William Ruto has golden chance to ignite robust oversight

President William Ruto when he delivered his maiden speech after he was sworn in as the fifth president. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

President William Ruto is not revered by the mainstream governance and human rights civil society groups and in equal measure, he is thought not to venerate them. Their relationship has been frosty.

Their differences have been premised mainly on ideological positions taken on different national issues. It is safe to say their differences are not personal but political and professionally rational.

In the just concluded elections, prominent civil society leaders supported Raila Odinga against Ruto. In 2017, the civil society backed Raila's candidature and subsequently his petition at the Supreme Court which resulted in the nullification of the Uhuru-Ruto win. In 2013 when Uhuru and Ruto faced the ICC, civil society supported Raila. And in 2010, they supported the campaign for the current Constitution, which Ruto opposed.

Unlike Ruto, Raila is a darling of the civil society. He has shared a fair share of his political life in the opposition, where he has worked with them. Some of the historical moments through which he joined hands with the civil society include the agitation for multi-partyism. They have participated in countless pro-reform campaigns.

Based on this historical cordiality, a Raila presidency would have been bad for the civil society. This is mainly because they would go to bed with their comrade, and as a result lose sight of the goal - to limit State power, counter impunity and demand quality public service. How would they say bad things about their fellow?

During the Kibaki - Raila time in government, just like during the handshake period, civil society was largely less combative in their demand for reforms, accountability, people's rights, administrative efficiency and quality public service.

Although Raila has always been known to stand up for the people in collaboration with the civil society, he was unable to do the same at the time of the handshake.

Civil society on the other hand was unable to fill in the space and oversight the state mainly because the state was in bed with Raila.

Oversighting the state seemed more like questioning Raila. Although Raila was not in government, his close association and deep support of the state made him inseparable with the state.

Had Raila won, his relation with the civil society would have gone against Hegel's theory of civil society - state relation. Hegel argued that civil society is a space of Lacuna that exist between the state and the individual, with the sole responsibility of championing for the interests of the citizens.

President Ruto is therefore good for reigniting the oversight flame in the civil society. He has maintained an ideological difference with them mainly on public policy matters.

Actually, at the times when the civil society has been at best in checking the government of the day, Ruto has always been on the opposite side. A continuation of such a relationship is healthy and progressive for the nation as long as it remains grounded on rational ideological differences.

The writer is a public policy analyst