In the sporting world of gladiators, there were two options for a defeated gladiator: He had to have shown either enough skill or enough cowardice during the battle. Otherwise, he would be killed in the war arena by organisers of the match.
So far, Ruto is a defeated gladiator, but he cannot be killed politically because he has shown great skill in political battles. His soldiers had no option but to accept the 'cut', but gods now demand that he slays them or they be given a golden chance to do the same to him.
So what should Ruto do? He should wield the political sword and betray them then make peace with his boss and stay on his feet calling ‘Abba father’ until the fullness of time. He should not apologise because that is against Kalenjin elders' custom, but he can act in ways that show his remorse to President Kenyatta. Those who would see this as an act of cowardice must know that the world is full of graveyards for heroes, but there is none for cowards, and so is the political ecosphere.
Ruto won’t be the first to do that. This is a survival tactic that Raila Odinga has normalised. After 2017, Baba Raila abandoned his NASA coalition ‘kids’ and hid in Jubilee’s bedroom. He parted river Jordan and walked through alone, brought the waters together again so that if his followers wanted to cross, they had to battle vicious crocodiles.
Today, they are shaping their political parties to fit his specifications so that he can part Jordan from the other side for them to cross. Without Odinga's political collateral security, their tibim and tialala shouts cannot shake the walls of Jericho. Isn’t Odinga calling the shots?
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That’s betrayal! But that is the most valuable political cryptocurrency. In the book of 2 Kings Chapter 3, King Mesha of Moab was in a fierce battle with king Jehoram of Israel. King Mesha had refused to pay tribute to the king of Israel as was the custom. Then the King of Israel allied with the king of Edom and King Judah against Moab.
Seeing that he was losing, King Mesha took his firstborn son who was his heir and offered him as a burnt sacrifice on the city wall in the full glare of his enemies. Seeing this indignation, Israel withdrew and returned to their land. Moral of the story: Dr Ruto should offer his foot soldiers as ‘burnt offerings on the political altar’ now — it has always worked for Odinga, it should work for him.
If he delays, he might lose them to the other side. We have seen some of Ruto’s allies jumping ship to save their skin while others assume non-alignment when they are needed the most. If they could not defend the ouster of both Governor Waititu and Senator Kindiki in the Senate, they will also flee Parliament should Ruto be under ‘sieke’ (siege).
They will even abandon Aden Duale should Kanini Kega’s vote of no confidence on the majority leader sail through. And if they were to stand with him, they will do so from afar like Jesus’ disciples during his crucifixion. Some might even swear, like Peter, that they never knew him.
You see, during the Pyrrhic war of 280-275 BC, King Pyrrhus of Epirus went to fight the Romans at Asculum. Pyrrhus was a skilled commander who had fortified his army with war elephants which had earlier terrorised opponents in the battle of Heraclea. This time round Romans prepared for wild jumbos by devising special wagons to counter them.
Notwithstanding, Pyrrhus side took the victory but lost most of his soldiers, most influential commanders, and war elephants in the battle. He later said: “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined”. There are lessons that Dr Ruto can learn from the Pyrrhic war.
First, it is dangerous to lose a political battle but win the war. Pyrrhus was convinced if Romans attacked again, he would not have been able to stand it although he won the war; he was worn out, and his army and war elephants were slain. Ruto lost the battle but won the political war against Uhuru Kenyatta. Recently, I wrote that Ruto is most likely to win the war, although with fallen elephants and army commanders. But can Ruto stand another round of onslaught from his boss? I doubt.
Second, the Pyrrhic war teaches Ruto that it is better to win the battle and lose the war. Notably, Kenyatta’s Jubilee army countered Ruto’s political war jumbos and commanders with tact — they deployed ‘power-fully’ and marshalled Ruto's enemies to join them; mounting a formidable fortification that is terrorising Ruto's armies in the Senate, Parliament and the Executive. This way, Jubilee’s Kieleweke faction won the battle by not only countering Ruto’s ‘war elephants’ and also slaying the majority of his veteran soldiers.
Ruto can rise again quickly if he admits that he has won the war but lost the battle then take Raila Odinga's tactic, and painfully offer his fallen foot soldiers as a 'burnt offering' at the full view of Uhuru Kenyatta and Kieleweke teams like King Mesa of Moab did.
Dr Ndonye is a Political Economist of Media and Communication