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Ruto’s tango with Kibaki is doomed

By | March 17th 2010

By Andrew Kipkemboi

You couldn’t have missed the grin and the show of craven obedience as Agriculture Minister William Ruto shook President Kibaki’s hand at the Eldoret ASK showground last week.

That handshake, the genuine camaraderie punctuated by the ride in the Commander-in-Chief’s ceremonial Land Rover during the opening of the North Rift region’s premier event, set the seal on a relationship that many analysts believe is hinged on who would succeed Kibaki.

But who is gaining from whom? Obviously, this is not symbiosis at its best. Most of the people in Rift Valley feel Ruto has bent his back and the President and his party are having an easy ride.

No doubt for now, Kibaki’s favour is with Ruto, but for what ends? Is Ruto readying himself for Project Uhuru II?

In fact, the puzzle is why Ruto has been too trusting of a man many have written off as indecisive, clumsy and indifferent. If Kibaki is for Ruto who could be against him? Certainly everyone else and that is the cause of the acrimony that is tearing apart his party.

The abiding image of Kibaki is the hands-off President, ill-at-ease with power, too willing to delegate with the levers of power often pulled by his chums from Makerere University. So if Ruto is the puppet, who are the puppeteers? And how long will the show last? Could Ruto be a victim of use-and-dump politics that is signature in Kibaki’s public life?

Analysts believe Ruto’s tango with Kibaki could signal a seismic shift in the politics of the Rift Valley. After the debacle of the 2007 elections, the people are caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one side is a resurgent Moism the other Rutoism.

Self assertive and self-assured, Ruto has always been accused of perpetuating the personality cult he claims his party chairman Raila Odinga personifies. Many observe that he has distaste for anyone who stands up to him and might have found the PM an inconvenience stymieing his ambitions to be President in 2012.

Lead vocalist

Therefore, other than Ruto, for whose benefit is the dalliance with Kibaki? Certainly not for Ruto’s ODM party. In political parlance, it is convenient to say it is for "the people" of the Rift Valley. Yet that is neither here nor there.

It is intriguing how the lead vocalist of the ODM orchestra turned against the leader. While the relationship between Ruto and Kibaki has thawed, the relationship between him (Ruto) and Raila has dipped.

Obviously, it is becoming all too clear that as far as it goes, there is more than meets the eye in the sour relationship between the two. It is more than the disagreement over the trial of post-election violence suspects and more than the politics of the Mau forest evictions.

Not once, Ruto has plotted against his party and party boss.

In fact, the breakdown in the relationship with Raila ends where relations warm with the President. Mark you, twice when Kibaki has run for President, Ruto has backed the President’s formidable challenger.

May be now, Ruto believes he is a kingmaker and knows what stuff would-be-kings are made of. Yet many of his supporters are aghast that Ruto has blindly walked into the President’s den: the Waterloo of many political careers.

Think of Simeon Nyachae, Kipruto Kirwa, Mukhisa Kituyi, Maurice Dzoro and Kalembe Ndile. Think of John Keen, Musikari Kombo. Those who may have realised too late that they cheered Kibaki to their disadvantage.

So far with the fate of these politicians ending disastrously, it is thought that either Ruto has thrown caution to the winds or that he is smarter than the President.

Apparently many of his critics say tongue-in-cheek that Ruto egged on by his lieutenants has become more PNU than those in the party. And now many fearmore for Ruto than for his estranged party.

It is thought that Kibaki is like the pitcher plant that traps those who get close to it. So the hysteria is borne out of the fear that the same fate awaits the Eldoret North MP.

Could be Ruto is in this more because of self-interest than community interests. The feeling that the association with Kibaki could spur him to greater things lingers. Whether that holds true will be known in future.

For one, Ruto is not run-of the mill politician. Rather, he portrays himself as a man of the people, a true patriot who dons a cap emblazoned in the national colours. He wears jeans and T-shirts to most of his rallies.

Dare devil

Ruto is deficient of the usual stigma associated with Kalenjin speakers. He speaks clipped Kiswahili and his high-flown ideas are told in perfect English sprinkled with idiomatic expression. He is fey, but erudite. He is a dare devil who doesn’t flinch from situations that many would cross the road to avoid.

Ruto can be quirky, abrasive and exceedingly condescending. He is thoughtful, engaging and profoundly knowledgeable. No doubt, Ruto has stamped his influence on the Kalenjin. Yet to many in Kalenjin, the Eldoret North MP has misled his people twice. First during Project Uhuru in 2002 and to Raila in 2007.

The writer is The Standard’s Foreign News Editor.

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