The Standard Group Plc is a multi-media organization with investments in media platforms spanning newspaper print operations, television, radio broadcasting, digital and online services. The Standard Group is recognized as a leading multi-media house in Kenya with a key influence in matters of national and international interest.
  • Standard Group Plc HQ Office,
  • The Standard Group Center,Mombasa Road.
  • P.O Box 30080-00100,Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Telephone number: 0203222111, 0719012111
  • Email: [email protected]

The politics of betrayal and how Ruto broke jinx that has plagued vice presidency

 Former president Uhuru Kenyatta and President William Ruto during Ruto's swearing in ceremony at Kasarani. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

I froze in my tracks. I broke out in a cold sweat. My eyes had seen what my mouth couldn’t utter. My knees became weak and my stomach queasy. I was shaking like a leaf. I tried to speak but my lips were dry and could barely open. I looked at my two friends, petrified, their knees violently knocking each other. Terrified, Johnny couldn’t hold his call of nature. Wet and soiled, he started to wail loudly and crying out his mother’s name. 

At first our plan had gone on well. Normally, I would jump over the fence and survey the situation, then whistle to alert my friends that the coast was clear. They would then join me and we would have a feast enjoying fruits from different trees.

The vast compound had a large variety of fruits; from mangos to apples, loquats to guavas, we would eat to our fill then carry some home. Seated quietly on the tree branches, the Indian owners would barely notice our presence right above them. With our tiny bodies, we had become as agile as monkeys. 

On this fateful day, Kush had gone in first to conduct the survey. For days he had insisted that he be given a chance to be the survey leader. We eventually relented. When he whistled, we hurriedly jumped in. Lo and behold! There stood Kush in the company of the Indian family and some armed security guards. He smiled at us as the guards forced us to kneel down.

They beat us with leather whips before roughly tying us with ropes. With tears in my eyes, I watched as the rotund Indian man patted Kush on the back for a job well done. We were bundled into a pickup and taken to Nakuru’s Bondeni Police Station. 

For days, we were detained inside filthy and smelly cells in the company of adult criminals. The policemen held us and waited for our parents to come to our rescue. No one came. We knew no one would come. Since my childhood, I had become inured to life in police cells. Cops would raid our estate in search of illicit brew.

Our elaborate estate alarm code, would alert all adults early enough to enable them disappear before the cops arrived. Frustrated, policemen started arresting children and detaining them until parents appeared. Parents would then replace us in the cells. A time came when no parent would show up. We had become collateral damage. 

After the encounter in the Indian compound, we were eventually released. The officers had beaten and tortured us. They pulled out our hair and forced us to eat it while beating us all over. Bleeding and with wounds on our heads, we were set free.

We could barely walk and it took us hours to find the bearing to our estate. Kush had betrayed us. To date, I have never known how much he was paid or what reward he received for betraying his childhood friends. We never saw him again. He must have known that the punishment for betrayal is worse than death. The pain of betrayal has never left me.  

Humanity and betrayal 

Betrayal is an old and painful subject that cuts across the history of humanity. From the Biblical betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas Iscariot to Brutus’s betrayal of Julius Caesar appropriately recorded in Roman history and well rendered by England’s greatest playwright William Shakespeare, it is a tearful and heartrending act. In my tour of duty as a journalist and biographer, I have met men and women whose lives have been devastated, businesses destroyed, careers and dreams shattered by selfish individuals who betrayed their trust for money or political reward.

I have watched senior politicians and businessmen break down and cry following acts of betrayal. 

At one time, in 2006, while watching news with a senior politician in his room at Nakuru’s Rift Valley Sports Club, he broke down and wept. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing on television. Men he considered bosom friends had abandoned him and joined the ruling party and were hauling insults at him. I had to gently talk to him, give him hope and remind him of the great potential he had. We never slept that night. 

Former Butere MP Martin Shikuku once told me of the pain and agony he endured when his close friend Josiah Mwangi Kariuki (J.M), betrayed his trust. “When Tom Mboya was assassinated, my anger and that of J.M boiled over. We agreed as parliamentarians to protest against the murder by moving a motion. When the time came, J.M had grown cold and changed his mind.

