Uhuru win puts Ruto firmly on State House succession path

Sunday August 13 2017

Thumbs up. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto with their certificates after they were declared winners by IEBC at Bomas of Kenya on August 11, 2017. President Kenyatta’s victory placed DP Ruto firmly on the succession path. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Thumbs up. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto with their certificates after they were declared winners by IEBC at Bomas of Kenya on August 11, 2017. President Kenyatta’s victory placed DP Ruto firmly on the succession path. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JULIUS SIGEI
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President Uhuru Kenyatta’s victory in the Tuesday elections placed his deputy William Ruto firmly on the succession path.

In many ways, Mr Ruto had a big stake in this election as a defeat would have roundly derailed his ambitions.

Jubilee insiders say the 50-year-old Ruto was the engine of their campaigns.

They credit him for the inroads they made in Opposition turfs, a feat that saw him visit these areas many times ahead of Tuesday’s election.

An articulate employer of Kalenjin, English and Kiswahili idiom, Mr Ruto’s sharp tongue can turn any statement from an opponent on its head and deliver a deadly blow of a taunt so much so that those on the receiving end find his eloquence condescending.

URP

In 2013 his remarkable political networks saw his party, URP, which was hurriedly put together after his acrimonious exit from ODM, sweep the boards in Rift Valley and garner 60-odd MPs across the country, including in regions like Busia, Kuria and North Eastern.

Mr Ruto then went ahead to negotiate for himself key ministries such as Finance and Energy, dockets historically left to the President in coalition governments.

Now in the aftermath of their disputed victory, the DP will be seen within Central Kenya as the man who masterminded president Kenyatta’s re-election.

The thinking within Mr Ruto’s corner and analysts, however think that the honeymoon might not last long as Mount Kenya region could begin consolidating itself to groom President Kenyatta’s successor. 

KIKUYU NATIONALISM

And while this caution might be a little exaggerated, those who advance the possibility of a resurgence of Kikuyu nationalism post-2017 point to the fact that while President Kenyatta may be personally committed to keeping to his promise to back Mr Ruto next time around, there are many around him, including a powerful central Kenya wealthy businessmen, who would prefer to front their own candidate.

The thinking is that if they don’t field their own presidential candidate, these Mount Kenya tycoons will almost certainly insist on a Kikuyu running mate.

This could complicate matters since Mr Ruto might want to expand Jubilee from what is now a Kalenjin-Kikuyu elite partnership.

But even taking Mr Ruto’s mobilisation skills into consideration, those who know government affairs since Kibaki times, however, warn that power lies in the security apparatus and civil service.

POWER BASE

“The problem is that Ruto has not been aggressive in building a power base within the civil service. He has not got a strong man or woman with intellect, imagination and ability to be his hands in the civil service,” explained Dr Kiprono Chesang, a political science scholar.

Back at home while this election firmly secured Mr Ruto’s perch in Kalenjin leadership after he neutralised one of his main challengers, former Bomet governor Isaac  Ruto, he must be alive to the fact that a number of “rebels” in the region secured re-election.

The most prominent is Kanu chairman and Baringo senator Gideon Moi who was not only re-elected, but also won a number of seats in the region.

These are West Pokot governor-elect Prof John Lonyangapuo, West Pokot senator-elect Samuel Poghisio, Baringo woman rep-elect Gladwell Cheruiyot, Tiaty MP-elect William Kamket, Rongai’s Raymond Moi and Emurua Dikirr’s Johanna Ng’eno.

The latter has been one of the most virulent critics of the DP.

AGAINST RUTO

Even though Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago and MPs Oscar Sudi and Alfred Keter, all of whom also bounced back, are all Jubilee party men, they have not shied away from loudly speaking out against the DP on occasions.

It is also noteworthy that the vanquished Bomet governor’s Chama Cha Mashinani won two parliamentary seats – Chepalungu’s Leonard Koske and Narok West’s Gabriel Tong’oyo.

Mr Moi’s declared bid for the Presidency in 2022 also puts him in direct competition with Mr Ruto for the Kalenjin vote as well as leaving the nagging possibility that the Central Kenya elite have a real alternative to Mr Ruto were they to need one.

CENTRAL ROLE

Mr Ruto has played a central role in all elections since the return of multiparty politics.

In 1992, at only 26, he wormed his way to President Daniel Moi’s court and helped mobilise votes under the Youth for Kenya 92 banner.

In 1997, Ruto ran for Parliament and won. He became an assistant minister.

In the 2002 elections he helped Uhuru run a vigorous campaign that tried to stop the euphoric revolution of 2002 that unclamped Kanu’s 40-year rule.

In 2005, he and other Kanu stalwarts joined hands with disgruntled Narc politicians led by Raila Odinga to hand President Kibaki’s government a crushing defeat in the referendum for a new Constitution.

In 2007 Mr Ruto rallied the Kalenjin behind Mr Odinga and was appointed Agriculture Minister in the grand coalition government

By 2010 his differences with Mr Odinga, were irreconcilable that he was sacked from the Cabinet. He then led a spirited campaign against the 2010 constitution  but lost.

The 2013 victory also helped Mr Ruto to finally shake off the last vestiges of Moi’s long shadow that had been cast over his paramountcy of the Kalenjin.