What you need to know:
William Samoei Ruto is driving on a highway. His energy and focus have earned him a new name, “Kingmaker” despite his calling himself a ‘Hustler”. Having helped Uhuru Kenyatta clinch the fourth Presidency of Kenya, Ruto, now the country’s Number Two, is the man to watch.
When Kenya’s president-elect, Uhuru Kenyatta shook firmly and raised William Ruto’s hand in the air at the Catholic University in Nairobi, it sent echoes of a firm support and unmatched value the politician attached to his running mate.
William Samoei Ruto, who cuts a trademark wide smile, is a great self-made politician. His success with Mr Kenyatta, is just such a manifestation of a man on the high rise.
Born on December 21, 1966, in Sambu village, Kamagut in Uasin Gishu District to Daniel and Sarah Cheruiyot, Ruto first saw the chalk board at Sambut Primary school before joining Eldoret’s Wareng Secondary School, Kapabet Boys High School and later University of Nairobi.
The kingmaker, as some analysts have labelled the charismatic politician, is where his political journey started when he was just in his 20s.
As fate would have it, it is a Nairobi University, an ambitious Ruto, despite his humble background, was elected to lead the University Christian Union Choir. A sworn member of the African Inland Church, Ruto has remained a teetotaler to date, something that many critics attribute his undistracted energies.
Ushered into State House to perform
The choir that the deputy president-elect led could have been his magic ward as the then president, Daniel arap Moi occasionally invited them to perform at State House functions.
Ruto’s political doors had been opened on a spiritual key. He would get a ‘feel’ of State House environments that would inspire him to one day be a resident there and also most importantly, he met Mr Moi, his political mentor, in the subsequent years.
Luck descended on the young choir leader, still at university in the late 1980s, that the head of state started travelling with him overseas, the first trip being to Indonesia, which he says he will never forget.
The humble Sambu boy, who attributes his success to sacrifice and prayer, knew anything was possible. The boy who used to walk to school barefoot was now rubbing shoulders with the country’s most powerful man and was a dream come true for someone like him who was literally to thirsty for success.
It is not clear where and when he left the singing group because soon after university, he began to teach in schools in the North Rift, but so ambitious was he that he ditched his part-time job to start African Venture Tours and Hotels in Nairobi in the early 1990s.
But his spiritual values made him a mainstay at most church functions. One of such was when the Kalenjin and the Sabaot launched a vernacular bible in Mt. Elgon region.
Although he had ventured into business, it was not his dream; all he needed, perhaps, was to get as much legal tender as possible in his pockets that could catapult him to big political races. However, the business gave him what he needed – more connections – including Moi’s sons. His first pay slip was yet to come.
Moi’s blue-eyed boy
The 1992 presidential election came at the right time and Ruto was among the team that founded the Youth for Kanu ’92 group. This group mobilised for the election of Moi back to power – and with success. However, the ‘Young Turks’ did not ‘eat big’ and began nursing their own political ambitions.
Five years later, Ruto had developed his own wings, but only enough to fly him to the Eldoret North seat when he, with other vibrant youths, became Kanu ‘rebels’, ran against President Moi’s preferred candidate and won the seat to stage a debut show in Parliament.
Time flew by and 2002 was already knocking doors for another election. This time, Ruto still had interest in his Eldoret North seat, however, he was deployed by the political maestro, Moi, to execute “Project Uhuru” who was then a political baby being helped to capture the presidency. Their endeavours, however, fell flat when Mwai Kibaki won the election.
Ambitious, the one word to describe Ruto
Ruto was not satisfied with the MP seat and declared in 2006 that he would run for presidency, a thing that did not auger well with the Kanu camp, including Moi, who condemned the move. Incensed, Ruto crossed to the Orange for Democratic Movement party where he would give an attempt to get the party ticket for the presidency.
He stood against Raila Odinga and Musalia Mudavadi but came third as Odinga took the day.
Moi had seen his own man turn against him; his protégée would haunt him in the days to come as he developed his own political clout.
Ruto, now a Raila Odinga ally in the 2007 election, showed his political muscle when he led the ODM wave that swept the Rift Valley and all seats, including those contested by the Mois. He was them.
He had delivered a vote for Mr Odinga, only for his new fame to be marred by the post-election chaos. He got the Agriculture and later Higher Education ministry dockets, but in 2010, he was stripped of the title when he was accused of corruption. Mr Ruto remained with the Eldoret North seat which however gave him ample time to harness his ambitions because he could not let him settle for less. He broke away from Raila’s group in 2011 and formed the United Republican Party, indicating he would run for presidency on the ticket. Odinga, like Moi, had lost an important man and would also haunt him in the days to come – he just did.
Just before the political parties made coalitions late last year, analysts viewed the former Eldoret North MP as the man who would cause a difference in either Raila Odinga or Kenyatta’s camp.
“Is Ruto-Uhuru alliance more viable than Ruto-Raila?” Pundits would query, but the former Agriculture minister would opt for the former.
The National Alliance and URP, thus became the first parties to notch an alliance on December 2, 2012. Uhuru and Ruto while unveiling the pact at Afraha Stadium in Nakuru exchanged caps in symbolic show of the union.
However, his alliance with The National Alliance founder attracted lots of criticism. Others saw it as a strange one, owing to the egos of both men and their icy relationship in the 2007 election.
Makau Mutua in his article on Sunday Nation of February 3, hit hard at Ruto. He said his decision to play second fiddle to Uhuru had not gone down well with ‘his’ Kalenjin people because they thought their own was taking an underling position.
Mutua claimed that Daniel arap Moi, the ‘professor of politics’, whom he credited for bringing Ruto from political obscurity before he turned into a prodigal son, still had a heartbeat of the Kanu legacy beating in the Rift Valley.
“Mr Ruto can’t be a credible ethnic baron by bowing to another ethnic baron. It is not something tough-talking ethnic barons do. It’s costly,” he wrote, adding that Mr Ruto had turned against his mentor and the Mois would fight him to the end.
However, Mr Ruto’s political mettle might be getting stronger than critics can see. He has demonstrated that he has a huge influence over Rift Valley.
In last week’s election, the Jubilee coalition garnered more than 90 per cent in most constituencies from this area alone, which is widely believed to have given Uhuru an upper hand against Mr Raila.
Now with his own party, the man who through the elections, despite his wealth, branded himself a hustler, has helped Uhuru clinch the presidency and his wide smile last Saturday showed it all as the son of the founding president thanked him for the zeal and energy he has when on the work front.
It is reported that Uhuru and Ruto late last year showed up at Mudavadi’s doors with already written documents to get the latter into their camp. They ditched him when they could not agree on certain clauses. But Ruto, ambitious as ever, he was always on the road to clinch more deals. At one time, just moments after issuing a joint statement in Nairobi with Uhuru on their race, he flew to Mombasa unannounced in an attempt to woo the Alliance Party of Kenya leader and also outgoing Energy Minister, Kiraitu Murungi to their camp.
While giving his acceptance speech, Mr Ruto said he met Uhuru 12 years ago and his inner man told him that was a future president.
The ‘hustler’ in Ruto is the man to watch closely, now that Raila could be gone into political oblivion. Will he survive under Uhuru in the coming years or he would lose the now ‘kingmaker’ element?
Only the ambitious, energetic, and brilliant politician in William Samoei Ruto can tell.