With tears in my eyes, I told him, ‘J.M today its Mboya, tomorrow it will be Shikuku and the day after it will be you’. My words became dreadfully prophetic when he was murdered. But I later learned that he betrayed us because of an oath, leaders and some members of the Kikuyu community had taken after the Mboya murder. He betrayed our cause.” 

When Uhuru Turned Around

With the Kush history, I felt the pain that William Ruto had to endure when he watched his “brother” Uhuru Kenyatta turn around and stab him in the back. Uhuru betrayed him by publicly entering into a political alliance with a man the duo had been fighting fiercely.

The handshake between Uhuru and ODMleader Raila Odinga remains one of the biggest acts of betrayal in the Kenyan theatre of politics.

For months Uhuru had gone around the country, at public rallies, in front of glaring television cameras, telling Kenyans that since Ruto had helped him enter into the Presidency, by galvanising votes from the Rift Valley, Uhuru would rule for 10 years then support Ruto to rule for another 10. “I would like to assure my brother William that I will do my 10 years and he will do his 10. Kumi yangu na Kumi ya Ruto” 

The two had entered into a most unlikely political alliance that was purely driven by deeply individualistic survival instincts. They were nailed on one cross by the International Criminal Court (ICC), for crimes against humanity following the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

They decided that if they didn’t work together, they would jointly perish. Uhuru is said to have vowed that he was willing to work with the devil himself so long as he defeated his opponent Raila Odinga and escaped the claws of The Hague Tribunal. Slowly, a political fairy tale began to unravel.

 President William Ruto. [Kelly Ayodi, Standard]

A prince, whose father had been Prime Minister and the country’s founding president found himself in political romance with what Nollywood filmmakers would call, the son of a palm wine tapper or Keke driver. Ruto had been pulled by political exigencies into the palace. Once inside, he found himself a comfortable corner, sat squarely and refused to leave. 

During the first five years of their presidency, the marriage was cozy. Uhuru and Ruto were hailed as a perfect political couple. Always appearing together in public resplendent in similar attire, they toured the country preaching unity under a new youthful leadership.

Their ‘love’ that seemed to run deep like the Biblical one of David and Jonathan, gave the country hope that at last a chapter had been opened to unite a country devastated by corruption and tribalism. Then, when Uhuru got his second nod to his final term, he suddenly changed.

The love of his life became; “the enemy, a thief, a danger to public good, an idler and loiterer, tangatanga’. He remembered that Ruto was a palace intruder. Uhuru had formed an alliance with a man he had demonised and called all sorts of unprintable names. The country went into shock.

The deputy president found himself isolated. He became a moving target, an enemy of the State. Powerful guns were soon trailing him. Friends fled from him. The government declared war on corruption and corrupt leaders.

Bulldozers started demolishing shopping malls, apartments and homes allegedly built on riparian land or land acquired irregularly. Many lost billions as the war targeting one man raged on. There was a hotel associated with Ruto that was the ultimate target. Insiders say the objective was to paint him as incorrigibly corrupt and unfit to hold public office. 

He Learnt from the Best

Ruto’s detractors forgot one thing, he was a student of multiple political chess masters. From Daniel arap Moi, the Professor of Politics, to Raila Amolo Odinga and Mwai Kibaki. Ruto had worked with and studied them all. He also knew some dark secrets of his tormentors.

Each time they pulled out a card, he flashed one to counter it. He was hardened and not easy to intimidate. He refused to bow to pressure to resign. Instead, Ruto launched his bid for the presidency. He had marshalled a war chest and fought his opponents for five bruising years until his shock victory in this year’s elections.

Many have argued that Ruto should have served Uhuru quietly and with humility like Moi did for Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. However, times and circumstances are totally different. In this digital age, his supporters expect him to promptly respond to each and every accusation against him. He became a rebel deputy, publicly defying and at times countering his boss. 

As taste of his own medicine?      

Along his political journey, William Ruto has rubbed shoulders with many, some of whom he rubbed up the wrong way. From the days he served Moi under the infamous Youth for Kanu 92, (YK92), Ruto worked with cunning and great political and financial mobilisers such as former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo, Micah Kigen and Sam Nyamweya. He stepped on many toes.      

