Deputy President William Ruto sat pensively beside his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta, during the Monday Jubilee parliamentary group meeting in Nairobi.
Whereas the DP appeared to be in a somewhat jovial mood and kept chatting with the President, his silence as the decision to sack one of his chief lieutenants, former National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, spoke volumes.
Even attempts by the Head of State to offer him a chance to speak his mind did not draw him out — he informed the President that he had nothing to say about the PG’s decision.
A few hours later, the country’s second in command took to his Twitter handle to shower Mr Duale with praises, describing him as a leader who discharged his duties with “style, precision, passion and loyalty”.
Before the Monday meeting, the DP had maintained an uncharacteristic silence as President Kenyatta continued to slay his foot soldiers.
His continued calmness in the wake of the siege in Jubilee has raised concerns, with both friends and foes guessing his next move.
Has he relapsed into a strategic silence or has the man from Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County, been boxed into submission?
Political analyst Javas Bigambo said that “silence is the custom of the dead”.
“While it may appear strategic, in politics, silence is submission. DP Ruto has sadly been whipped into submission. He is now at the point of pleading for mercy from the political machinery of Uhuru Kenyatta,” Mr Bigambo said.
“He has run out of choices because of the forceful purge on his allies and how he is being politically amputated,” he adds. But the DP cannot be written off just yet, said Mr Bigambo.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany, a close ally of the DP, said whatever is happening in Jubilee is an act of betrayal, with Dr Ruto’s allies being the target of the ongoing purge.
“If you have done all the good things and people decide to pay you with evil, the best strategy is to keep quiet. Things will work out. They will play out and people will know who is wrong and who is wronged,” Mr Kositany told the Sunday Nation.
He went on: “If decisions are made elsewhere, for instance on the removal of Duale and nobody is given a chance to speak, what do you expect?”
According to Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, the Jubilee Party has shown dictatorial tendencies since nobody is allowed to talk during its meetings, like the recent PGs.
“So, if you cannot talk at the PG, how can a case be pleaded?” he posed.
However, he noted: “We agreed that if President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy will be shaped by purging William Ruto’s allies in Parliament and Cabinet, so be it. In fact, there is no reason for the DP to talk as it seems in this country we no longer have Uhuru Highway but Uhuru’s way”.
He added: “So if purging Ruto’s allies and his friends will allow President Kenyatta to achieve his legacy and the Big 4 Agenda, so be it. Why would he comment on anything yet the government is being run by President Kenyatta and his role of coordinating government functions was also given to Dr Fred Matiang’i?” posed the senator.
To Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, the Deputy President has always cut the figure of an aggressive leader “but the silence he has adopted proves he has no strategy”.
“His strategy was just to arm-twist the President, threaten him and run from one point to another point across the country,” he said. “You can’t, however, keep quiet when all your lieutenants are being destroyed and you tell me that it is a tactical retreat. You know all your pillars are being brought down and they are loosening the centre poles and you still tell us it is a tactic ... no, it is surrender.”
He added that those who have worked with DP Ruto since 2005 understand well that his biggest weakness is silence, “which at the moment is betrayal to his team”.
Nyamira political analyst Beauttah Omanga said the DP’s silence is defeatist.
Presumed to be right
“As a political leader, he should speak out for his lieutenants. His accusers will be presumed to be right in their accusations that he has not been loyal to the President,” Mr Omanga said.
“He should have by now even bought media space to explain himself to his doubters, but going mute is not helping him and his lieutenants,” Mr Omanga added.
“He should have sought a one-on-one audience with the President to sort out any misunderstanding that has led to his team being targeted. It would have changed any perception that he’s running a parallel government through those he helped put in government or key leadership positions,” said the political analyst.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech pointed out that “the DP, like his allies, could also probably be waiting to see the miracles the new team put in place after the purge will bring forth.”
“Maybe we are used to the DP speaking on podiums, but these are trying times, he has no such platform. Supporters and critics miss him in equal measure on the podium, but we will have to live with it until times change,” Mr Koech said.
He went on: “I, however, don’t think the DP’s silence is a strategy per se, he is just being a decent deputy who has acceded to the wishes of his boss in the hope that things will turn out positive”.
But fiery Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter said the DP’s ship had sunk, hence “he cannot speak out on anything”.
“Siku ya nyani kufa ikifika, miti yoye huteleza (The day a monkey is to die, all the trees become slippery). Don’t expect anything from the DP because his ship has already sunk, to the extent that he has opened a Jubilee Asili centre to rival the legitimate party of President Kenyatta. He has shown disrespect by implying that it is his outfit that is genuine while the President leads a fake party,” Mr Keter told the Sunday Nation.
The Jubilee Asili Centre, Mr Keter said, “is a rehabilitation centre for the Tangatanga merchants of impunity and corruption”.
But Mr Kositany insisted that the leaders who were being ousted from their positions were not being ejected because of incompetence. Rather, he said, it was on the flimsy grounds that they were allied to the DP.
“We are not saying they were meant to be permanent in those positions, but they are all being removed because of flimsy reasons, the obvious one being that they are perceived to be close to the Deputy President. That is obvious and no longer a hidden secret,” he said.
Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri said the DP’s silence comes from the fact that the narrative his team was pushing – that they had numbers to even go against the boss – has been proven false.
“They have now been forced to accept that they overreached. Hopefully, for all of us, things will settle down. And those who had stopped focusing on today and got carried away by 2022 issues will come back to work so that we secure this term’s legacy for the President, the party and our respective constituencies,” Mr Ngunjiri said.
Mr Omanga added that whereas the DP might be strategic in his silence, the appointees who have nothing apart from the jobs they are losing are suffering and will soon launch a rebellion against him.