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Willy Mutunga: Ruto is a rich man who cuts an image of political hustler

By Andrew Kipkemboi | November 29th 2021

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga. [File, Standard]

“I have done my own investigation people are getting to accept that it will be a race between William Ruto and Raila Odinga. As of now, William Ruto will beat Raila,” is the conclusion of former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga.

Might that be a fake wave? I prod on.

“The 2022 election is a foregone conclusion.” He doubts that a wave similar to the one that the Rainbow Coalition (Narc) rode on in 2002 will ever arrive.

“That wave (the Hustler Nation wave)- and forget the polls… he has captured the imagination of a lot of people.”

“My maid debates me on the Hustler Narrative and she is Luhyia.”

“So it has caught on like ethnicity and religion.”

“The problem is that those on the other side are not countering the narrative except for Raila Odinga who is asking Ruto where he got his money.”

“Suppose Raila is asked where he got his money from?” he wonders.

He pours cold water on the talk of a third liberation propagated by Raila Odinga under the Azimio la Umoja banner and suggests that Raila has been let down by his “intellectual team”.

“The thing is, Ruto has cornered them because they can’t oppose his bottom-up narrative.”

“I get the sense that he is advised and has the brains to repeat what he’s been told…

“The Hustler narrative and the wheelbarrow economics is the brainchild of David Ndii and others… and a candidate who has understood and verbalized the ideology.”

Leaders should listen to their advisers and say why they defer with their advisors, he says.

He says during debates and private banter, Ndii often scoffs at them that radicals like him “have been agitating for ordinary people but have never captured the imagination” of those at the bottom of the food chain like the Hustler Nation narrative.

“Dangerous as it may sound, the Hustler thing is challenging the status quo – the haves versus the have-nots.”

Even though he says Ruto is one of them (of the haves) -and he doesn’t support him- he admits that he (Ruto) “is extremely clever.

DP William Ruto with economist David Ndii and Bumula MP Moses Mabonga at Sawela Resort, Naivasha, Nakuru County. August 23, 2021. [DPPS, Standard]

According to him, Ruto has curved out the image of “ hustler in politics… a hustler among a group of bullies.”

Though he doesn’t support him, he has tweeted and expressed his feelings on what he feels is the “unfairness” meted on Ruto “because that is how it should be… we have to stand with what is right.”

You wouldn’t dismiss  Mutunga’s unflattering words about the March 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila and the Building Bridges Initiative (its by-product) as just the comments of a usual critique.

They are coming from deep down his heart and from a self-declared defender-in-chief of the 2010 Constitution.

“The Handshake and the BBI was a complete fraud… there isn’t anything they couldn’t have done without changing the Constitution.”

Refused to implement

“It (handshake) has given us a dictatorship like no other in Africa where the government in power has two factions; one in the Opposition and the other still government with the Opposition.”

“Why do you tell counties that you will give them 35 per cent (of revenue)? First of all, they haven’t accounted for the 15 per cent properly why do you give more? How do you tell women that you will give them the Two-thirds gender ratio when you can do it? They have just refused to implement.

Quite notable is that by the time he retired in 2016, the Judiciary had not just complied with the gender rule, but “women occupied senior positions in the Judiciary.”

“Look at the official portraits from the Judiciary, Justice Martha Koome (the Chief Justice) is not surrounded by more men, but by more women,” he says with much content.

On the March 2018 handshake: “Raila has been involved in more handshakes than anybody else.”

“With President Moi, President Kibaki and now President Uhuru Kenyatta… the only person he didn’t have a handshake with is President Jomo Kenyatta.”

Those handshakes are in his own interest.

If you are a leader of Opposition how do you join government without consulting your followers… even those of his people around him are hypocrites… they are no different from Ezekiel Bargentuny, Mulu Mutisya and Kariuki Chotara.”

“I see some of them talking and…” he left this sentence hanging. I hope I can find him again for lunch.

He has radical views on the Constitution, politicians and generally, leadership. The next time we have a change of the Constitution, he says; “the role of Parliament will be significantly reduced to legislation, connected to counties or at worst, abolished.”

He faults Raila Odinga for his role in pushing for the BBI.

