William Ruto: This is why I differ with President Uhuru Kenyatta

Deputy President William Ruto during an interview at his residence in Karen on June 24, 2021. (Denish Ochieng, Standard)

Deputy President William Ruto on Thursday night lifted the lid on the sticking points between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In the process, he faulted Uhuru on a host of issues and drew an alternate vision for Kenya.

In a Crossfire interview on KTN and KTN News, Ruto repeatedly repulsed invitations to discuss President Kenyatta’s conduct towards him, but still went hammer and tongs at him over underperformance of Big 4 Agenda, the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), the crisis in the Judiciary and the state of Jubilee. 

He blamed persons entrusted by the president to run Jubilee for letting things fall apart, rebuffing his attempt to bring order back to the party, and for letting the party leader down. 

He named secretary general Raphael Tuju and vice chair David Murathe as the culprits, but also admitted it was partly his mistake.

“With a lot of respect, we are not going to engage in a discussion about the president here. The president is my boss. I have tremendous respect for him.

“I know him very well; he can speak for himself. He is very articulate,” Ruto said while warding off questions from Sophia Wanuna on his relations with the president.

In the past, Ruto has openly opposed BBI, Uhuru’s project.

In the interview he heightened his opposition, comparing the process to the 1982 repeal of the Constitution which transformed Kenya into a full-blown dictatorship of one-party state.

He said the process would set a bad precedent for those who access high political office.

Uhuru, alongside Opposition leader Raila Odinga, have been selling BBI as the panacea for the cycle of election violence.

But Ruto said he had read BBI cover-to-cover and had not seen any provision stopping people from disputing electoral outcomes.

Vouching for his “different view”, he congratulated the courts for stopping the process.

“The courts did very well...,“ he said.

On the judicial appointments saga, he said if he were the president, he would appoint all judges as recommended by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

He blamed government mandarins for failure to grasp the full scope of Big 4 Agenda, saying they did not understand it.

“We had a discussion, and the president suggested how he wanted his second term to look.

“And he wanted to try other hands to assist him in the delivery of these functions,” he said.

Ruto said if he had the same latitude as he had in the first term, many things would have changed.

The remarks were a direct charge at Uhuru’s recent assertion that he had achieved much more in his second term than in his first.

He opposed the talk on postponing elections as advanced by Central Organisation of Trade Unions boss Francis Atwoli, a close ally of Uhuru and Raila.

On BBI...

“The only parallel I can think of is 1982 when the law was repealed to turn Kenya into a single party state.

“BBI poses danger to the rule of law because we are setting a precedent that if you have State power, influence and money you can change the Constitution the way you want,” said Ruto.

The DP said Kenya would be treading on dangerous grounds as those in power would use shortcuts to rewrite the Constitution to weaken other arms of government that they see as an impediment to their political quest.

He cited the proposed creation of the Ombudsman to supervise the Judiciary as an attempt to weaken the Judiciary and have it operate at the behest of the Executive.

He said that those pushing for a hybrid system where MPs are also ministers were the same people who had argued that it was an incestuous system that made accountability difficult.

“As things stand now, BBI is illegal, unconstitutional; it is null and void to the extent that court has said.

“We must not set a precedent that you can change the Constitution using unconstitutional and unlawful means,” said Ruto.

On Big 4 agenda...

He admitted that the regime had spectacularly failed to deliver on its Big 4 Agenda of housing, food security, universal health care and manufacturing after he was sidelined in the running of the government.

He said the administration achieved a lot in its first term when they were still working together, citing major infrastructure developments like the Standard Gauge Railway.

“The people assigned the responsibility by the president did not live up to the expectation of the president. The president has been let down by the people he assigned to run the projects,” said Ruto.

“To be brutally honest, the success around the Big 4 is debatable; we have not rolled out the housing programme as expected. We can say that by now, we should have had a million houses and we are doing between 3,000 and 4,000 houses,” he said.

He said that the initial template to deliver the universal health care programme also flopped, adding that he would have done it differently.

“I believe that we would have done it differently. The people assigned by the president did not understand it. I was part, to a large extent, of what happened in the first term and in my rating, we did very well,” said Ruto.

On Jubilee-ODM ties

He described the planned coalition pact between Jubilee and ODM as “tragic” both in conception, execution and impact on the political scene.

He said the decision was taken by a few individuals in the ruling party without consulting party members, thus leaving them to look for options like the United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

Jubilee is badly damaged, he said, failing to hold any retreat or parliamentary group (PG) meeting, claiming that MPs were only being summoned when the party was kicking out perceived rebels.

“When I asked the people where they wanted to go, they said it is UDA…(because) when the people running Jubilee finally decided that they are going to merge Jubilee and ODM, it was obvious most people in Jubilee were not in the same frame of mind,” said Ruto.

“People were not consulted and it became obvious for us that the any attempt to salvage Jubilee would be in vain. If Jubilee merges with ODM, everybody is at liberty to exercise their democratic right of either joining the coalition or going to UDA,” Ruto said.

On the 2022 General Election...

He described individuals calling for the postponement of the 2022 General Election agents of impunity.

The attempts are “unconstitutional and illegal” and election date remains second Tuesday of August next year, he said.

“The people who are talking about the postponement of the election have told us that we must change the Constitution whether we like it or not and if we don’t we are going to postpone the elections. That is the language of impunity and it has no space in Kenya,” said Ruto.

“I know for sure that this administration will not accept to do anything unconstitutional and illegal. I am very sure that there will be elections next year, second Tuesday of August and Kenyans will elect their leaders. That possibility of postponing the elections does not exist.” 

On the Judiciary...

He said he would have appointed High Court justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Aggrey Muchelule, and Weldon Korir to the Appellate court, as well as Chief Magistrate Evans Makori and High Court registrar Judith Omange to their new roles.

He concurred with with the former chief justices David Maraga and Willy Mutunga that a president is constitutionally bound to appoint all judges nominated by the JSC.

“The people who arewell versed in matters law and Constitution – Willy Mutunga and David Maraga – have said clearly that the right thing that should have happened was for all judges to be appointed and subsequently, if there are integrity issues on any judge, the normal process that involves a tribunal, and those judges being subjected to due process, should have been followed,” said Ruto.

On ethnicity...

He said ethnicity was not a major problem in Kenya compared to poor leadership and bad economy.

“We need leaders who can think and work beyond tribe. The second thing is the economy... we have to get the correct policy to give us more jobs, not positions,” he said.

Sharing power, he said, would not solve the problems ordinary people are facing. He vouched for a bottom-up approach to economy, focusing on ordinary Kenyans.

“They are not telling us the truth, Kenya can change tremendously. We can change this country in our lifetime if we get the right prognosis,” he said.

He described as nonsense the approach where communities are accommodated at the top on the simple basis of inclusion, as opposed to the ideas they bring on the table.   

[email protected]