somehow Gichuru laboured through. Finally, Gichuru revealed that the Attorney General, Charles Njonjo, was threatening to charge us with treason. Then, Gichuru hesitantly asked Kenyatta to give his views on the matter.

The rest of us sat silently, quite worried and anxious about the President’s reaction. Kenyatta did not react immediately, then he suddenly laughed so uproariously that he had tears in his eyes. 

He was shaking with mirth when he pointed at us, sitting there in such a subdued manner. In between his laughter he said, “I did not know I have so many cowards in my government!”

Gichuru and the rest of us smiled uncertainly, not knowing whether to join in Kenyatta’s laughter or not. 

When Kenyatta wiped his eyes and recovered from his amusement, he promised that he would talk to Njonjo and tell him to drop the whole issue. However, serious once again, he advised us to lobby in Parliament if we truly wanted to have the Constitution changed.

After that, we toned down our anti-Moi vitriol but the public rallies continued. Stanley Oloitiptip, a burly Kajiado MP who was a Moi supporter organised a petition, and about 100 MPs signed against the motion to change the Constitution. After that no one had the courage to take the motion to Parliament. Gradually the movement fizzled out and died with a whimper.

Apparently Karume and his colleagues did not know Oloitiptip was a Njonjo protégé in Parliament arising from smuggled coffee business between 1974 and 1978. The two had a company established during the notorious Ugandan coffee smuggling deals at border town of Chebkube.

They sold millions of shillings worth of coffee, which was being transported to Mombasa under police escort by the defunct Kenatco Transport trucks, which they never paid. 

At some point the police officers escorting the Njonjo-Oiloitiptip coffee stole bags of coffee enough to fill a 5-tonner lorry that they offered for sale at Mombasa but were conned by a middleman who sold it and pocketed the cash. He immediately fled to Europe the same day he got the money.

Kenya is truly a Man-eat-Man society.

Footnote:

The statement by Ruto that he does not believe Corruption can stop a leader from “delivering” goes to support and confirm the Opinion Poll that placed him on top position as the most corrupt leader in Kenya! He has no business contesting or disputing the public verdict in future after admitting he sees nothing wrong with corruption as a leader.

He does not believe Corruption can stop a leader from delivering because he believes he is “delivering” corrupt or not. After all the Youth for Kanu (YK’92) leaders, among them Ruto, delivered Dictator Moi re-election in 1992 using millions of shillings looted from Public coffers.