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Ruto and Raila have a history of brotherhood


The top two presidential contenders in this year's nail-biting presidential election - Kenya Kwanza's William Ruto and Raila Odinga of Azimio - have an intriguing history.

Nothing illustrates the phrase "there are no permanent enemies in politics" than the relationship between these two politicians. On the surface, they appear different as night and day. One is the older, almost inarticulate storytelling battle-scarred general of Kenya's opposition politics. And the other is younger, brash, articulate systems man who served the very system Raila fought for most of his youthful days.

But they are cut from the same cloth in many ways as well, sharing a genius for political mobilization and organisation, energy (at least in Raila's younger days), burning ambition for high office and the ability to rouse up crowds and set their respective communities in whichever political direction they chose.

Not surprisingly, they have trained guns at each other from opposing battlefields countless times, but also joined hands and worked together when agenda, ideology, occasion, and situation demanded.

Raila, baptised by Ruto's kinsmen Arap Mibei to mean "The man from the waters", started his political journey in the 1970s. This was a few years after Ruto was born in 1966.

The 77-year-old has paid a heavy price for standing against all governments in the country to push for freedom, good leadership, and the integrity of Kenyans.

Raila has been arrested, tortured, and detained in the infamous dark, cold, and isolated Nyayo House torture chambers. At that time, the DP, coded by Raila's community as Jalang'o, was still walking to school barefoot. Jalang'o means the milkman.

Raila, baptised by his followers as Tinga, was first arrested after the 1982 coup. He was tortured and detained for six years. His eyes still shed tears because of the days he spent in a dark room. It is a sign that he still suffers several physical consequences at the hands of cruel police officers.

Raila painfully admits that he learnt of his mother's death and burial after leaving the prison but also reveals he dreamt of her demise.

"One night, my mother's image came strongly to my mind. The next day, I did not feel like eating at all. I just stayed in my room and told the warders I had had a bad dream," Raila's biography, Flames of Freedom, says.

Raila was later arrested in 1991 twice for campaigning against one-party rule. The DP, for his part, was now a big boy at the University of Nairobi and involved in church activities. He says that he met former president Daniel Moi through the church.

He later joined the Youth For Kanu lobby group, which went to extreme ends to ensure Moi prevailed in the first election following the reintroduction of multiparty democracy.

Other members of the dreaded Youth For Kanu included former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo and former Football Kenya Federation (KFF) chairman Sam Nyamweya.

Following the repeal of section 2A of the Constitution, Raila was elected the Lang'ata Member of Parliament.

In 1997, Raila unsuccessfully vied for Kenya's presidency but retained the Lang'ata seat. He later joined Kanu to work with Moi ahead of the 2002 polls when the late president announced his retirement.

In 2001, Raila bolted out of Kanu to join NAK headed by the late president Mwai Kibaki and former Kitui governor Charity Ngilu. Ruto stayed in the Kanu government to support Moi's preferred successor, Uhuru Kenyatta, in 2002.

They lost, and Ruto later joined Raila to set up the ODM Pentagon ahead of the disputed 2007 election against Kibaki. Kibaki was declared the winner and sworn in at dusk, and violence broke out, in which more than 1,300 people were killed.

It is instructive that Ruto was Raila's fieriest defender, before they differed and set on a journey that brought them to what will go down in history as one of Kenya's toughest presidential battles.

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