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How Uhuru's inability to sack William Ruto has kept Kenya united

President Uhuru Kenyatta with his deputy William Ruto at the KWS Law Enforcement Academy in Manyani on October 16, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard].

We are done with the elections, and for the first time since multiparty democracy, the country is calm, composed and confident to move forward. Most leaders across the country are comfortably conceding defeat, unprecedented moves that might make lawyers to lose their usual post-election plum jobs. Our courts might not be as busy this time. All credit goes to the politics of issues that dominated the 2022 campaigns.

The one reason that we should thank the team that crafted the 2010 Constitution is its failure to give the president powers to dismiss his deputy. This must have irked supporters of the 2018 handshake that the deputy president openly disapproved who would have wanted otherwise. However, William Ruto was not going to be deputy president forever.

Resultantly, the high priests of our ‘ethnic-based politics’ are retiring as the country ushers in a radical pattern of issue-based politics. Nevertheless, the spirit of the 2010 Constitution is alive.

Even in future, this constitutional provision should not be altered. Every presidential candidate should hold on to their deputies till the end of their terms. There are many justifications for this, including instilling political discipline, reducing political scheming and, above all, a perceived betrayal that divides the people.

We are now on the verge of changing the government. The incoming government must protect this provision. One of the justifications for the committee of experts for fixing the president and his deputy was to curtail the president’s impunity once elected into office.

Given the de facto power sharing and distribution among the regions, sacking the deputy could work against the country’s unity. For example, in 2013 and 2017, Uhuru Kenyatta depended on William Ruto to bag the Rift Valley vote, where he is supposedly kingpin.

Felt betrayed

Therefore, sacking him would have been seen mainly as a betrayal to the people of Rift Valley, who probably voted for Uhuru because of Ruto. I can comfortably say that given that in 2022, most of the Rift Valley sprint to Ruto’s UDA.

What if the Constitution did not safeguard the deputy president from the onslaughts of the president? He could have been legally replaced in March 2018 with Raila.

This could have created more chaos than we can imagine. Ruto could have flown full swing into campaigns, and his supporters would have felt betrayed. As a result, the country could have approached 2022 highly divided.

However, from 2018 through 2022, Ruto covered up his division with his boss, although it was clear that things were not working between them. As a result, the country remained calm. It was not until February 23, 2022, at Sagana III conference that the president came out clearly and denounced his deputy.

That was too late because Ruto had to be restrained because he needed Mount Kenya votes, where Uhuru was the spokesperson. Even then, Ruto, pacified by the salary he was still receiving from the taxpayer and the trappings of power, remained contained in addressing his boss.

Although this provision has been criticised, especially due the country paying a deputy who has not been working, it has more good than harm for the country. That is why the 2022 elections found voters who were accommodative to each other. Moreover, all political pundits agree that the 2022 elections were more issue-based than ethnic-based.

Finally, the only provision that should be adjusted is that the president ought to exit power together with his deputy.

The most just way would be to allow the deputy to contest only after spending one term in the cold to allow the auditing of the government he was part of. If that were the case, we could be talking of a different story in these elections.

Dr Ndonye is a senior lecturer in the School of Music and Media at Kabarak University