By Kenya Confidential Political Desk Editor, Friday, July 9, 2020
Deputy President William Ruto is of late increasingly missing in action. His isolation from President Uhuru Kenyatta’s activities is now glaring obvious and to a large extent complete.
Under normal circumstances President Uhuru would have dispatched his deputy or the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary to represent him and the Kenya nation at Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera inauguration last week but he sent Ruto’s arch rival in the Rift Valley and the Kalenjin community Senator Gideon Moi. Ruto is suffering a full-blown social distancing from government.
More pointedly, President Uhuru Kenyatta this week held a virtual meeting with Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and Chief Administrative Secretaries from which the Deputy President was missing. He is considered a dishonest broker driven by his personal greed for power.
State House said Ruto was not invited because the meeting was for the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee (NDICCC) led by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i. Ruto’s spokesman Emannuel Talam described the meeting as crucial and the Deputy President could not have skipped it – he probably wasn’t invited, he averred.
State House spokesperson Kanze Dena-Mararo said the committee meets every Tuesday and the President chose to attend just to lay out his vision for the new financial year.
The fact that the President would have a meeting to lay out his vision without his deputy is a clear indication of just how wide the gap between the two has grown. But Ruto is sleeping on a bed he has been making since 2017 General Election. He has openly demonstrated he is not interested in Uhuru’s Big 4 legacy agenda.
More painfully the Deputy President has told all and sundry he is not part of Uhuru’s War on Corruption. In April last year during a talk show on Citizen TV Ruto declared he does “not believe that Corruption can stop any leader from delivering in Kenya”. He has repeated the same statement on many occasions modifying it to say he “does not believe that Corruption can stop any ‘determined’ leader from delivering in Kenya”.
That can only mean he does not believe Uhuru is a determined leader. Ruto therefore invited his isolation, along with the de-whipping of his allies from National Assembly and Senate leadership. His political sycophants have been so arrogant that they have been publicly abusing the president and chest-thumbing their loyalty to the man from Sugoi. Most vocal have been Deputy Presidents financial charlatans – both male and female.
The partner who appeared to be a co-president is now unwanted outsider, retained only because the Constitution does not allow the President to fire him. Former Senate Majority Leader and Ruto’s foremost loyalist Kipchumba Murkomen with a tinge of disrespect says, it is no secret that the President is fighting his deputy and “is vicious while at it”.
He adds, “In effect, President Kenyatta has now made himself both the President and the Deputy President. The President has gone on a firing spree of all those seen to be friends with the Deputy. Everybody knows it. Even a small child.”
During the Tuesday meeting, President Kenyatta decreed that no new projects should be initiated without his express authority. Ruto has been perambulating around the country purporting to launch projects most of which have never been implemented. They include roads, stadia and other social amenities.
Deputy President has also become a rare face in several meetings of the National Security Council (NSC), which supervises the national security organs. Chaired by the President, it comprises the DP, the CSs for Defence, Foreign Affairs and Interior, the Attorney-General, Chief of Kenya Defence Forces, head of the National Intelligence Service and the Inspector-General of Police. The DP has made himself a national security risk suspect.
Ms Dena however would not be dragged to discuss whether or not the Deputy President has been left out of the NSC meetings, saying, “Those who are meant to be there will be there. It is a constitutional body whose membership is set out in law.”
Extending his anger towards the President, Murkomen last Wednesday said while he could not tell what triggered the issues aggravating the relations between the President and his deputy, “it was an open secret that all was not well in the ruling party, where the DP was President Kenyatta’s heir apparent, until a handshake between the Head of State and ODM chief Raila Odinga in 2018 changed things”.
The Elgeyo-Marakwet senator, who lives in 2022 utopia, added a dose of vitriol, “It is unfortunate that the President has chosen fighting his DP to be his legacy. There is no justification for the disrespect shown to the DP, considering his consistent support for the President and how he fought to have this government.” Knowledgeable sources say Ruto has himself to blame but Murkomen is blinded by Ruto’s financial benefits.
“It is baffling because the deal to support the DP was the President’s. He was not coerced. It is up to him, therefore, to decide if he wants to renege on his own promise. But in the meantime, he should respect the choice of the people and let the DP perform his duties and then he can later decide what he wants to do about the 2022 presidential elections,” said Murkomen without indicating where the deal was brokered.
Joining in the fray fellow Kalenjin and Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany, the Ruto camp’s de facto spokesman, said the DP will continue performing the duties in line with the Constitution. To Ruto loyalists the Cold War between Ruto and his boss is fanned by dynasties against the so-called hustlers. At least that is how Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa reasons.
“Theirs was a joint ticket, voted for by millions of Kenyans, so they just have to live with him. Ruto is going nowhere,”Kositany said. However, the DP has no duties assigned by the Constitution, and can do only what the President assigns him.
According to the Constitution Section 147. Functions of the Deputy President The Deputy President shall perform the functions conferred by this Constitution and any other functions of the President as the President may assign.
During a press briefing in April after Kenyans asked where he had been as the government fought the Covid-19 pandemic, Ruto told journalists that his absence was by design, based on the “designated survivor” principle of keeping aside a key member of an administration who can step in, in case a serious calamity befalls the sitting ruler.
Designated survivor principle?
Deputy President allies say he will neither resign nor quit Jubilee despite his relationship with President Uhuru Kenyatta deteriorating. Instead, Ruto plans to host delegations in his upmarket Karen and rural Sugoi homes until next year then bolt.
“We are going nowhere and the DP will not resign despite the frustration. What we have done for Jubilee and this government must count and it will count,” Soi MP Caleb Kositany said.
However, Ruto’s path to the top job in 2022 has become rockier, with Uhuru consolidating control over the ruling Jubilee party and embracing other potential successors. He previously enjoyed significant influence in government and Parliament because he rigged the nomination of several MPs who he also financed to winseats in 2017.
Ruto’s nightmare has escalated with Kenyatta’s alliance with Raila Odinga and other opposition chiefs tippingthe balance of power in the President’s favour. The DP is however, adamant he will not leave despite the hurdles on his path and his isolation from government. He says his ambition would be extinguished only if the system kills him.
Kikuyu loyalists to Ruto led by Kikuyu MP Kimani Inchung’wa maintain that the Deputy President is a victim of dynasties versus hustlers – the campaign slogan to lure jobless youths to his presidential campaign. They ignore the fact that Ruto is himself a product of the so-called dynasties having been enriched by Daniel Moi, mentored by Raila Odinga and picked by Kenyatta family as a running mate. There has been talk that he was paid Ksh 3 billion – claims he has never denied.
But Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu asked Ruto to quit, saying his position had become untenable. “He is earning public money without work. He should do the honourable thing and quit,” Wambugu said.
Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany) and Mercy Gakuya (Kasarani) also insisted that the DP had no place in the Jubilee government. He has abandoned his boss and is no longer pushing forward the government’s agenda, they said advocating the political distancing Ruto is being accorded.
“Let him and his people respect the President and support him. If you do not want, then please leave so that those who want to ensure the President’s legacy is realised can do so,” Gakuya said.
A defiant Ruto is holding a series of political meetings and engaged in pre-election corruption dishing out goodies to various groups in spite of Covid-19 restrictions. Over the weekend, the DP appealed to some Rift Valley church leaders at his Sugoi home, Uasin Gishu county, to pray for his lieutenants who have been removed from various jobs, saying the suffering will only be short-lived. He did not expound what “short-lived” meant.
Ruto is sleeping on a bed he has been making for years while Gideon Moi is going places to represent President Uhuru. Gideon is seen here with the new Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera.