There is a general perception that some powerful forces in Government have hatched a plot to derail Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential bid.
Since the surprise March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, Ruto has continued to cut an image of a man increasingly being isolated in the Government he vigorously campaigned for.
The DP has been left fighting numerous political wars, through his allies, from that against corruption, clamour for referendum and the unity deal between the erstwhile political rivals his backers feel are all designed to halt his ambition of succeeding Uhuru.
Ruto has not been able to have public display of political romance with his boss, a display of unity that was the hallmark of their first term in office, with uniform clothing to boot.
The display meant a lot. Apart from the public relation stunt that they were working together, with their shirt sleeves always rolled up, it was an assurance that Uhuru would back Ruto after his second and final term in office. An incumbent president's backing at times is what a candidate needs to win an election in Africa.
Uhuru never missed an opportunity to remind their political rivals, including Raila, that they would have to wait for 20 years – 10 for himself and another 10 for his deputy.
But the latest developments are casting doubt on these assurances. As the 2022 succession politics gain momentum, many expected Uhuru to publicly declare his support for Ruto. He did not do that. Kenyans were later shocked when he said his choice of who should succeed him would surprise many. This has left Ruto vulnerable ahead of the 2022 contest.
Uhuru’s decision to hand Interior CS Fred Matiang'i more powers by expanding his mandate has technically made the latter a super minister and is being interpreted in some quarters as an act aimed at crippling Ruto and cutting his influence in the running of the Jubilee administration.
There have been jitters in Ruto's camp after Dr Matiang’i was appointed chairman of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee. It remains to be seen whether this will slow down the projects Ruto has been launching during his rallies.
However, according to the Constitution, no role has been taken away from the DP. But politically speaking, he has lost a major clout in the Jubilee administration. Uhuru's Executive Order shows the CS will report directly to the President.
The law states that the DP shall perform functions conferred by the Constitution and any other as may be assigned by the President.
The order could just confirm fears that all is not that well in Jubilee. While it is normal for the President to have a CS deliver his messages at a function, queries were raised when Uhuru recently bypassed Ruto and delegated the role to Defence CS Rachael Omamo during the inauguration of Kisumu Catholic Diocese Arch-bishop Philip Anyolo.
The Constitution states that the DP is the principal assistant to the President as he is part of the presidency.
Ruto should automatically deliver the President’s messages whenever the Head of State skips a function attended by his deputy.
Again, on the backdrop of wrangles that saw the resignation of former Jubilee vice chairperson David Murathe, and when Ruto was trying to put up a face of unity, Uhuru broke protocol, spoke before his deputy and left him at a church service in Kiambu.
Uhuru had spoken of an appointment elsewhere. However, the incident left room for interpretation of his action and speculation that he could have been avoiding his deputy.
It was also telling that Uhuru did not reprimand Murathe for declaring he would do everything to block Ruto from the Presidency, but angrily rebuked Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria for criticising his development agenda for the Mt Kenya region.
More telling was a series of press briefings by leaders from the region warning against early campaigns as well as declaring there was no automatic successor to Uhuru.
Ruto's allies have not shied from protesting claims that Ruto was targeted in the war against corruption. They made it clear they supported the purge but only if it was not politically motivated. So who would want to fight the second most powerful man within an administration he co-administers with Uhuru?
The same allies have also cited the rapprochement between Uhuru and Raila, with some expressing fear that Raila would rock the ruling coalition using his deal with Uhuru.
Ruto's allies have also come out aggressively against the war on corruption on the basis it targeted officers perceived to be on his political camp.
Initial signs that all was not well started to emerge when Uhuru, while addressing a roadside rally, disparaged his deputy with his “tanga tanga” remark while launching projects.
Later, Uhuru issued orders slamming opening of new major projects until ongoing ones were completed.
Ruto has been going round the country launching development projects that have handed him political credit for his 2022 political ambition.
Mr Nyamori is a reporter with The Standard
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