When the campaigns for the 2013 elections began, Uhuru had entered into a political alliance with Kalonzo Musyoka. The agreement was that Kalonzo and Uhuru would appear on the ballot jointly as president and deputy president or vice versa. Ruto agreed and promised to support Kalonzo while he settled for Majority Leader. One day however things changed.     

Kalonzo remembers the betrayal bitterly. The former vice president recalls in his autobiography ‘Against all Odds’; “I remember the night I felt betrayed by Uhuru and Ruto. The night our alliance died. We had agreed with Ruto that I would be on the presidential ticket, with Uhuru as my running mate or vice versa. 

Ruto was to be the Majority Leader. Then that one night, Uhuru and Ruto arrived at my home in the company of Jimmy Wanjigi, a renowned Nairobi businessman and political strategist.”

Kalonzo says that they walked down to the gazebo where dinner was to be served. As the discussion went on, he realised that things had changed. Ruto sat silently as Uhuru spoke: “Stephen”, he said, “we have decided that you should choose some other position, but not the presidency or deputy presidency,” Kalonzo was stunned. He did not know at what point the arrangement he had earlier with Ruto had been changed.

There was silence in the gazebo. As tension rose, Uhuru suddenly stood up, pushed his seat back and stepped out of the sliding glass door.

He walked five steps to the waterfall, removed a packet from is jacket pocket and pulled out a cigarette and when he had finished smoking, he threw the smouldering stub on the ground and stumped on it with his left foot. Kalonzo had been thrown under the bus.

David Musila, former Kitui Senator, says that before the 2013 election, Uhuru, Kalonzo and George Saitoti had agreed to work on an alliance where one of them would be a presidential candidate. For days, a small team of; Kiraitu Murungi representing Saitoti, Yusuf Haji representing Uhuru and David Musila representing Kalonzo would meet every Wednesday at the Norfolk Hotel. It is these deliberations, chaired by Titus Ibui, that gave birth to the Bus Party.

As the talks progressed, Uhuru hinted at the possibility of introducing William Ruto into the group. The team became jittery. They knew that Uhuru and Ruto were not on the best of terms after the 2007/2008 post-election violence.

Says Musila, “I recall asking Saitoti for his views and he told me that with the inclusion of Ruto to the group, he and Kalonzo had no chance in the group. As soon as we realised that Ruto, then an ODM rebel, was slowly elbowing his way in, Saitoti withdrew quietly and began to chart his own path.

Uhuru, Ruto and Kalonzo stayed on course. However, it was clear to many that Kalonzo had no future in this group. Propaganda started flowing that Kalonzo was ‘gleefully watching the two as they walked into the ICC gallows’”

Uhuru and Ruto started holding countrywide public prayer rallies for the continued success of the ICC case facing them. After Kalonzo organised a large prayer rally in Machakos, Johnson Muthama made a statement that seemed to enchant and excite the crowd.

Uhuru and Ruto left for Kitengela where they sought services of Fred Muteti, a young member from Kalonzo’s team to interpret what Muthama had said. According to former Cabinet minister Ali Chirau Makwere, Muteti told them that: “Once these people (Uhuru and Ruto), get jailed at The Hague, Kalonzo shall take over. Makwere was dispatched to ask Kalonzo not to attend any meeting organised by the two.

Second betrayal

One Sunday, Musila got a brief from Muthama that Ruto had called him seeking the support of the Kamba community. He was not surprised, when Ruto called him, the following day requesting for a meeting.

“We agreed to meet at his Transnational House office in Nairobi’s City Centre. I arrived in his office early the following morning. After a brief handshake, he went straight to the point. He told me that he wanted the Kamba to support them and he complained that Muthama had been rough with him.

“Please help us get out of this thing”, he told me. We briefly deliberated the fact that despite Kalonzo lending them his support during the countrywide meetings, they were no longer with him.

I was frank with him. I asked him what would be our take in the government in the event that I managed to convince the community and its leaders? “David, I cannot promise you anything, but we can then talk” he answered. Our meeting ended with a promise to meet and deliberate on the matter at a later date. We never met again.”

Ruto had betrayed Kalonzo twice. Being a Kenyan politician, he had probably betrayed numerous others. I just hope and pray that he will not meet his own Kush moment in the political compound filled with fruits of betrayal.

Related Topics


Trending Now


Popular this week