How I raised William Ruto


By Vitalis Kimutai

Higher Education Minister William Ruto trekked to school barefoot like other village children and during weekends and after school, he herded goats.

Coming from a peasant family, Ruto did not enjoy any privileges. However, that did not stop him from rising to the position he holds today.

Sarah Cheruiyot

Sarah at her home

Sarah tends to her sugarcane farm

Higher Education Minister William Ruto. Photos: Peter Ochieng/standard

And the one person he has to thank for his achievements is his mother, Sarah Cheruiyot who brought him up in a strict Christian way. She was strict and did not spare the rod even on Ruto whenever he erred.

Ms Cheruiyot remembers beating a young Ruto on a few occasions.

"Whenever he erred and I beat him, he would cry like any other child but would still do the chore he had been assigned. He was never rebellious," says Cheruiyot.

Cheruiyot, 66, says Ruto was obedient, honest and punctual. He also kept to himself and rarely picked quarrels or a fight with his mates.

"He was keen on his studies and always carried a book to read in the grazing fields," she says.

Cheruiyot’s joy is that her relationship with her son has not changed despite his prominence.

"Despite rising to the level he is in, he is still the son I have always known. Nothing has changed," she says.

"Whenever he is at home, he sits with me in the kitchen and we chat as I cook. For us life is just as it used to be," she says.

"I am grateful to God that he has sustained and blessed my son to be what he is today. I keep praying to God to take care of him."

When The Standard and KTN team sought her out for an interview on Wednesday, we found Cheruiyot performing domestic chores.

The sky was grey and the ground muddy owing to an early drizzle.

But all that did not dampen the spirits of the grandmother who warmly welcomed us to her home at Kamagut village in Turbo division in the expansive Eldoret North constituency.

She had been expecting us after receiving a phone call in the morning from the minister and had put aside her other engagements.

Cheruiyot says she always ensured her children went to church – the African Inland Church. Ruto was a member of the choir.

That was to manifest itself later in Ruto’s life when he became a key member of the Christian Union at the University of Nairobi.

Ruto, a teetotaller, is a staunch Christian who rarely misses a church service.

She remembers a period ahead of the 1997 General Election when elders came to the home seeking permission to have Ruto run for a parliamentary seat that was then held by the late Reuben Chesire.

And perhaps as a show of how proud she is of her son a picture taken when she garlanded Ruto on arrival at the Eldoret International Airport shortly after he was appointed Home Affairs Minister in 2002, hangs on the wall of her sitting room. Accompanying Ruto was former Assistant Minister Raphael Kitur, among others.

Dressed in a flowered outfit, gumboots, a white shawl and a flowered headscarf, which revealed greying hair on the sides of her head, Sarah took us round her neatly tended garden where she grows vegetables, maize, beans, sweet potatoes and sugar cane. She also keeps dairy cows. The cows were grazing in a pen in the compound waiting to be milked late in the afternoon.

Sarah, a light complexioned well-built woman who despite her age is energetic, says it is important the world marks Mothers’ Day.

"This is a day when children should remember the sacrifices their mothers have made for them over the years," she says.

"Women should also use the opportunity to inculcate strong Christian values in their children and for husbands to support their wives," she adds.

According to her, the best gift a parent can give the children is good education.

Sarah says that shortly after setting up business in Nairobi, Ruto insisted on building a house for them but they repeatedly turned down the offer. She and her husband felt it was wise to use the money to educate his siblings.

"We did not see the need for a big house then as we were satisfied with what we had. Our concern was education," said Cheruiyot.

However, he persisted forcing the parents to budge and he put up a simple modern house for them.

"When he announced that he was running for a parliamentary seat, his opponents sent people to our home to see how we lived. Many confessed that they had been told we lived in a grass thatched house," says Cheruiyot.

What does she think of her son’s presidential ambitions?

"If it is God’s wish then it will come to pass," she says.

"As a family we can only keep praying for him to succeed in his pursuits. If it is God’s wish that he becomes president, then it will happen. That is beyond us."

For a long time, Ruto lived with his parents in the same compound before relocating to his Sugoi home where he bought a farm. Ruto’s father Mzee Daniel Cheruiyot passed away in 2008.

After the interview, as we packed our equipment into the van and bade her goodbye, Sarah insisted we could not leave without eating.

"There is no way guests can come to my house and leave without even taking a glass of milk or water."

Before the team left, she offered a word of prayer.

"May the Good Lord take care of you and your families and may He bless the work of your hands."

Evidently, the mother of six, three boys, and three girls, has not let the trappings of power enjoyed by her son to get into her way of life.


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