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UhuRuto: The bromance that ended on a sour note

 President William Ruto shows off the ceremonial sword at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani. Right, former President Uhuru Kenyatta. [PSCU]

Anxiety was palpable in the days and the hours to the final handover of power from fourth President Uhuru Kenyatta to William Ruto Tuesday, September 13.

Some of the Ruto allies had been unhappy that Uhuru had not congratulated the UDA candidate even after his victory was affirmed by the Supreme Court one week ago, which removed the only hurdle remaining to his inauguration.

The former President infuriated his rivals further after his remarks at the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya parliamentary group meeting at Masai Lodge, Kajiado County, last week.

At that meeting, Uhuru made it clear that he would have preferred Azimio candidate Raila Odinga to succeed him, but had accepted that he lost the election.

"I will hand over power smiling because it is a constitutional duty. Aluta continua, but I will leave knowing Raila is my leader," he told the meeting. There was even talk that Uhuru might skip the ceremonial handover.

But the former President's allies such as Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe were categorical he would be at Kasarani to inspect his last guard of honour and hand over power.

The country has witnessed the first handover in 2002 when late President Daniel Moi was succeeded by Mwai Kibaki, and in 2013 when Kibaki handed over to Uhuru.

The Moi event was marked with drama as supporters of Kibaki under the National Rainbow Coalition jeered with chants of Yote ya wezekana bila Moi, and later as he left to receive Kibaki at State House more rowdy supporters threw mud balls at his convoy.

Kibaki's handover in 2013 was devoid of drama after he had kept off campaigns, and never endorsed any of the two contestants.

Despite the acrimony between Uhuru and his former deputy, yesterday's ceremony went on well although President Ruto reversed several policies of the outgoing government in his inauguration speech.

But not so for Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who spoke of the insurmountable obstacles that had been placed on their path to victory.

Uhuru did not give a speech at the ceremony, and only inspected the guard of honour on arrival.

While he had to listen to Gachagua lamenting how he had left an economy in a hole with Sh8 trillion debt and six million jobless youth, there were a few praises including by Ruto, Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Tanzania's Samia Suluhu.

 Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

"We want to thank the retired president for finishing his reign well and handing over peacefully," the Tanzania president said.

In the end, he was assured by Gachagua that he was free to criticise the new government without fear of reprisals.

But President Ruto reserved a last reprieve for a man he constantly referred as "my brother."

Ruto praised Uhuru's diplomacy in Ethiopia and at the DRC and announced that the former president had agreed to take up a role of peace envoy in the two war-torn countries.

"I have asked my elder brother President Uhuru Kenyatta who has done commendable engagements in those regions and he has graciously agreed to continue chairing those discussions. I committed to support those engagements and thank you for graciously agreeing to help us in those engagements," he said.

Uhuru's Monday invitation of Ruto and First Lady Rachel Ruto to the State House may have helped warm the relationship between the two, paving the way for an uneventful handover.

It was also telling that the outgoing Cabinet skipped the event.

Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Rachael Omamo and her PS Macharia Kamau, Interior PS Karanja Kibicho and Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelgui were present.

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