Why Deputy President Ruto has lost fight against his boss

Sunday July 05 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta talks to his deputy William Ruto as they leave KICC in the company of other Jubilee party members on June 22, 2020. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Men and women are tested in their darkest hour. That’s when their true grit – or lack thereof – is revealed. Our true character is on display in times of ordeal. That’s when your mortality looks you in the face and calls your bluff. This is the question – will you shrink, like a coward, or rise, like a hero? A real general runs to a fight, not away from it. Otherwise your troops will break and run at the sight of a chickening commander.

Then the troops are scattered to the four winds and slaughtered by the enemy. Methinks DP William Ruto – unlike his namesake Koitalel arap Samoei, the valiant anti-colonial Nandi nationalist – is all hat and no cattle.


Let’s dig deeper. First, a mea culpa. Some people think I’ve animus towards Mr Ruto. Nothing could be further from the truth. The job of the punditry is to analyse politics and society without sentiment. Let me draw an analogy with reporters. Reporters aren’t pundits, or opinion writers. They report what they see.

But they don’t report everything they see. That’s why they don’t tell you the number of safe departures and landings at airports. They only report crashes, or other catastrophic events.

Similarly, good pundits don’t throw soft balls. They lay bare the guts and contradictions of an issue, or person. That’s especially true if the person is important and seeks the highest office in the land.


Second, ever since he emerged on the national spotlight through the violent Youth for Kanu ’92, Mr Ruto has spun a yarn, a narrative of a master political strategist who’s cold, cunning and calculating.

He’s presented himself as an invincible young Mike Tyson, the boxer. Mr Tyson won his bouts before he threw the first punch. He ended most of his fights in the first round with killer knockout punches.

His hapless opponents would be left writhing pitifully on the mat in the ring. Mr Tyson would psyche out his opponents before the fight. He made sure they believed that they couldn’t beat him because he’d destroy them. Mr Ruto has employed this psychology on his opponents – until now.


Third, political analysts have been bamboozled by Mr Ruto for much of his political life. Many have bought the fictionalised story of his David-versus-Goliath story.

Some swoon over him as a modern-day biblical Lazarus, a figure who defies calamity – and comes back to life from the dead. Mr Ruto himself marinates this false narrative by his frequent and sappy invocations of the Holy Bible.

He often appears at church pulpits with priests and pastors in their saintly cassocks. There, he bathes them with obscene amounts of loot, or mula, and says he’s “investing in heaven.” For a long time, Mr Ruto has used “tithing” in the houses of God to buy “protection” from the clergy.

Fourth, Mr Ruto understood that he had no chance of making it to State House unless he amassed obscene wealth and lassoed the political class, especially among the Gema communities and the Rift Valley.

He was on an inexorable march to State House until his boss – Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta – woke up. My guess is Mr Kenyatta can’t fathom life under a President Ruto. Mr Ruto himself – together with his noisy acolytes and bloggers – inadvertently added fuel to this fire by crafting a “hustler” versus “dynasty” narrative.


The message is clear – Mr Ruto will strip the “dynasties” naked should he ascend to the throne. He’s scared the bejesus out of them. That’s why he may not be President in 2022.

Fifth, Mr Ruto has been exposed as a paper tiger. After spreading loot as though it were paper napkins to buy Gema, Kalenjin, Luhya and Somali politicos, Mr Ruto forgot to hide his intentions. Or to seek Mr Kenyatta’s blessings. No – in fact, he thumbed his nose at Mr Kenyatta.

Recently, he even launched a parallel office – for an amorphous outfit he’s calling Jubilee Asili. First, he buys MPs in Mr Kenyatta backyard. Then he launches an in-your-face political outfit.

Mr Kenyatta had had enough. After sacking all Mr Ruto’s legislative allies, Mr Kenyatta last week went for the jugular – he guillotined Majority Leader Aden Duale, the crafty Somali diehard Ruto loyalist. Mr Ruto himself may be next.

Lastly, Mr Ruto’s complete impotence as his lackeys are axed has been shocking. This isn’t an epitaph on his political gravesite, but he needs a miracle. Perhaps he knows what we don’t. Or perhaps the Deep State has the goods on him. Mr Ruto’s braggadocio about superior numbers in the legislature – and GEMA – has come a cropper.

His “allies” are fleeing his side like mice from a sinking ship. A real general stands and fights for his troops. Mr Ruto may have nine lives, but he’s spent eight.

The next will be his last. Lesson – fictional narratives about untested political prowess are malarkey. Don’t rely on rented politicians. It will end in tears.

Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.