Why Ruto’s US and UK tour was a game changer

Deputy President William Ruto at Mt Calvary Baptist Church Lanham, Maryland.

Deputy President William Ruto concluded a 10-day visit to Washington DC and London, capitals of Kenya’s foremost traditional friends that are also important fulcrums for democracy. The trip has been a success.

One, Dr Ruto has effectively used this twin visit to share and elucidate the foreign policy direction his administration would take in the event he wins in August. He did this with clarity of mind and passion, in his engagements with both State officials and think-tanks like Carnegie and Chatham House.

While he assured Kenya’s global friends and partners that there would be no major shift in the country’s core foreign policy posture, he nonetheless underscored a shift in the manner of its deployment and focus of its execution.

His administration would be more creative and robust in engaging the world beyond Kenya’s borders, with a premium on commercial and economic diplomacy to accelerate the country’s growth in real terms and share prosperity within our geopolitical neighbourhood and beyond. The DP reassured the US and the UK that programmes such as Kenya’s respective bilateral strategic partnerships with them would be guaranteed continuity.

Two, he drew attention to the special place Kenya holds as the anchor State in the East and Horn of Africa region, given the pivotal role the country plays in peace, security and stability and as a bulwark against radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorism.

Dr Ruto joined the dots to the August 2022 elections, declaring it a crossroads moment that will determine whether Kenya consolidates her democratic gains under the revolutionary 2010 Constitution, or joins the league of the world’s regressing democracies.

He stated his commitment to defend the Constitution against short-sighted dismemberment that would roll back the country’s gains as a constitutional democracy. He also shared his vision for both political and economic inclusion as the ultimate panacea for the history of exclusion that breeds resentment, tensions and even violence.

Three, this visit has wiped out the politically woven myth that Dr Ruto had neither the contacts nor the profile to engage the international community. Some even painted him as persona non grata, unwanted and unwelcome in the world’s top capitals.

He was warmly received by his multiple hosts, and in his usual robust fashion, he did not disappoint. He engaged his hosts and audiences at every opportunity, in private and public.

Dr Ruto engaged all the interlocutors with confidence, knowledge and wit of your quintessential seasoned diplomat. From Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs Mary Catherine Molly Phee at the State Department to the National Security Council (NSC), Senior Director for Africa Dana Banks at the White House in DC, from UK Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, to Minister for Africa, Vicky Ford, at the Whitehall and some warm discourse at the House of Lords in London, there was no doubt that Kenya’s global friends and partners would be at home with a Ruto administration.

I found it particularly refreshing how Dr Ruto projected the collegiate face of his leadership by involving his delegation in the discourses.

ANC leader and Kenya Kwanza Coalition partner Musalia Mudavadi was fully engaged, and provided insights on such crucial issues as prudent fiscal policy. The Deputy President also engaged the Kenyan Diaspora.

The writer is Head of International Relations at the WSR presidential campaign