William Ruto's tour of the US kicks up storm in Kenya

Deputy President William Ruto and Ambassador Johnnie Carson a senior Advisor at the Unites States Institute during a panel discussion at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Security in Washington DC. [DPPS, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto has been away from the country for a week, but his remarks abroad have made him the talk of the town and heightened political temperatures back home.

As he shuttles cities and states in the United States, the DP continues to trigger storms with his words and actions. From claims of vote-rigging, a staple of the opposition in years gone, to visits to the seat of global politics, Ruto has done more than just ruffle feathers.

His critics claim he is on a mission to depict an image of a dystopic country, in which corruption and anarchy thrive, while democracy is on trial. They have also claimed the DP entourage is not entirely truthful on places and persons he has been visiting and meeting.

Yet, Ruto’s current claims are not strange, given that past opposition parties, led in particular, by ODM leader Raila Odinga, have made similar allegations – vote-rigging, corruption and anarchy – before.

In 2017, the Supreme Court nullified President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was found to have engaged in irregularities and illegalities.

Uhuru yesterday joined the fray, accusing his deputy of laying grounds to reject results of the August 9 presidential election.

Through State House spokesperson Kanze Dena, Uhuru said Ruto has sensed defeat and is thus spreading false claims that the election would be rigged.

Pengine ni dhana anataka kuweka akilini mwa wananchi ndio itakapokuja ndivyo sivyo isemekane ni…. (Perhaps he wants to plant the idea in the minds of Kenyans so that when things don’t go as he expects, people will doubt the results),” Dena said yesterday on Inooro FM, in response to Ruto’s claims that the government was planning to “choreograph” the election.

She termed the rigging claims “laughable” stating that Uhuru had expressed clear intentions to oversee a free and fair transition.

“The inter-agency task force was set up to ensure the election was free and fair. The task force had stakeholders from various institutions. Would the president have set it if he intended to influence the election?” Dena posed.

She said the truth would eventually bear out the president in August, once he leaves office, handing over in a free and fair process.

In an interview by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Ruto yesterday said that he would accept the result of the August election.

“That is what a democrat is. And that is the question (accepting the result) I want all the other competitors to answer. It should be a straight answer – yes or no,” Ruto said.

In a first, the DP hailed the nullification of the 2017 presidential election as “a turning point in judicial independence in our continent”.

“We criticised the Judiciary because we felt that we had won the election… we still obeyed the law and we obeyed the ruling… criticism is just an expression, but the test of the pudding is in the eating,” he added.

Ruto also delved into his relationship with Uhuru, saying he has a divergent point of view on the direction the country should take with the president, adding that Uhuru had been too aggressive with him. ?

Raila had been early to the party, hitting out at the DP on his vote-rigging allegations, terming them “reckless, irresponsible and uncalled for.”

“The Deputy President is a high-ranking government official whose public pronouncements cannot be taken lightly, let alone when he pronounces himself on an international platform. Dr Ruto’s wild allegations that there is a plan to rig the upcoming election and claims of intimidation from the government are aimed at fanning emotions and creating tribal tensions ahead of the August elections,” Dennis Onsarigo, press secretary of Raila’s presidential campaign secretariat said on Thursday.

IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati also weighed in, saying the commission would investigate Ruto’s claims once it had reviewed his sentiments.

“I have not personally looked into the remarks in detail. All aspirants are bound by a code of conduct. We shall look into his (Ruto’s) statement and investigate the claims,” Chebukati said in Nakuru after signing a memorandum of understanding with the Kenya media sector working group.

The IEBC boss assured of the election’s integrity.

“As a commission, we are fully prepared. With the kind of transparency we have committed to with various stakeholders, chances of rigging the coming election are almost nil,” Chebukati added.

The IEBC is no stranger to controversy. Until recently, the opposition led a push to have Chebukati and his team ousted from the electoral body, owing to the bungled 2017 election.

The opposition would boycott the fresh elections ordered by then Chief Justice David Maraga-led Supreme Court, insisting that it could not trust Chebukati’s IEBC.

The push to overhaul the agency went on well into Uhuru’s handshake with Raila, with the loudest calls emerging last year from Raila’s ODM before the former prime minister urged them to put the matter to rest.

Leading the charge was the party’s chairperson John Mbadi.

“They should stop everything they are doing if we are to have credible elections in 2022. It is about the trust and confidence of the public in the electoral process. We know they are assigning various staff duties. What is the hurry? Someone started the usual mischief,” Mbadi said in August last year.

“The way the political tide has changed in the country has triggered panic among our competitors. Those areas that were seen not supporting ODM and Raila now have renewed vigour. We are now having a problem with dealing with those joining us,” Mbadi said on Thursday, hitting out at Ruto for the vote-rigging claims.

Previous commissions have been kicked out over alleged vote-rigging. Such include the late Samuel Kivuitu’s that oversaw the 2007 election, whose result Kivuitu admitted had been “cooked”.

A successive one, led by Isaak Hassan, was hounded from office after it was accused by the opposition of bungling the 2013 election.