Why it’s difficult to be Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto

Kenya's deputy president William Ruto. PHOTO| FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Ruto said that there’s an orchestrated, deliberate attempt to set him against Uhuru, and to create the impression that he’s a lone man.

If you thought Kenya’s deputy president William Ruto’s life is enviable, well, he doesn’t think so.
Mr Ruto admitted last night that his life is ‘‘difficult’’. He was responding to a question from NTV Kenya’s Ken Mijungu during an exclusive interview at his home in Karen.
The deputy president is currently entangled in the confusion of the aftermath of a handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his former rival Raila Odinga, as well as Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) political conundrums, a litany of corruption cases against his allies, and now himself.

The tense relationship with Mr Kenyatta has seemingly taken an irreversible turn, and now, some of Mr Ruto’s political friends have abandoned him and are leading the charge against him.
Noting that the re-opened case against him on the loss of billions of shillings at Kenya Pipeline Company 15 years ago didn’t take him by surprise, Mr Ruto termed the move a political witch-hunt.
‘‘Every time there are succession politics, there are games and cabals and people in boardrooms who do all manner of things in the hope that they can install people who will serve their interests and not the people’s interests,’’ Ruto said.

There have even been calls for the deputy president to resign, and to be investigated for his involvement in corruption, all which he has dismissed.
Referring to the International Criminal Court (ICC) cases against himself and President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2012, Dr Ruto claimed that similar manoeuvres were witnessed during the succession battles of presidents Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki.
He went on to hint that there’s a plot to resuscitate his case at the ICC, where he had been accused of crimes against humanity in the aftermath of the 2007 presidential elections. Dr Ruto’s case at the Hague-based court was closed in 2016 for lack of evidence.

But it’s the recent restructuring of government, including changes in Cabinet that seem to have caught the DP unawares.
In 2019, Uhuru installed Interior cabinet secretary (CS) Dr Fred Matiang’i as the 'super' CS, anchoring him at the nerve centre of government operations, a decision that analysts claimed was meant to cut the DP down to size.
When the president recently made changes in Cabinet from State House in Mombasa this month, firing Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuru, an ally of DP Ruto, his deputy was in Sudan visiting a poultry farm.
These realignments in government seem to have further isolated the DP, a claim that he denies, while insisting that he hasn’t lost his controlling stake in the government.

‘‘Uhuru Kenyatta is the President of Kenya. We don’t have a coalition government. We have a one party government. The president runs government, appoints and changes ministers the way he wants,’’ said a collected Ruto, adding that the president isn’t required by the constitution to consult his deputy.
He added: ‘‘I made a conscious decision and chose to defer to Uhuru Kenyatta on the leadership of both the (Jubilee) party and government.’’
On the thorny issue of the BBI, DP Ruto played down claims that the initiative has further soured his relationship with the president and the rest of leaders who want to chart a different course for the country.

‘‘How does the BBI, which is about inclusivity and unity isolate William Ruto?’’ he posed, adding, ‘‘I won’t allow anyone to create a wedge between the president and myself because that plays against the inclusivity that we’re seeking.’’
Ruto said that there’s an orchestrated, deliberate attempt to set him against Uhuru, and to create the impression that he’s a lone man.
‘‘When someone gives a different opinion, it doesn’t necessarily mean they oppose. It means that have a different perspective,’’ he added, terming it a ‘‘pedestrian mode of thinking’’.
In the succession politics, some leaders from Mount Kenya, led by former Jubilee Party Secretary General David Murathe and nominated MP Maina Kamanda, have vowed to use all means to block the DP’s ascension to the high office.
His associates have also blamed government officers, specifically Interior PS Dr Karanja Kibicho, for using state machinery to frustrate him.

Earlier this week, the gun licence of Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, a close Ruto ally, was cancelled and his gun repossessed by the police in Nakuru after his remarks that some people in government were out to scuttle the DP’s plan to succeed Uhuru.
Meanwhile, leaders in his Rift Valley backyard have started to warm up to the BBI report, and to mobilise residents to support it.
Rift Valley BBI Steering Committee Chairperson and Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said this week that despite being a ‘‘principal participant’’ in the current government, the region had little to show for it, noting that BBI might offer solutions to the challenges of ethnic and election-related violence and a poor agriculture sector.

He vowed that he and other leaders in the region wouldn’t watch as ‘‘our people are exposed to the torments of electoral and ethnic violence, and endemic runaway corruption’’ because of ‘‘an individual’s insatiable greed for imperial powers’’, alluding to Dr Ruto’s quest for the presidency.
So, how does he deal with the pressure that comes with his position? By taking everything in his stride, DP Ruto said.
‘‘I never take anything to heart. I’d be dead if did. I do what I can and leave the rest to God. It’s difficult to be William Ruto.’’