Third Eye

Ruto’s path to State House turns hilly, rough as he fights multiple battles 

Friday, September 13th, 2019 00:33 |
Deputy President William Ruto. Photo/File

  By Mukalo Kwayera

Torn between a hostile Opposition and frowning faction within his ruling Jubilee Party, Deputy President William Ruto has found himself fighting endless political battles ahead of the 2022 presidential race.

How he handles the situation will likely have ramifications in the contest in which, as things stand today, he is the front-runner.

His recent invitation to Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi to join him in an alliance for the 2022 presidential quest and the ballistic response it elicited, points to a rough road ahead for the self-proclaimed ‘hustler’.

And so are the troubles facing his party’s aspirant in the Kibra by-election, footballer McDonald Mariga, and his close ally, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro. 

To Ruto’s overture, Mudavadi responded that he could not contemplate entering into a political partnership with the DP, who he accused of being part of the genesis of the country’s economic crisis. 

Mariga, whose bid for the Kibra seat is associated with tRuto, saw his wishes crumble on Tuesday when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declined to clear his candidacy, saying his name did not appear on the voters’ roll. Mariga has since appealed the electoral body’s verdict.

Nyoro, who is one of Ruto’s point men in Central Kenya, was arrested on Monday and later released the same night, following an altercation with Nominated MP Maina Kamanda at a church function on Sunday. 

Kamanda is the figurehead of a rival Central Kenya group that is opposed to the DP. 

Echesa shift

While observers concur that Ruto has in the past two years opened a significant gap between him and his would-be rivals in the 2022 elections, some of his allies have started to either fall by the wayside or toned down their rhetoric.

The rising stars of Cabinet secretaries Fred Matiang’i (Interior) and Peter Munya (Trade) in State affairs and prominence in their native regions has somewhat watered down Ruto’s political muscle in the ministers’ home turfs.

In Western Kenya, where the DP has been making remarkable inroads, the defection of former Sports CS Rashid Echesa from Jubilee to ANC of Mudavadi, may be a pointer to a change of fortunes for Ruto in the vote-rich region.

But political analyst Joseph Kimau says whatever 2022 formations that emerge now will have to contend with Ruto’s deeply entrenched political roots.

“As matters stand now, Ruto is far ahead of his would-be challengers. As the heir apparent, he is a visible and a smart campaigner, which gives him the edge,” observes Kimau, who, however, expresses doubts about President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Mt Kenya region sticking with Ruto for the long haul.

Malava MP Moses Injendi, who is an ally of Ruto, is confident the DP will outwit his rivals to win the next election.  He argues that the scattered Opposition does not stand a chance against the DP who, he says, is meticulously and steadily plotting his victory.

“He has done his groundwork well and if elections were to be held today, he would win with a landslide. The Opposition does not have anyone who can pose a threat to Ruto at the moment,” Malulu told People Daily.

Despite the confidence exuded by his allies, there is growing feeling the atmosphere is shifting in a manner that may not augur well for the DP.

Before last year’s Handshake between the President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga,  Ruto was the presumed automatic successor for Uhuru when his second term ends in 2022. Not any more. 

Widening gap

Since the March 9, 2018 Uhuru-Raila deal, the goalposts have noticeably changed. Not only have the two become closer, the gap between the President and his Deputy appears to be widening.

The unprecedented camaraderie between President and his deputy that was on open display in their first term has since fizzled out, with joint appearances at public functions becoming rare. 

While Ruto continues to make whistle-stop tours of the country “to open or inspect development projects” or preside over fundraisers, the President has largely confined his diary to official functions.

Ruto’s frequent visits to Uhuru’s Central Kenya backyard, often accompanied by legislators from the region, who back his presidential bid, have not gone down well with some of the President’s allies.

Uhuru himself has no kind words for Ruto’s point men in  his home turf who he has accused of engaging in early 2022 campaigns instead of delivering on Jubilee’s development promises.

In a particularly blistering criticism of the legislators in June during the Annual Conference of the Akorino at the Kasarani Stadium, Uhuru, in the presence of Ruto, warned the politicians that he would deal with them ruthlessly.

The angry diatribe, delivered in his native Kikuyu language, was no doubt aimed at the pro-Ruto’s Central Kenya caucus, popularly known as Tanga Tanga.

While Raila may be Ruto’s main headache, the other main Opposition leaders Mudavadi and Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka still present him with a challenge, especially in their backyards.

There is also Baringo Senator Gideon Moi who is determined to challenge Ruto’s stranglehold of the Kalenjin community. Gideon, who is the Kanu chairman,  could also upset Ruto’s well-laid plans by teaming up with other opposition leaders to form a formidable alliance against him in the next election. 

Kimau agrees that an alliance between the three could complicate matters for Ruto.

“The space that Mudavadi, Kalonzo, Gideon and Joho (Mombasa governor Hassan) occupy at the moment has to be closely watched. That is the line-up that would certainly give Ruto a run for his money and possibly deny him the much-fought-for seat at State House,” says Kimau.

Far ahead

But Injendi brushes aside possibility of a strong challenge from the Opposition. He argues that while the Opposition is still struggling to come to terms with the Handshake, Ruto is widening his lead.

“Ruto has a solid ground to operate from and he has a wide lead. His opponents, whoever they will be, have no capacity to catch up with him. He is too far away in front of them,” he told People Daily.

Economist Emmanuel Manyasa argues that whereas at the moment the Deputy President occupies what should be a pole position, indications are that he should be prepared for a murkier and rougher road ahead.

“With his name and associates being repeatedly linked to corruption and the perception that he is undermining his boss, Ruto should have a reason to worry,” said the former Kenyatta University lecturer.

Whether Ruto remains the presidential race front-runner till 2022 remains to be seen.  What is clear at the moment is that the Deputy President is walking a tightrope with the political environment around him littered with spikes, bumps and labyrinths of all types and sizes.

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