Raila's political star is shining while the president's is slowly dimming

As President William Ruto presided over the 60th anniversary of Madaraka Day, he seemed caught between domestic and international hustles. He works hard to play in the global arena only to show inability run the Kenyan polity. In seeking to acquire positive international image, however, he still has to deal with Raila Amolo Odinga (RAO) who is Kenya’s perennial political headache. Ruto seems lost amidst out of control structural challenges of political economy varieties. Not knowing how to ‘hustle’ himself out of the fix, he appears not to be in control.

Three inter-related factors account for his tribulations. First, the Uhuru factor looms large. Having problems believing that ‘his people’ rejected his candidate, Uhuru continues to engage in unwelcome Raila advancement politics. Second, Ruto seemingly borrowed two tactics from Uhuru which portray him as an Uhuru policy copycat; ignoring public grievances while projecting himself as Africa’s spokesman. Ruto’s domestic weaknesses, however, undermine his assertiveness abroad, erode his support base, and lead to his possible undoing.

These weaknesses, besides seeming insensitivity to public grievances, include ‘strange’ appointments to offices and rising ‘innovative’ and ‘unendearing’ taxes that make little sense in the midst of declining incomes that are further depleted by skyrocketing inflation.

Third, Raila commands large political following that makes him untouchable and virtually above the law. He enjoys adding to the president’s governance tribulations.

Raila is the winner over Uhuru and Ruto. He politically has nothing to lose, and much to gain, in making Ruto’s presidency difficult. Demonstrations energise, thrill, and enable him to bag lieutenants in his power crusades. Kalonzo Musyoka, Martha Karua, Eugene Wamalwa, Jeremiah Kioni, Mwangi wa Iria, Wycliffe Operanya, and most important, Uhuru have all joined RAO’s political wagon. As a result, two men, Uhuru and Ruto, look especially bad. Unable to explain their fall out, their post-election friction paints them negatively. While Uhuru looks grumpy and petty by engaging Sabina Chege in Jubilee political frays, Ruto incapacitates himself, assisted by DP Rigathi Gachagua’s lack of sense of occasion, with obsession to reply to whatever Raila’s team does. In the process, Raila’s political star shines while Ruto’s dims.

Ruto dims his star in several inter-connected ways, thereby eroding erode public confidence. Besides the existence of dissonance between pronouncement and performance, there apparently is growing friction within Ruto’s government as to who is in charge of what. Ruto is unable to respond to Gachagua’s claims that Kenya is a limited company with two shareholders. Ruto’s actions, however, make it clear that he is the main shareholder and that Gachagua’s share, despite his loudness, is only nominal. Going by various appointments at all levels, Gachagua’s nominal share makes him and his desire to lead the Mountain irrelevant in the ‘Company’. The perception that Gachagua’s team is irrelevant adds to Ruto’s potential woes.

Although ACK Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit advised Ruto to face reality, Ruto could not because he is contradiction personified. His dichotomy is on balancing unpleasant realities with desire to look good. He spends resources hiring special people while workers miss salaries. Dogmatic on raising taxes, he ignores the cries of the weak to please the World Bank and the IMF. He appeared lost on the inauguration day with ill thought out policy reversal regarding Western Sahara. He somehow subsequently recovered from the blunder and wants to lead ‘Africans’ as Pan-Africanist, and still receive Western accolades. He loses tract on the political economy, and expects economic miracles. Unable to handle rough times, his floundering enables some politicians to threaten the state by advocating secession and country fragmentation.