Storm in the Rift: Story of graft, Ruto and Kenya

Deputy President William Ruto with Governor John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot) during a women's empowerment programme, Kapchikar, Pokot South, West Pokot Country. [FILE PHOTO/Standard]

There are three separate but intertwined things happening in the Rift Valley. Hunger is sweeping through its perennial path, at this time of the year; Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot and Baringo. The national and county governments have, as usual, been goaded into action by gory pictures on mainstream and social media. What a shame that in our 56 years of independence and six years of devolution, we are still seeing these traumatising pictures of our people!

Then there is the noise about who is for and against the fight on corrupt networks. We must take note at this stage that the political bickering here does draw a line between the Sh21 billion theft via kickbacks in the Arror and Kimwarer dams and the images of famished Kalenjins and Turkanas.

The two dams were after all meant to irrigate and bring green life to the areas that experience internecine inter-ethnic fights over pasture, stock and water sources as part of the bigger of national development agenda and pacification. It matters not even if as Deputy President William Ruto and his allies argued, the money lost was only Sh7 billion.

The third factor in this mix is the obtrusive and restless fight for Ruto to succeed Uhuru in 2022 and the feeling that in his quarters, everything else can take a backseat until he is in State House. In this state of affairs, every developing factor is seen from the political prism of what it portends for Ruto in 2022.

That is why to Ruto allies, the Director of Criminal Investigations is suddenly the dirty chap who should be hanged on a tree next to the empty land where the dams would now be teeming with water. It is not the cause of justice he is fighting for that matters, but the identity of people in whose sights he has after methodical following of their footprints to and from the payment counters of the Treasury and Kerio Valley Development Authority.

In the process we have had contradictory statements. That Mr Kinoti is the evil within being used to fell Ruto. That claims over the dams’ money theft and the grilling of Treasury CS Henry Rotich amount to political witch-hunt targeting Ruto. That in between all these is one shadowy, scheming and manipulative character, Mr Raila Odinga, who the Kalenjin incidentally nicknamed Arap Mibei in 2007; meaning both the man from a ‘place of many waters’ and the ‘one symbolising vast presence of water’.

The total sum of the happenings in the Rift is that they first serve to show how wide the schism between Ruto and President Uhuru has become and what a far cry from the unity they exhibited in 2013 as they donned matching shirts and suits chosen by their dignified wives.

Second, it has proven the one dubious record Kenya boasts of; that of perpetually dragging succession and ethnic politics into corruption war so as to neuter or slow it, then from one side of the mouth claim ‘our person is being targeted’. There are two natural habitats of refuge for those fighting graft: one, that no side is clean as everyone is on an eating spree, and two, that withdrawal of political support would be guaranteed off-shoot if the President pursues that path.

But on a third and more depressing level is that the public, which itself bears the burden of corruption in the public sector, is not timid but an active player; so long as it is their sons either recording statements or grappling with the possibility of being harangued before court, they will choose to either keep quiet or hide in the Book of Lamentations.

That is the dilemma in the Rift at the moment; to side with those fighting graft or join the leaders in condemning the ‘selective’ nature of the process which requires closing the eye to simple facts like the number of Kikuyus facing graft cases are three times more than the Kalenjins. But then for reasons of political exigency you know who is up the mountain crying foul!

There are three incontestable facts though. Rift Valley’s case is just a microcosm of Kenya and how it reacts to graft claims, a fact that could distract investigators and deflate the goodwill of the President. But maybe the only weakness with this prediction is that Uhuru is on his final term and may care less except for a situation he fights Ruto, then he becomes the fifth president.

Also, Ruto should be more concerned at the interplay of factors that seem to always put him on the defence when graft claims implode. If he does this, he may begin to appreciate how weird the ring of his vow to fight graft is to the unbelieving. But as they say, the ear does not choose what it hears, the eye what it sees, however the mind reserves the right to believe or discount what seeps through it.

Mr Tanui is Deputy Editorial Director and Managing Editor, The Standard