Uhuru tears into Ruto’s loyalty at Moi anniversary
Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah
Deputy President William Ruto’s loyalty came under severe scrutiny yesterday as President Uhuru Kenyatta, led scores of political leaders and family friends, in marking the first anniversary of former President Daniel arap Moi’s death.
In what appeared like a well-choreographed message directed at Ruto, speaker after speaker espoused the virtues the late President upheld throughout his political life, key among them loyalty to Kenya’s founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, whom he served as vice president for 11 years. Patience was the second virtue.
Instructively, Ruto was not in attendance, having made it clear through his spokesman Emmanuel Talam that he had not been invited to the ceremony.
Instead, he was in Kwale county where he launched projects funded by the Lunga Lunga Constituency Development Fund before addressing several rallies.
Speaking during the public meetings, a defiant Ruto maintained that “whether they like it or not, the conversation of hustlers and wheelbarrows will have to take place.”
He said he will not abandon his “wheelbarrow” crusade, comparing it with the government-driven Kazi Mtaani project which offers thousands of youths a livelihood by undertaking informal jobs.
President Uhuru set the tone for the occasion, that of loyalty and respect, lauding Mzee Moi for faithfully serving his late father, Mzee Kenyatta, for more than a decade.
“Moi served my old man with great respect until his time came. He led Kenyans with respect for 24 years and left with respect,” Uhuru said.
He went on: “He respected President Kibaki even though he was not his choice…God gives leadership through the people.”
Uhuru expressed concerns that politics was taking a dangerous trajectory and urged leaders to emulate the late President Moi’s philosophy of Peace, Love and Unity.
“Moi was a man who had great strength of character that came with patience and humility,” he said.
Recalling the great role that President Moi played in shaping him into the leader he is today, President Kenyatta cited respect and integrity as Moi’s biggest attributes, saying this enabled him to keep friends across all levels of society.
“Moi was a father to many of us and a father of this nation. I am where I am today because of him and I want to remind many of us today that heshima sio utumwa (respect is not slavery),” President Kenyatta said.
He recalled his close interaction with Mzee Moi when he (Moi) visited after he was elected President in 2013.
“He showed me a lot of respect and when I told him “No, No” he said, it is okay, you are now the President and you deserve utmost respect,” he recalled.
“The arrogance that we see in today’s politics raises a lot of questions as to the future of this country. Power is God given but we must exercise it with a lot of respect, love and humility,” he stated.
In his parting shot, Uhuru cautioned Kenyans to vote wisely next year, saying the country should not be left in the hands of people with questionable character.
“Be careful so that you don’t bring in a demolition squad, instead of builders,” he said.
Ruto also came under criticism from Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, who accused him of breeding a class war through his “hustler movement”, adding that the country’s Number Two was also radicalising the youth.
Noting that Ruto was a beneficiary of Moi’s tutelage, Musyoka warned him against creating divisions between the rich and the poor for short term political gain and reminded him of the roles he (Ruto) played in Moi’s inner circle.
“It is my brother Ruto who (sanctioned) the merger between NDP and Kanu and I dare say he is more of a Moi son than Gideon,” the former vice-president said.
“You cannot afford to antagonise your people by creating class wars,” he said.
“Ningekuwa Ruto ningemuheshimu Rais Moi sana. Sasa unashambulia familia yake unasema ni dynasty na wewe ulikuwa huko ndani (If I were Ruto I would respect him (Moi), but now you are calling his family a dynasty yet you were in there)?” he said.
Other prominent leaders who spoke at the ceremony included Amani National Congress (ANC) party leader Musalia Mudavadi and his Ford Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula, who traced his friendship with Mzee Moi to his days as a young lawyer.
“I am also here today to pay homage to a great man. He plucked me from legal practice to politics after he nominated me to Parliament,” said Wetang’ula. “He is a man who built bridges everywhere.”
Conspicuously missing was ODM leader Raila Odinga, who had attended a live radio and television show in the morning before meeting a delegation from Kajiado county in the afternoon to discuss the BBI campaigns.
Ruto has publicly disagreed with Uhuru over his 2018 “Handshake” with Raila, which paved the way for a political truce through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment Bill.
The DP has also had a frosty relationship with Senator Gideon Moi with their rivalry being fuelled by a clash of interests with each one of them eyeing the 2022 presidential race.
Although Ruto is currently seen as the de-facto Kalenjin leader, having muscled his way after the senior Moi retired in 2002, Senator Moi has been trying to eat into his support base using the expansive networks that his father built over the years.
Currently, Senator Moi is seen as one of the biggest beneficiaries of Ruto’s fallout with President Uhuru and the fact that he has been one of the most vocal proponents of the Handshake and BBI lays credence to this argument.
Ruto has on several occasions dismissed claims that he had been shoved aside after he failed the loyalty test.
“There is no single assignment that was given and I didn’t deliver. The President has never told anybody that I have absconded duty nor have I complained that I have a problem with him.
The relationship between the President and I is not a subject of any discussion. He is my boss and you never discuss your boss,” he said in a recent interview with a local TV station.
Speaking at the Kabarak event, Baringo Woman Rep Gladys Tungo Cheruiyot urged President Kenyatta to include Senator Moi in his succession plans. “Please put him somewhere in your plans,” she said.
She also urged President Kenyatta to open a university in Baringo in honour of the former President since that is where he came from.
“This will also help honour him because he really loved education and established many schools across the country,” she said.
The ceremony was punctuated by friendly exchanges between Raymond Moi, who is also the MP for Rongai constituency, and Gideon, with the former warming the hearts of congregants with his banters.
“This is Mzee’s home, not Gideon’s,” Raymond said cheekily.
To which Gideon hit back; “You know our father loved his culture and though I am the youngest, I dominate this home because of mila yetu (our culture) as a Kalenjin,” he said to roars of laughter.
According to the Kalenjin culture, the youngest son inherits his parents’ home and he is the one charged by tradition to care for them in their old age and that was what Senator Moi was alluding to in his humorous reply.
In what signifies family unity and solidarity, the family named each of the eight pillars holding together a beautiful roof built on top of Mzee Moi’s and his wife Lena’s resting place after their eight children.
Moi died on February 4, 2020, and was buried next to his wife Lena at his Kabarak home.