Ruto gets warm reception in Raila Nyanza bastion after 'handshake'

President William Ruto is received by Governor Gladys Wanga upon arriving in Homa Bay County. [PCS]

President William Ruto has said plans to have Raila Odinga become the next African Union Commission Chairman are on course, a day after the two met President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.

And Ruto on Tuesday visited Raila’s bastion in Homa Bay where he cryptically addressed cheering crowds, an indication that the two have buried the hatchet.

This was the first time Ruto was visiting Raila’s Nyanza backyard after his administration threw his weight behind his bid to capture the top AU seat.

No loser

“Remember the things I told you when I was here during campaigns. I told you that nobody would be a loser at the end of the day. I told you I would make plans but some people thought it was a joke. But now things are okay and moving on swiftly as you can all see,” Ruto said at Tom Mboya University College when he officially opened the Second Homa Bay County International Investment Conference.

“I remember telling you that time that I will unify this country and we will work together for the benefit of all of us and there is space for all of us in Kenya. You do not win by making everyone lose since we want a win-win outcome for all of us,” Ruto said.

Pictures of Ruto, Museveni and Raila walking behind long-horned Ankole cows on Monday caused a stir in Kenya.

The Standard can report behind-the-scenes preparations that made the meeting possible and the motives that brought the powerful men who months ago could not see eye to eye together.

Kenya’s project

The Monday meeting between the duo and Uganda president crystallised the talk that Raila is Kenya’s project in the race to succeed African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. 

Apparently, Ruto and Raila had travelled separately to Uganda. As the two presidents held talks in Kisozi about matters of mutual concern to the two nations, Raila, who sources indicated had flown to Uganda on Sunday, was in Kampala.

Details have emerged that Raila and Ruto are on a charm offensive mission to have E))ast Africa field a joint candidate for AUC to avoid the frustrations that Kenya has faced before her neighbours.

Multiple sources said the discussions held at Museveni’s farm delved into the contentious issues that have strained ties between the two nations.

“Ruto, Raila and Museveni were accompanied by their aides, ministers, and cabinet secretaries, but they left them to have a chat on the farm, just the three of them,” said one of the aides.

The fear of Kenya losing its pivotal position in the East African Community (EAC) and a significant dip in exports to Uganda, particularly in the oil sector, prompted the leaders to convene. Recent statistics reveal that Kenya suffered a substantial loss of $200 million (KSh 32.2 billion) in oil exports to Uganda between October and December 2023 alone.

“Kenya and Uganda are committed to deepening the long-established diplomatic and economic ties between our two countries. This relationship includes bringing all seven East African Community nations closer in their ultimate goal to form the East African Political Federation,” Ruto said.

This economic setback raised concerns not only about Kenya’s standing in the EAC but also about the potential loss of the African Union (AU) post for the nation, where Ruto is pushing for Raila’s bid to succeed Faki.

A pivotal point in the negotiations was Museveni’s endorsement of Raila’s AU candidature at a time when Uganda had initially supported former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, while Tanzania leaned towards former President Jakaya Kikwete.

The meeting also resulted in significant developments regarding energy infrastructure.

President William Ruto and Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga at Yoweri Museveni's farm in Kisozi, Uganda. [PCS]

President Ruto, acknowledging the changing dynamics, agreed to a deal wherein Uganda would construct a pipeline from Kisumu to Uganda. This move is seen as an attempt to reaffirm Kenya’s role as a key supplier of fuel to the region, addressing concerns of losing its gateway status.

Raila has since expressed gratitude to the two leaders for backing his candidacy.

“I am very grateful to President Museveni for strongly endorsing my candidacy and to President Ruto for fully backing it,” said Raila wrote his X account.

Two hours later, President Ruto took to the same platform to announce on his handle that they had resolved the issues affecting the flow of petroleum products between Kenya and Uganda.
“Museveni used negotiations to demand that Kenya review its decision to levy his country for transportation of fuel while in return he was to back Raila’s candidacy and also to withdraw the court case,” a source said.

Before flying to Uganda, Ruto and Raila had both attended the burial of Namibia President Hage Geingob on Saturday.

Sources indicated that during the Namibian meeting, both Ruto and Raila reportedly approached former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete and the country’s President Suluhu requesting that the country step down in favour of Raila.

Sources indicate that Ruto, aware of his predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta’s mistakes, was keen on consolidating a formidable EAC candidate in the person of Raila.

And even though Kenya had a diplomatic tiff with Rwanda, they expect to convince President Paul Kagame to support Raila as Kenya has been supporting Faki’s Deputy Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, who hails from Rwanda.

And in an interesting turn of events,  Gender and Culture Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa yesterday visited Raila at his Capitol Hill office to brief him on the progressive report on the two-thirds gender rule. She was accompanied by members of the Multi-Sectoral Working Group, which presented the proposals to the National Dialogues Committee (NADCO) team co-chaired by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Gentleman’s agreement

The handshake between Ruto and Raila started as a gentleman’s agreement in April, last year, after weeks of street demonstrations that paralysed the country.

Despite Ruto’s hard political stand that he would never enter into a political pact with Raila, details are emerging that their secret meeting attended by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo reached a compromise on Raila’s exit strategy from Kenyan politics.

“The president had refused to meet Raila or any of his representatives but after Obasanjo convinced the President he agreed. The president was under pressure from the Kenya Kwanza hardliners who loathed the idea of giving in to Raila’s demands,” said a source.

The Mombasa meeting came shortly after Tanzania President Samia Suluhu spent two days in Kenya in efforts to bring the truce between the two leaders. Ruto refused to meet his Tanzanian counterpart, leaving Raila and Suluhu to keep waiting at Mount Kenya Safari Club on July 12 and July 13 in vain.

Raila could later vent and accuse Ruto of inviting Suluhu only to snub the meeting.

Suluhu’s efforts and later Obasanjo’s involvement came at a time when both Ruto and Raila had separately reached to a compromise, with the latter agreeing to call off the protests and the former agreeing to initiate the bipartisan talks.