Will DP Ruto beat succession jinx that has dogged former deputies?

President Uhuru Kenyatta with his Deputy William Ruto display their certificates moments after they were declared winners of the 2017 presidential election at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi. [File, Standard]
Kenya has had 10 vice presidents who served before the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution. But only former President Daniel arap Moi managed to succeed his predecessor Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.

William Ruto is the first holder of the Deputy President position created under the 2010 Constitution, and he is keen on succeeding his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, when he retires after completing his two five-year terms in 2022.

Moi drove past many roadblocks to succeeded the late Kenyatta to become the second president.

Former President Mwai Kibaki, who once served as Moi’s VP, also rose to the top seat, but his came through the long route after Moi constitutionally left office.

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Ruto’s succession plans face hurdles that analysts say may see him suffer a fate similar to that of nine previous holders of the VP’s position.

The DP has lately come under sharp criticism, mainly from some Jubilee MPs and leaders allied to Opposition leader Raila Odinga, who accuse him of launching early campaigns.

The popular March 9 handshake between President Kenyatta and Raila may have complicated matters.

Ruto has also linked a recent opinion poll conducted by Ipsos Synovate portraying him as the most corrupt, to the 2022 succession battle. He says the survey is part of a wider scheme sponsored by his political rivals interested in swaying public perceptions in the run-up to the General Election.

“The opinion poll was paid for by political detractors of the DP who think this will help their course to the presidency. The findings are part of the political scheme by the usual failures,” Ruto’s spokesman David Mugonyi charged.

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Political analyst Philip Chebunet says Ruto’s hurdles are not new in succession politics.

“It is naive for anyone to think that Ruto was going to have a smooth ride to the presidency. There is a group of power brokers who see him as an outsider and not deserving, and will therefore do anything in their powers to stop him from succeeding President Uhuru. That is expected,” says Dr Chebunet, a University of Eldoret lecturer.

Succession plans

Although the handshake was been touted as an initiative to heal the country after the divisive 2017 General Election, Ruto’s allies see it as a wider scheme to scuttle his succession plans.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen sees it as a well-calculated move to stop Ruto from succeeding Uhuru.

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“Why is it that Raila Odinga who entered into a unity pact with President Uhuru is now engaging in political activities at the expense of bringing Kenyans together for the sake of unity and development?” poses Murkomen. “We are told the handshake is for unity of this country, while quietly behind the scenes, people are scheming about 2022 politics. Someone is not sincere,” he added.

Analysts are of the opinion that depending on the prevailing situation, holders of the number two slot adopted different styles of handling humiliations from forces opposed to their ascension to power.

“Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, the first VP - and who campaigned hard for Jomo Kenyatta to be released from prison - was in 1969 consigned to political Siberia after sharp ideological differences with his boss,” recalls Koigi wa Wamwere.

Koigi recalls that Jaramogi fought hard to remain in his position and stay relevant while fighting his boss, but he eventually resigned and was replaced by Joseph Murumbi.

Though Murumbi resigned after serving for a short time, citing health reasons, Koigi says he could not stand intrigues from the so-called ‘Kiambu Mafia’ who had surrounded Kenyatta.

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“Unlike Jaramogi who was outspoken and abrasive, Murumbi handled humiliation diplomatically and when it seemed to overwhelm him, he threw in the towel,” says Koigi.

Under the old constitution, vice presidents had no security of tenure and served at the pleasure of the president.

Those who fell out with their bosses were sacked and frustrated, never to make political comebacks. But the 2010 Constitution created the Deputy President’s post. The DP is elected together with the president on one ticket and cannot be fired on a whim.

Ruto took up the job with gusto, but things seem to have changed during President Uhuru’s second term.

Accusations of graft has dogged him, but he has defended himself, fiercely confronting his critics as he prepares for the epic battle battle in 2022.

Prof Herman Manyora of the University of Nairobi says that the President has not done enough to defend his deputy the way his father defended Moi.

“He has left him to his own devices,” he says.

William Ruto2022 General ElectionSuccession politicsJubilee