President Kenyatta says his deputy is dishonest, unfit to rule

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

What you need to know:

  • On his ‘Handshake’ deal with Mr Odinga, President Kenyatta said he had briefed his deputy about the negotiations with the Orange democratic Movement leader following the disputed 2017 presidential election up to the day they publicly announced the truce on the steps of Harambee House in March 2018.

Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, on Wednesday launched a bare-knuckle attack on his deputy, Dr William Ruto, explaining why he had snubbed him as his preferred successor and instead endorsed Azimio la Umoja Movement leader Raila Odinga.

In Sagana, the 10-acre State Lodge built as a relaxation place for the queen of England, and which he often uses to whip his backyard to his desired political direction, President Kenyatta never took prisoners in his hard-hitting address delivered in Gikuyu.

The President portrayed his deputy as dishonest, criticised the performance of dockets under his supervision like Agriculture pursuant to a power-sharing deal during their first term in office, and censured him for premature campaigns that have unsettled his administration in the second term.

On his ‘Handshake’ deal with Mr Odinga, President Kenyatta said he had briefed his deputy about the negotiations with the Orange democratic Movement leader following the disputed 2017 presidential election up to the day they publicly announced the truce on the steps of Harambee House in March 2018.

“Even before I went to Harambee House for the Handshake, Ruto was the last person I spoke to,” Uhuru said as he sought to discredit suggestions by his deputy that he was in the dark about the deal that the second-in-command has blamed for wrecking Jubilee.

“I was seeking peace through the Handshake. I did not decide to work with Raila so that he would become President,” he said, claiming Dr Ruto, though privy to the talks, was too stubborn to give dialogue a chance. He explained that his rift with Dr Ruto came as a result of dishonesty over the deal.

“In 2017, I too was rude and insulted Raila. I had nothing to lose and I was protected but I made a choice to reach out to Raila,” he said.

The President accused his deputy of hoodwinking farmers with his “hustler” campaign promises, yet it was during the period that the Agriculture ministry was under his watch that farmers’ lives were ruined, adding that Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya was now fixing the mess. 

Mr Kenyatta touted the achievements of his government to debunk what he termed as lies peddled by the DP’s camp to incite Mt Kenya against his presidency. He was shooting from the hip, and in the meeting where he spoke in Gikuyu almost the entire time, promised not to hurl insults at anyone, but left little to the imagination over what he meant and who his hard-hitting jabs were directed at.

In an unprecedented move, the Head of State directed Mr Andrew Wakahiu, Secretary for Delivery and Head of Presidential Delivery Unit, Executive Office of the President, to do a Powerpoint presentation where he detailed the Kenyatta administration’s achievements in the past nine years for the people of Nyeri, Kiambu, Kirinyaga, Murang’ a, Embu, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Nyandarua, Laikipia, and Nakuru.

He pushed back — rather forcefully and almost angrily — at the narrative that he had neglected the region, declaring triumphantly: “No President, since Kenya’s independence, has achieved more than I have, and that is a fact,” he said, stressing the presentation that indicated that the combined economies of the 10 Mt Kenya counties was now estimated at Sh3 trillion, equivalent to 30 per cent of the country’s GDP.

The construction of the 582 kilometre Mau Mau road that traverses Kiambu, Murang’a, Nyandarua and Nyeri counties and transforming the 87km Sagana-Marua into a dual carriageway were among the highlighted projects. Issuance of 5.4 million title deeds since 2013 — 1.64 million benefiting Mt Kenya counties — was another fête he cited,saying, this would secure their property to guard against their displacement.

Improved prices of coffee from Sh20 per kilo during the previous administration to Sh110 currently and increment of the minimum auction price for tea from Sh181 to Sh311 was another development highlighted to demonstrate his administration had improved farmers’ earnings.

The audience was told that the construction of Thiba Dam will increase the value of rice and other horticultural crops in the area from Sh10 billion to Sh21 billion.

But it is for his not-so-subtle attacks on his deputy that the President received several standing ovations from the crowd that had to walk up to five kilometres to access the luxurious lodge.

“Let’s support this old man (Mr Odinga) and help him protect our interests and legacy. When this young man (Dr Ruto) toes the line in future, we... will consider him,” President Kenyatta said, in what was quickly followed by chants of “Yote yawezekana bila Ruto (All is possible without Ruto)”.

“An old man on a stool sees further than a boy on a tree. Let me stick with the old man (Mr Odinga) who I can talk with,” the President recited a famous saying among the Gikuyu.

