Ruto, too, uses State security to tame rivals

Police officers arrest a man during Azimio la Umoja's anti-government protests in Mathare, Nairobi on July 19, 2023. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

As Deputy President, William Ruto found himself stripped of some of his security detail in August, 2021, at the height of a feud with his then-boss President Uhuru Kenyatta.

After their fallout, Ruto fell victim to the decades-old state tactic aimed at ensuring that ‘errant’ politicians and out-of-favour public servants toed the line. General Service Unit (GSU) officers guarding DP Ruto's official residences were withdrawn and replaced with Administration Police officers.

The President had days earlier publicly asked his deputy to resign if unsatisfied and his relationship with Raila Odinga was viewed by political critics as a strongman to tame his deputy.

And when Ruto won the August presidential election, he chose to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, reneging on his post-election vow not to use the police to interfere with the opposition.

In February, he ‘returned the favour’ by downsizing Uhuru’s security detail in a move termed by the Inspector General of Police Japeth Koome as a normal police moderation process. He also withdrew the guards of former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and former Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.

Fast forward to the ongoing anti-government protests and the opposition is up in arms over the withdrawal of security for Raila, Kalonzo Musyoka and Martha Karua.

This even as news of the planned arrest of opposition leader Raila emerged on Thursday. 

And for the first time since August 1961, the home of the colonial government built after releasing Jomo Kenyatta from prison was on Thursday without bodyguards.

The same fate befell Muthaiga residence, where former First Lady Mama Ngina Kenyatta, has called home for over half a century.

Instead of the dreaded GSU officers, the posh residence was being guarded by a private security company.

Other politicians who are legally entitled to state protection had their security withdrawn after the government moved to rein in the opposition leaders who have continued with the protests against the rising cost of living.

And if Thursday’s protests were anything to go by, the withdrawal of security left the leaders exposed, so much so that they elected to co-ordinate the protests from afar only to emerge later in the evening.

The opposition has accused the State of deploying plain-clothes officers to mete violence on Azimio supporters.

The opposition on Thursday castigated the state for withdrawing their security and the arrest of leaders and supporters.

“Last night, Embakasi MP Babu Owino was arrested and is being held incommunicado. Today, Hon Ken Chonga MP Kilifi South and Speaker Teddy Mwambire have been arrested and detained at an unknown place,” said Narc Kenya leader Karua.

“We demand for the immediate release of those detained noting that their detention is not only malicious but also unlawful. If it were not so, they would have been taken before the courts and charged immediately,” said Karua, revealing that Raila's aide Denis Onyango and bodyguard Maurice Ogeta had also been arrested.

“Their continued unlawful detention which the Ruto regime has sanctioned, together with the excessive force being used in Mathare, Kibera, Embakasi, Kilifi, Kisii, Kisumu and all over the country is in flagrant violation of our constitution and laws.”

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