Since they came together in 2012, Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto acted like brothers from different mothers. Until 2018. Precisely March 9, 2018, when the Raila Odinga-Uhuru Kenyatta handshake happened like a jolt from the blue.
The rapprochement between Kenyatta and Ruto was also unexpected given their respective political positions from 2006. They had worked together in Kanu from the 1990s but were not seen as especially close, though Ruto campaigned for Kenyatta in 2002 in his first unsuccessful stab at the presidency.
By 2007, Ruto had abandoned Kanu and Kenyatta and put in his lot with Raila, then the leader of the Opposition, aiming to use that alliance to further build himself.
The stolen elections of 2007 created more bitterness between Kenyatta and Ruto, with the two emerging as the more strident, and extremist voices in their respective camps. Ruto, then staking a claim to leadership of the Kalenjin people, was seen as the man behind the planned violence in the North Rift, that led to killings, rapes and forced displacements.
Kenyatta, on the other hand, was seen as the guiding force for the killings, rapes, torture, maiming and forced displacement of some communities in Naivasha and Nakuru, mostly perpetrated by elements of the Mungiki gang, which had been associated with him from around 2000, as the gang affiliated with Kanu at the time.
These attacks were later styled as “revenge attacks” by the Gikuyu even though it was people believed to be the Kalenjin that had brutalised the Gikuyu rather than the Luo and Luhya. Indeed, the indictments against Kenyatta and Ruto by the International Criminal Court (ICC) confirmed that the two men were firmly on opposite sides politically as they were each accused of perpetrating and inspiring violence for political ends.
It was thus shocking when they came together for the 2013 presidential elections. Yet, that made a lot of political sense as their joint ticket gave the semblance of support from two of the big five ethnic communities, and importantly, provided a joint platform to fight the ICC and the indictments.
Their ploy worked as the state machinery lined up for them, from the election body to the provincial administration. The elections themselves were, yet again, rigged in their favour, as results streaming in live began showing an unnatural curve where the gap between Kenyatta and Raila never shifted despite results coming in at random. Later, it turned out that Kenyatta’s party shared computer servers with the IEBC, and the chairman admitted his contempt for Raila in his court submissions during the election petition hearing.
Once sworn in, Kenyatta and Ruto displayed a camaraderie never seen before in Kenya, complete with matching outfits. It was clear, however, that Ruto’s work ethic far surpassed that of Kenyatta and he soon seemed to be the one running government.
Then the thunderbolt of the handshake with Raila happened, without warning, much like the first handshake between Kenyatta and Ruto. And now it is Raila who appears to be Kenyatta’s brother from another mother. All these intrigues beg some questions. First, was Kenyatta just waiting for the time he would not need Ruto’s Kalenjin votes? Was he acting all that time, itching to dump Ruto? If so, then he is a much better actor than most. Carrying on a deception — complete with back clapping and laughs — for all these years isn’t normal.
Or did he come to learn something about Ruto after the 2017 elections that precipitated this apparent divorce? If so, is this information personal? Ideological? Or is it about corruption? Whatever it is, Kenyans need to know for this affects our country. After all, he saddled us with Ruto, whose donations at public fundraisers suggest that he has unspoken sources of income.
Since the handshake, we have seen Ruto sidelined in humiliating ways, beginning with Fred Matiangi’s appointment as “super minister,” and the constant stream of delegations to Odinga’s office, clearly with Kenyatta’s approval.
More than any other politician, Ruto engenders a sense of worry and anxiety for the future of Kenya. He lies without blinking, as he did about his ownership of Weston Hotel and the attempted grab of Langata Primary School playgrounds, before admitting it much later. And his opacity and flamboyance as he donates to churches fly in the face of the “Christianity” that he wears on his sleeve.
A quick word of (free) advice to Kenyatta and Odinga: If one of the reasons for the handshake was to marginalise or “deal” with Ruto, the sooner this is done the better. The longer the waiting game, the more time Ruto gets to re-configure, re-assemble, and regroup. His cunningness, and drive is well known, and you underestimate him at your own peril. The sooner this divorce is open the better for Kenya, as our choices and options then will be clearer.
- The writer is former KNCHR chair. [email protected]
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