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President William Ruto has his way as opposition camp wavers

President William Ruto with National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula when he promptly visited parliament on October 5, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

President William Ruto is a man on a roll and seems to have mixed charisma, scheming and luck to have his way in the early days of the presidency, beating all opposition and legal obstacles.

Deploying a mix of negotiation, persuasion and tough-talking, Ruto is firmly in charge of the Executive while the church seems to be eating from his palm.

Cases which would have impeded his Cabinet nominees vetting in Parliament have been dropped. The petitioners are no longer interested in challenging the eligibility of some of the Cabinet nominees and other elected leaders in Kenya Kwanza stable.

Ruto seems to have all his ducks in a line and has learned to shoot the target without missing. Since the nasty fallout with former President Uhuru Kenyatta, the self-styled chief hustler cobbled a well-oiled machine that encompassed tribe and religion and other social strata.

When the Houses convened for its first business, what had been expected to be a tough duel was like a coronation for National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula and his Senate counterpart Amason Kingi. The opposition was quickly subdued.

At the National Assembly, Wetang’ula had a walkover after his main challenger fronted by Azimio la Umoja One Kenya, Kalonzo Musyoka withdrew from the Speaker race shortly before the vote.

And as Ruto rides the crest of his success, sweeping aside the opposition, he has pushed through some controversial policies such as the lifting of the ban on genetically modified foods and crops.

He has also quashed the fuel and unga subsidies which had been effected by President Kenyatta’s government, triggering an all-time high petrol pump price of Sh179 per litre.

Ruto has also appointed a 49-member task force to review the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) and come up with recommendations.

Ruto savoured his latest success yesterday when Wetang’ula confirmed that Kenya Kwanza was the Majority in the National Assembly. This development means that he has absolute control of the two Houses and will smoothly drive his agenda. 

Had Azimio’s bid to be declared the Majority side succeeded, the President would have been in an awkward position as government Bills would have been tabled in Parliament by the opposition. 

Belgut MP Nelson Koech said Ruto’s charisma was making him win in all sectors. “He is a political chess master, it is not that things are not getting into his way, he plans and executes with precision,” said Mr Koech.

On Thursday, Raila’s campaign manager and former Laikipia Governor Ndiritu Muriithi said they were democratic and would allow the Kenya Kwanza Alliance “to enjoy their 100 days before we begin to criticise them.”

“We will not be visible until after December. In the meantime, we have given them time to build their government and plan. We do not want to be blamed for diverting their attention. During that time, they may succeed or self-destruct,” said Mr Muriithi. 

When the governors convened in Mombasa a week ago, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru (UDA) was elected as the chair of the Council of Governors. On Wednesday, Ms Waiguru’s challenger, Wangui Ngirici indicated that she would withdraw the election petition.

There was more good news for another Ruto nominee for the Agriculture docket, Mithika Lintuli after a complainant who had accused him of rape and indecent assault withdrew the complaint.

The President’s praising of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has made him a darling of other constitutional commissions. 

But there have been some casualties too. The Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti was the first to tender his resignation while the Inspector General of Police, Hilary Mutyambai took a terminal leave on health grounds, paving way for the appointment of a new police chief.

The swift Executive Order giving the police independence of financial muscle from the overbearing office of the President raised Ruto’s ratings.

With police now not subservient to the Office of the President, he has silenced critics who thought he would discard the promise as soon as he assumes office.

With the control of the two Houses, it is expected that the House Committees will be headed by seasoned loyalists who will help transact and pass Kenya Kwanza agenda in the Parliament.

In an uncharacteristic fashion, Ruto took to the global stage to enchant the local and geopolitical with a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The Cabinet appointments that largely rewarded loyalists and reflected a regional political face, is seen as an attempt to keep in touch with the people on the ground.

Ruto’s modus operandi cuts an image of a man on a mission. With a series of Cabinet meetings with the outgoing Cabinet Secretaries, he has left friend and foe confused.

Away from the arms of government, he has established a communion with churches whose leaders have been trooping to State House for Sunday services.

The first Sunday after he was sworn in, the President hosted a group of clerics from the evangelicals at State House for prayers. On the day he was declared the winner on August 13, Ruto said that his “victory was because of God.”

The pastors claim that President Ruto had entered into a memorandum of understanding with them during the campaign period where he promised to create a special docket and also sought some privileges including exemption from taxation while importing religious commodities and a registrar of churches.