Ruto's 'drip drip' of State secrets keeps his challengers off-balance

A master storyteller, the president employed suspense during the five-hour interview to give the impression that he has more surprises up his sleeves -and possibly an accountability shocker in store for members of the former administration. Talking in a relaxed way, Ruto had Kenyans on the edge of their seats, making them hanker for the next secret he would let them in on, and the raw nerve he would hit next.

The most stunning morsel of news from the interview was the disclosure that the previous administration had a 'container' in Nairobi in which ordinary Kenyans were 'slaughtered'.

The disclosure on live TV had the country's collective jaw drop open, the very objective of the lurid revelation.

"How did we end up there?" asked the president, visibly incensed. He called the police under the former administration a 'rogue institution' and disclosed that he had given former Directorate of Criminal Investigations chief George Kinoti the heave-ho.

"Of course, there will be a responsibility," the president said.

Intriguingly, the president didn't divulge further details about the 'container of death', perhaps as a tactic to heighten the public's interest in the wrongs of the former regime. An aide later fleshed it out. The 'container of death' was 'secured' and "it's intact, splashed with blood," Dennis Itumbi-the omniscient aide, who says his job is 'come here, go there'-tweeted after the president's interview, striking further terror into former officials' hearts.

Ruto's constant digs at the previous administration has several advantages: It offers him a diversion, earns him new supporters, and helps him wreck Raila's bid to rebrand himself and bounce back. The eventual aim could well be to cut off Uhuru from Raila, or at least sow discord between his two enemies.

Feeding off Kenyans' sense of vulnerability at the hands of security agents, Ruto tried on Wednesday night to present himself as the masses' saviour, vowing to end extra-judicial killings that were well known by the citizenry, but rarely acknowledged officially until his ascent to power.

President William Ruto arrives for a church service in Kipipiri, Nyandarua County, on December 11, 2022. Right, DP Rigathi Gachagua. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

The message of "we are you and you are us and together we defeated the snooty team" still rings effectively at State House four months later. And Ruto isn't relenting in his quest to hold wrongdoers to account.

The president said he had ordered the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to explain how hundreds of civilians were lost to the hands of security agents.

While security agencies' brutality against civilians dates back to the 1960s, no head of state has so vehemently and candidly talked about the issue of extra-judicial killings, underscoring how far the country has changed in a matter of months.

In 2021, the police unlawfully killed 167 people and forcibly disappeared 33 others, according to Amnesty International, which in 2017 ranked the country the first in Africa in police killing of civilians.

"Rogue Kenyan state officers not only adopt the doctrine of maximum force in crime control, they often kill suspects and non-suspects at the flimsiest excuse because of an institutionalised culture of impunity," said the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (Imlo), a human rights organisation. "State brutality is becoming the order of the day," Imlo said in its report 'State of the Nation 2021'.

"From the streets of Mombasa via Nairobi CBD to the favelas of Kisumu, unlawful use of force by rogue state officers has ended the life of many citizens while many left injured, devastated and deprived of their rights."

Aware of the former administration's failings, Kenyans appear to be cutting Ruto some slack, a reprieve that is likely to prolong his honeymoon and help him take the burden off himself to meet strict deadlines, such as the promise to impanel a commission to investigate State capture.

"The reason why Azimo is definitely going to collapse is because it was built on quicksand. It was built on threats, blackmail, intimidation," a smirking Ruto said, of the main opposition group that threatened to organise mass action against his administration.

The president also talked of occasions where governors were forced to take sides during the elections. He also let slip that Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji was arm-twisted into prosecuting certain cases.

"It was just an ugly situation and I pray that Kenya never again goes to a place where the criminal system is used to manipulate politics," the president said. He said the military-'a sacred institution', he stressed-had been roped into a scheme to "sabotage the will of the people of Kenya because of that State capture menace."

Apart from the 'drip, drip, drip' of revelations, it's unclear when Ruto will premiere the horror show about how the Uhuru administration did everything to foil his presidential bid. While Gachagua had told Kenyans that they "don't have to look back when you do something", it appears that pledge does not cover the period that preceded the victory of the Hustler Nation.