Who will laugh last in Ruto, Raila power play?

AU envoy Raila Odinga. [Photo, Standard]

“For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people.” Isaiah 60:2

Dusk falls swiftly in Africa. One moment it is daylight and the next, pitch darkness. Unlike Europe, where daylight lingers, especially in the summer, nightfall in Africa comes with the suddenness of an armed robber. Just as swiftly, political darkness descends on many African countries, and with it, the madness of the night. One may bask in the limelight of political success only to be followed by the sudden onset of infamy. Heroes become villains and vice versa with startling frequency.

The fight against corruption in Kenya has been reducted to a contest between supporters of Deputy President (DP) William Ruto and those of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. To the DPs supporters, Raila is an interloper in matters of Government and those of the Jubilee Party where he holds neither elective post nor appointed position.

To Raila’s informal constituency, the DP’s name has become a metonym for the country’s runaway corruption. This raises the question; is this really a fight against graft or a cleverly choreographed script to depict one man as an angel of light while casting the other as an agent of darkness?

Authoritarian regimes

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Because these two men hold Kenyans in the grip of their politics, it behoves this column to hold them to scrutiny in the light of their backgrounds. Millennials would be forgiven for thinking that Raila’s political genesis was in the halcyon days of former President Mwai Kibaki’s Narc administration. Always bringing to the fore his credentials as a liberator from authoritarian regimes, little is shared about the chinks in his armour. For instance, although he is known as an advocate for the downtrodden, few know his background as a child of privilege, enjoying all the benefits of capitalism while propagating a socialist narrative.

Fewer still, know of his propensity to rebel against establishment even if, for no cause at all. A story is told how in 1968, Raila, on a visit to Romania, defiantly refused to buy a visa and walked into Bucharest as an ‘illegal immigrant.’ Another whispered tale tells of his involvement with dissident elements in the August 1982 coup against the Moi government. But perhaps the most recent anecdote from this tireless defender of the rule of law is his curious attempt to swear himself as president of Kenya after the national elections of 2017.

Ruto, on the other hand, is a self-made man who pulled himself by his bootstraps to become a part of the presidency. He has had alternate moments in the sun and shade. But he now comes across as one who has been used by successive regimes only for the value that he brings onboard as the de facto leader of the Kalenjin nation.

Unwitting service

The DP first came into national limelight during the 1992 elections where he, alongside other leaders, worked to ensure the win of former president Moi’s Kanu party. Subsequently, he entered Parliament as an elected member and stood by Uhuru Kenyatta when he lost the presidential contest to Kibaki. He was to re-emerge as a powerful minister in the coalition government of Kibaki and Raila. In a fallout, he would later team up with Uhuru Kenyatta, where he has helped him win the presidency twice.

Even as Raila becomes the loudest traducer of the DP’s character, questions arise. Is the DP guilty of the malfeasance his detractors accuse him of? According to reports, one third of the country’s multi-trillion shilling budget is lost to corruption.

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If the DP is the repository of such huge graft proceedings, it should be an easy matter to follow the forensic trail running into billions. Why has it not led to him? Is it possible that one man can pillage the economy and get away undetected? Even if that were so, would it not be a dereliction of duty bordering on criminal negligence on the part of those entrusted in running the country?

One can only surmise that in the minds of some dark characters, the DP has served his usefulness and is now politically expendable. Raila’s obtrusion in the nation’s colloquy may be in the unwitting service of those who fear a Ruto presidency come 2022. But it could also be about him leveraging on the darkness that is engulfing his adversaries to ride to victory in his fifth stab at the presidency. Because Kenyans are now learning to read the story behind the story, this present darkness is ephemeral. It will soon yield to the light of national comprehension.

Mr Khafafa is Vice Chairman, Kenya-Turkey Business Council

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Raila OdingaDeputy President (DP) William Ruto