He exhorted the community to be wary of divisions in the lead up to the August polls that would weaken its bargaining power saying: “A house divided is a house built on sand. We must remain united so that can fight another day.”

The President insisted that he had done his best to complete all projects started under the leadership of President Kibaki and that he had far exceeded the expectations, even as he admitted to “some few things we did not finish.”

“President Kibaki handed me an economy worth Sh5 trillion. When I exit, I will hand over a Sh13 trillion economy,” he said, to which the crowd shouted “Baba!”, Mr Odinga’s nickname, prompting him to respond “yes, that one.”

He said he had been swamped with corruption scandals in his government, whose proceeds he said had landed in the region, and were being used to sway them away from him.

“You come here with the money that was probably meant for Marakwet dam. A whooping Sh3 billion; yet you end up singing Hallelujah with the money in your pockets. Church leaders, take honest money not millions that have been stolen to deny people honest opportunities. It is better to take my hard-earned Sh100 than a million that is stolen,” he said.

The Head of State also lashed out at a section of local leaders and clergy over alleged corruption, saying, some leaders were hiding behind religion.

“Church leaders should stop lying to people. You can’t give us money acquired through corruption while carrying a Bible. You’ll go to hell,” he said. From the very onset, it was clear that this was not going to be a Sagana meeting like any other before it.

“Let us get this clear, this is my meeting so I do not want to hear anybody lamenting that they were denied a chance to speak,” Mr Kenyatta said. For the nth time, he criticised his deputy for taking credit for the achievements of the government, saying, the Dr Ruto had abandoned his duties to focus on politics.

“Governments are not run from car sunroofs. Let nobody lie to you that they have done anything for you because, when I asked them to join me in delivering first, they took off to engage in politics,” Mr Kenyatta said. 

He singled out Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, a key Ruto ally in whose constituency the meeting was happening, and whom he said was fond of challenging his development record.

“Even your MP cannot show up but stands in the markets I built shouting yet his own hometown did not have electricity when we came into power. You could see a light bulb at State Lodge all the way from his home but now the entire area is connected,” he said.

Still using his scorecard, President Kenyatta sought to defend his party, Jubilee, insisting that it is not dead but has been working to deliver on its promises to the people.

“Jubilee is not dead. Anyone saying that should look at our numbers and the numbers speak the truth,” he said.

The party, formed in September 2016 and which was just 62 shy of the absolute two-thirds majority in Parliament, meets tomorrow in its National Delegates Convention (NDC) a wounded outfit after DP Ruto engineered an exodus to his United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

But for President Kenyatta, the move to revive Jubilee was just getting started, even as he opened his arms to fringe parties cropping up in the region, whose rise he said could be attributed to the 2017 Jubilee nominations whose bungling the DP is often blamed for.

Before the meeting, politicians and government officials allied to the President arrived in troops and could be seen herding in groups exchanging pleasantries and discussions.

The most notable ones were hard to miss out, among them Agriculture CS Peter Munya, Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, Governors Kiraitu Murungi, Ndiritu Murithi and Anne Kananu, MPs Kanini Kega, Ngunjiri Wambugu, Anthony Kiai and Maina Kamanda.

Also present were Muranga governor Mwangi wa Iria, Kirinyaga woman rep Wangui Ngirici and President Kibaki’s son, Jimmy. At the same time, notable faces were conspicuously missing. Host governor Mutahi Kahiga and Mr Gachagua, the host MP, were among key faces missing. Politicians allied to DP’s UDA were missing in action.

Mr Wakahiu, the Presidential Delivery Unit boss, in his presentation, highlighted key projects among them roads, hospitals, agriculture, higher learning institutions electricity connectivity, markets and stadia as some of the development projects initiated in the region that backed the President in the last three elections.

President Kenyatta was on a mission to recapture his lost support and for him, his scorecard was his primary weapon.

“I took up the role of doing what can help Kenyans. Despite my tribulations, there is no President that has delivered more than me,” he said. Along the Tagwa Road snaking through Mt Kenya Forest in Sagana State Lodge, a contingent of heavily armed police officers had been deployed to not only conduct security checks but also keep out uninvited guests amid intelligence reports that hecklers had been mobilised to sabotage it.

At the luxurious Sagana Lodge, hundreds of caterers had been deployed with the mission to keep the delegates refreshed and a battery of local benga and gospel musicians kept the crowd entertained. As for the crowd, the much touted Red Army was highly visible with the mobilised delegates donning Jubilee Party colours.