ODM leader Raila Odinga. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

“If people like Raila had thought of it that way instead of increasing the number of MPs… the most important thing in the 2010 Constitution is devolution… once that is secured there is no MP who will vote against increasing money for devolution because they will be voted out.”

With the decentralisation of power, “the Office of the President and being president becomes nominal because it is decentralised and democratised.”

He has a positive appraisal of devolution so far.

“I saw that in Kitui, governor Julius Malombe (2013-2017) was stopped by 20 people… they told him they had a wedding the next day and they needed a road fixed. He told them someone will come and fix it… the people said no, call that person now and tell them to come.”

The governor obliged.

He is hopeful that as devolution takes root and as structures become stronger and the change is institutionalised, there will be less stealing and wastage.

“If devolution works properly, governors will not take a cent, if they do, they will be hanged by the people.”

He thinks we are in the fifth liberation and admits that the 2010 Constitution has its weaknesses and those who will lead its change and full implementation will lead the fourth and perhaps the fifth liberation struggle.

“That would need Kenyans to be angry enough, but they aren’t.”

He would put his money on Prof Kivutha Kibwana- the Makueni Governor- if he were to run, but regrets that the law professor- a former student of his- has not made up his mind yet.

To him, Prof Kibwana would make the people imagine that new alternative leadership “beyond the traditional “barons from the five big tribes” Kikuyu, Kalenjin, Luo, Luhya and Kamba is possible.

Only an alternative leadership can challenge these two narratives from barons from the five big communities, he concludes.

And adds that the third liberation is over.

“It ended with the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution… then we started another liberation to implement it.”

Even that is not yet complete. The Freedom of Information for example is still unrealized.

“If not, media would have access to the SGR contract by now.”

He pays glowing tribute to his successor David Maraga for standing up to the Executive.

It is during Maraga’s reign that petitions challenging decisions of the President Uhuru Kenyatta have been filed and upheld. That is historical, if nothing.

In retirement, the former Chief Justice loves to read books and texts on religion and listen to Indian music and watching Indian movies.

His primary schoolmate Anwa Bondo a Bohra Muslim (and an Indian) spoke Kamba and would translate the movies for him. Anwa’s father was a shopkeeper. He is attracted to the music in the movies.

“In a 2-hour Indian movie, 45 minutes is music,” he says.

He also listens to Taaraab music especially those of Juma Bhalo a renowned Taarab musician (now deceased).

Though most of the time now, he spends with youth groups seeking his advice on change.

“What lessons they can learn from our mistakes.”

He is also writing a book on jurisprudence.

Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga. [File, Standard]

He searches into his mind… then fishes another idea. He wants to establish a church on human rights and social justice.

He is seeking for a multidenominational engagement “space for counter-narratives”.

“The mainstream religious organisations don’t want to look at the politics of Jesus and Mohammed… they have confined themselves to the theological aspects.”

He is vouching for questions such as: who are our Nehemiahs, Elijah, Esthers of the present-day world.

And calls for conversations on prosperity gospel manifest in unquestioning deference to the pastor.

“In some places, people take their eggs, their only possession to the pastor… why?” To him this is akin to exploiting the poor and gives the example of billionaires who have made money from building in slums and earning rent from the poor.

He recommends Lesley Hazleston’s The First Muslim: The Story of Muhammad to practicing Muslims. The book argues that the prophet Mohammed is a human “with frailties.”  Lesley has also written other books including Jerusalem, Jerusalem: A memoir of War and Peace, Passion and Politics and After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam.

He reads a lot and that is why he despises “intellectual laziness” which he says is prevalent in the age of click baits and social media.

Reading affords one the confidence to critique from context and a point of information, he adds.

He also enjoys an evening walk if not on the trainer that the Judiciary gave him as a retirement gift.  On any given day, he does 10km.

Weekend walks with friends in Karura Forest are also a feature of his life. “I see them and I curse,” he exclaims when I reveal to him my passion of riding bicycles.

The fresh air in Karura makes him reminisce about the 2004 Peace Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai who led a sustained protest against the excision of the forest for human settlement.

He says he looks at the mansions neighbouring the forest and for a second appreciates the effort the civic activist, former MP and assistant minister put in to save what has been declared as the “lungs of Nairobi.”

“Whenever I go to Karura, when I get back home, I say a prayer for Prof Wangari Maathai.”

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