William Ruto's tough math of settling debts, rewarding loyalists

DP Rigathi Gachagua, President William Ruto and Prime Cabinet Secretary nominee Musalia Mudavadi. [PSCU]

President William Ruto’s nominations to the Cabinet settled some of the debts he had but it left some of his key allies without a clear future.

Ruto has appointed leaders of parties that supported him, giving a soft landing to election losers and key supporters in the Cabinet and other plum positions.

It was expected that Ruto would go in a different direction from his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta who largely shunned politicians. Ruto has gone with familiar faces.

Alfred Mutua, Moses Kuria, Kithure Kindiki, Peninah Malonza, Mithika Linturi, Ezekiel Machogu, Soipan Tuya, Aden Duale, Kipchumba Murkomen, Florence Bore, Aisha Jumwa, Alice Wahome, Eliud Owalo, Ababu Namwamba, Salim Mvurya and Justin Muturi who was nominated for Attorney General, all cut their teeth as politicians.

But even as Ruto returns some of the favours owed, there are still some that are begging to be paid. Some such as Josphat Nanok, the former Turkana governor, economist David Ndii, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Hassan Omar who vied for Mombasa governor and lost.

Ruto ran an against-the-odds campaign which depended on the support of allies from regions that have traditionally voted for his rival Raila Odinga of Azimio la Umoja.

In the Coast region, he counted on the support of former Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi (now Senate Speaker), Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and Omar. 

In the lower Eastern region, he counted on Alfred Mutua and UDA chairman Johnson Muthama to eat into a base that had proved out of reach due to the influence of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka. ANC chief Musalia Mudavadi, Moses Wetangula of Ford Kenya and Ababu Namwamba who led the charge in Western are revelling in new offices.

President William Ruto when he held a cabinet meeting with outgoing cabinet secretaries at State House Nairobi. [PSCU, Standard]

In Nyanza, Eliud Owalo went against the grain and although his political influence cannot be compared to the likes of Kingi and Jumwa or Mutua and Muthama.

Each of those candidates risked their political survival by putting their careers on the line for a candidate who was unpopular in their home areas.

Jumwa and Omar paid for it by losing. For her troubles, Jumwa has been repaid with a Cabinet position. But is the government big enough to accommodate every one of his allies? The president thinks so.

In September, Ruto assured his allies that the government was big enough and they shouldn’t be worried. “This government is big enough for all of us. Don’t be worried,” Ruto said. It is still unclear whether Ruto will retain the post of Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) which Uhuru created in his second tenure and used to reward his allies, mostly politicians.

It is also unclear whether Ruto intends to reverse any of Uhuru’s last-minute appointments which settled his allies into key positions in the government.

Political analyst Prof Macharia Munene sees Ruto’s Cabinet as balanced, and with representation from all regions.

“I don’t think he made any blunders because some of them are allegedly tainted. If you dig deep enough, you will always find some fault. Allegations should not be an obstacle in appointments,” he said.