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In conspiracy theories, there are no outright truths, only suppositions. If there once existed lines that separated truth, falsehoods and propaganda in the political realm, they have since been obliterated. Truth, and particularly in the Kenyan context, is subjective.

With time, most Kenyans have become inured to the daily doses of half-truths and blatant lies in the ever-present posturing captured in endless acrimonious proclamations. There are times that one wonders whether the long hours spent in queues on voting days are worth the bother.

Deputy President William Ruto’s claim that there is a clandestine plan to eliminate him evokes mixed feelings. Kenya has many unresolved extra-judicial killings; Tom Mboya, J M Kariuki, Ronald Ngala, Chris Msando and Jacob Juma among others, to lend credence to Ruto’s fears. And in the midst of the intense political heat generated by the 2022 succession politics, anything can happen.

Conversely, it is possible that a politically besieged Ruto is simply crying wolf. Given the post handshake political shifts, Ruto and his allies appear to have given up the refrain on a co-presidency. This was after coming to terms with the possibility that Ruto’s cherished dream of becoming Kenya’s president in 2022 could just be that; a dream.

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Given his non-compromising, often combative deportment, Ruto has boxed himself into a political corner from which he must extract himself graciously. It is becoming apparent– a fact Ruto’s utterances corroborate – that he has been alienated from the centre of power, his only lifeline being a constitutional provision binding him to the presidency.  

The Directorate of Criminal Investigation’s interrogation of sensitive matters like the Sh39 billion illegal arms deal in the public court, even if done in good faith, plays into Ruto’s claim of a choreographed plan to discredit him.

That is not how the police should operate in the pursuit of justice; it is prejudicial to the accused or suspects when such action takes on the dimensions of negative propaganda and is deemed to attempt to influence public perception of certain issues. Those who also see this as an attempt to influence what direction the court takes on the case cannot be faulted. If the law on sub judice is up and kicking, then it should be applied uniformly across the board.

Only a few weeks ago, notwithstanding that President Uhuru Kenyatta is co-sponsor of the Reggae Orchestra under the BBI banner, Ruto swore; ‘We’ shall stop reggae. When a few days later he alleged a plot in which ‘they’ wanted to exterminate him, he should explain the ‘we’ versus ‘they’ if only to give befuddled Kenyans a clearer perspective. ‘They’ must surely have faces and names and should not be allowed to carry out their intended heinous crime.

Being a seasoned politician – I hesitate to call him consummate –I acknowledge that Ruto was tutored in politics by some of the best in the field: President Daniel Moi and Raila Odinga, so he must be good at what he does.

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In as much as it would be injudicious to discount Ruto’s claim, let us also consider that he could be a secret admirer and student of Joseph Goebbels; forget that he, Ruto, doesn’t think much of history. Goebbels was Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda in Nazi-controlled Germany and the best propagandist that history has catalogued.

According to Goebbels, propaganda need not be rich in intellectual content, because the essence of it is winning people over to an idea sincerely, vitally that ultimately, they succumb to it completely and can never escape from it. That Ruto has lost political ground is not in doubt, yet in his never-say-die attitude, he must soldier on as if nothing is bogging him down.

Honourable exit

Because propaganda is merely a means to an end as Goebbels observed, Ruto could have resorted to it as a face-saving plan ‘B’ should exiting the stage become inevitable. Warriors don’t die in bed. His loyal supporters must be made to see and feel the warrior in him even if it is a lost battle.

Goebbels opined that if you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it, and that even the person telling it begins to believe it.

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“The bigger the lie the more it will be believed”, Goebbels opined. So, while Ruto’s life could indeed be in danger, he could as well be playing safe, looking for a honourable exit. Who would blame him for being smart?

Nonetheless, Goebbels warned; “Good propaganda does not need to lie, indeed it may not lie. It has no reason to fear the truth. It is a mistake to believe that people cannot take the truth. They can. It is only a matter of presenting the truth to people in a way that they will be able to understand. A propaganda that lies proves that it has a bad cause. It cannot be successful in the long run.”

Mr Chagema is a copy editor at The [email protected]

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