Uhuru’s tough options in dealing with defiant Ruto

Friday, October 9th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta with his deputy William Ruto at a past event. Photo/PD/File

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto yesterday met at the Cabinet meeting to chart the country’s course. 

This is the first interaction since Ruto snubbed an invite to the National Covid-19 Response Conference a fortnight ago,  an act many perceived as  rebellion.

As the Cabinet meeting was going on, a rally organised by Ruto was being dispersed in Nyamira  by police because it did not meet the latest requirements by the National Security Advisory Council. 

An adamant Ruto was, according to his handlers, going to attend in spite of the cancellation.

After consultations, he postponed the visit to Nyamira County. That Ruto has defied his boss is not in doubt, however, what options does the President have in dealing with a deputy whom they are joined at the hip through the Constitution? 

As Head of State, Uhuru faces tough options as he seeks to tame his increasingly defiant deputy, who has indicated determination to continue his 2022 campaign against his boss’s counsel.

Politicians and analysts who spoke to People Daily indicated that the President can use both the State and party machinery to tame Ruto and cut his influence, ignore him or mobilise his forces to push the deputy to walk away.  

 The President could also opt to summon his deputy and strike a “gentleman’s agreement” for him to leave the position, citing “irreconcilable differences”. 

However, Jubilee insiders revealed that Ruto’s increasing defiance would be dealt with through party structures.

“We are waiting for the party leader, the President, to convene a National Executive Council (NEC) to discuss issues around the Deputy President,” combative Jubilee Vice-Chair David Murathe told People Daily

According to Murathe, a decision by the NEC was sufficient to discipline Ruto, a position disputed by the DP’s close allies.

Already, Jubilee Secretary-General Raphael Tuju has declared that Ruto ceased to be the deputy party leader after he sanctioned the opening of Jubilee Asili Centre in Nairobi.

Dispute resolution

According to Tuju, the decision was reached after a National Management Committee meeting and will be tabled before the party’s NEC for ratification.

“We would like to be absolutely clear, that we serve one President at a time.

The DP, a self-declared 2022 presidential candidate, will not be allowed to use the party headquarters as a centre of operationalisation of his campaigns and for intimidation,” Tuju said.

Lawyer Bob Mkangi, one of the experts who drafted the 2010 Constitution, argues that resolution of differences between the two leaders cannot be derived from the Supreme law. 

“Uhuru and Ruto have to reach a political settlement the same way they did when they came together.

The two should sit down and agree to disagree and then the DP can be asked to walk away,” he told People Daily.

“The deal that brought them together in 2013 must have a dispute resolution mechanism, which the two can invoke for a divorce. Every political agreement must have a window for exit in case of disagreement,” he argued.  

But commenting on the Jubilee fallout, Soy MP Caleb Kositany, who is also the party Deputy Secretary general and his Keiyo South counterpart Henry Rono, said removing Ruto from the party would be a herculean task. 

“Ruto has strong supporters in the party’s top organs including the NDC. It is highly unlikely that an NDC can recommend his removal. Also, the Constitution protects his job as Deputy President,” said Kositany, dismissing the argument that the DP can be removed by a resolution of a delegate’s conference.

Rono, on the other hand, described any efforts to remove the DP as “hot air”.

“It will require the party to convene an NDC and that will not be possible. We have the option of making Jubilee ungovernable by defecting en masse and joining other political parties,” he argued.

“The day they will remove him (Ruto) Jubilee will be dead and buried. We will resist any efforts to remove the DP.” 

Alluding to the position of Kenya’s founding Vice-President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga in Kanu during the 1966 Limuru conference that led to his resignation, Prof Ken Onkware, Masinde Muliro University lecturer, pointed out that Uhuru could convene a Jubilee NDC and ratify changes that will waterdown Ruto’s influence as deputy party leader or even scrap the position.

Prof Onkware reckons that Uhuru can pull a “Jaramogi-like move” on Ruto. “The President is the leader of the party and he wields a lot of power and influence.

Nothing prevents him from assembling a meeting of like-minded party leaders and engineering Ruto’s removal using party structures,” said Onkware.   

Jaramogi was forced to resign from Kanu after founding President Jomo Kenyatta instigated changes that saw his position as Kanu vice-chairman weakened by creating eight similar posts.

Ruto is currently on the spot for defying the President by waging early 2022 campaigns. 

Attempted coup

And last week, he staged what appeared to be an attempted party coup when he camped at the Jubilee headquarters while the President was away in France and chaired a meeting of his allies. 

In another show of defiance, Ruto has vowed to support an Independent candidate in the upcoming Msambweni by-election, contradicting the party position that Jubilee will support the Orange Democratic Movement contender under the Handshake deal.

Last weekend, the DP was thrust in the middle of a political storm after two people were killed in Murang’a during his visit to the area.

Dr Michael Mugo, a political analyst, advised Ruto to quit Jubilee and chart his own course.

“The DP should learn from the fight in Ford Kenya between Kijana Wamalwa and Raila in 1995 for control of the party, which led to the ODM’s leader resignation from the party and Parliament,” he said.

Raila later formed the National Development Party and returned to Parliament through a by-election.

“If you start fighting from within and the leadership of the party does not want you, as it appears in the case of the Deputy President, the next option should be moving out especially in a fight where no one is answering you back.”

The President’s beef with Ruto is believed to revolve around what is seen as the DP’s early campaigns while the Head of State is focused on implementing his Big Four agenda.

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