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Murathe's message is clear, Ruto isn’t Mt Kenya’s man in 2022

By Prof Makau Mutua | January 6th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

I will say it again so that those with ears can clearly get it in their noggin. I’ve said since the Handshake that Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 goose is cooked. If there are still any Doubting Thomases then they should have their heads examined after Jubilee’s David Murathe dropped a most potent bombshell on Mr Ruto this past week. Sorry. Where are my manners – I meant to say Dr Ruto. Mr Murathe is no ordinary mortal in Jubilee. Depending on your taste, he sits either to the left, or the right, of the scion of the Burning Spear. So the public is wise to assume that when Murathe speaks, he does so on implied or explicit instructions “from above.” 

I know Murathe, like me, was a hothead at the University of Nairobi. I use “hothead” approvingly, as a term of endearment. I thumbed through my collection and unearthed three pictures – real momentos – of Murathe and I orchestrating a 1981 demonstration of University of Nairobi students protesting one-party rule. In those priceless photos, I was joined by other student leaders.

Among them were the late Odindo Opiata, George Rubik, Dave Anyona Kanundu, Saulo Busolo Wanambisi, John Munuve, the late Mathenge Karundi, and the late Dickson Miriti. Murathe wasn’t among our official student leadership team, but he was a very effective mobiliser. My point is that Murathe hasn’t come out of nowhere. He belongs to a pantheon.

The wrath of the state came down hard on us. I and the aforementioned student leaders – except Murathe – were expelled from the University of Nairobi and forced into exile in Tanzania. I should mention here that among our advisors were the so-called Marxist professors – Dr Willy Mutunga, Dr Oki Ooko Ombaka, Prof Micere Mugo, Prof Kivutha Kibwana and Dr Shadrack Gutto.

I particularly remember the wise and erudite counsel of Prof Mugo, now Distinguished University Professor at Syracuse University in New York, gave me as I faced the axe of the state. I shall always be in her debt. Murathe survived the state’s predations and is today a wealthy man who sits in the inner sanctum of power.

When Murathe speaks, we should listen, even if we disagree with him. Murathe chose to drop the bombshell on Ruto in Vihiga at the heart of the Mulembe Nation. Looking on were Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi, Cotu’s Francis Atwoli, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, and a horde of MPs from the region. Governor Kibwana, the star of devolution, was there. Murathe’s message was emphasized by former Mukuruweini MP Kabando wa Kabando. 

Clearly, Murathe and Kabando had come to deliver a message to the Abaluhya. But the real message was to DP Ruto, formally numero dos to Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta in the hierarchy of the state. Did Mr Kenyatta sanction the bombshell?

The bombshell was simple – and what discerning minds have known for months. If Ruto is to go to State House in 2022, he must do so without Mount Kenya. Murathe unambiguously said the Mt Kenya communities do not have a debt – an MoU – with Ruto to support him for the top office in 2022. He said that even if there was an MoU, it must have been between two individuals, not communities. In a word, Murathe said Ruto would have to collect on his debt from Kenyatta, and not the Mt Kenya people. That’s the most authoritative statement to date about Ruto’s standing with the Mt Kenya political elite.

Ruto and his Rift Valley lieutenants are seeing red. Murathe and Mr Kabando asked him to retire with Kenyatta in 2022. They ruled him out because they don’t believe he’ll protect the interests of the Mt Kenya political elite. But they fingered Mr Mudavadi as a trustworthy “safe pair of hands.” Both implied that it may be time to atone for Mudavadi’s 2013 betrayal by Kenyatta and Ruto if the Abaluhya can unite and present a single ethnic baron. Their pronouncements are bound to raise temperatures and eyebrows among the NASA brigade, especially Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka who is a more senior politician to Mudavadi. Who will be left at the alter?

Whether Murathe was floating a trial balloon remains to be seen. But the message is clear – Ruto isn’t Mt. Kenya’s man in 2022. What has set tongues wagging, however, is the “kamuti” in the Handshake and what roles Raila and Kenyatta will play in the 2022 succession. Political science alone – even without insider information – tells you the two will determine what happens. Many hearts will be broken as the scions of Jaramogi and Jomo decide Kenya’s fate in 2022.

- The writer is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC.  @makaumutua

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