When Deputy President William Ruto lamented that his supporters were being dethroned from plum positions and threatened with jail, it was the first time that he was taking on – rather indirectly – his boss President Kenyatta ever since the party purge began.
For the last one month, Dr Ruto’s supporters have been removed from positions in Jubilee Party both in the Senate and National Assembly and he now blames the purge on political witch-hunt. Also, there are murmurs than many more could fall with an expected reshuffle within the Cabinet and State corporations.
Over the weekend, in an event closed to the Press, the DP appealed to some Rift Valley church leaders at his Sugoi home, Uasin Gishu County, to pray for his lieutenants saying the suffering will only be short-lived.
He was accompanied by his wife Rachel, MPs Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Caleb Kositany (Soy), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati) and Gladys Shollei (Uasin Gishu).
The Deputy President, who appears to be under political siege, lamented that the division along tribal lines which had been seen in the country in the past had derailed unity and now, divisive politics was starting to reign.
“As we had witnessed ethnicity in the past, now political divisions have emerged, many people have been axed from their positions, there are others who are being intimidated and coerced in one way or the other because they are my friends,” said Dr Ruto.
He went on: “I am pleading…that you pray for them (allies) so that they can have humility and understand that apart from all these challenges we are facing now, there is still need of staying together as brothers and sisters for the sake of a united country. If we persevere a little bit, God will help us and open a way for us to practice non-divisive politics.” Ever since President Kenyatta brought his nemesis Raila Odinga into the inner circle, the political ‘bromance’ between the two started to fade.
The Saturday meeting was the second the DP was having with church leaders after holding another on Friday as some of his supporters pushed the Head of State to re-open places of worship closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Ruto also said that some of his supporters were being threatened with court action if they do not toe the line of his political nemesis.
“In today’s Kenya, many people are being threatened that they will be taken to court, others to Kenya Revenue Authority, Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, some are being told that they will demoted or removed from their offices not because they committed an offence or failed to deliver, but because they are my allies. But, am I also not a Kenya?” He posed.
Coming at a time when President Kenyatta is said to be crafting an expanded, all inclusive, team within his Cabinet and government, it appears that the DP and his boss are reading from different scripts.
Interestingly, both have been speaking about unity.
“We need to be united and as leaders, we must stop things which are dividing us,” said Dr Ruto.
For months, he had kept mum despite his allies being kicked out of key positions in both the Senate and National Assembly. A group led by former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa has been prodding to break his silence while another led by Soy MP Caleb Kositany supported Dr Ruto’s continued silence.
The Deputy President, who was accompanied by his astute acolytes, used the Friday event in his North Rift political bastion to assure his supporters in vernacular. He said the axing of his supporters was meant to shake his 2022 bid but he remains unshaken and his plans remain intact.
He also claimed that night meetings were held by his political opponents saying that such meetings were going on because he is a threat to many.
“There are those who are holding night meetings scheming for how to finish me politically but they have to do so because if they have those meetings, they will find that triumphed very early in the morning,” said the DP in vernacular.
As he and his team face political storms in the Jubilee Party, Dr Ruto asked his people to pray for him as he crafts his 2022 game plan.
“If you see them coming together because of me, it means that I am not a weak candidate, pray for me,” he added.
“I would like to ask you all, more so members of Jubilee Party and Kenya as a whole, we should not accept to go back to divisive and tribal based politics. Our main focus at the moment should be how Kenyans remain as one. We have to chart our path together,” the politician said.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, one of those who lost their plum job posted on his Twitter handle: “The Deputy President has spoken for all of us. We shall all be patient and we shall overcome the evil spirit of hatred and division. The one thing we shall pursue to the end is the unity of the people of this nation.”
Political observers interpreted Dr Ruto’s silence to mean he had surrendered to the pressure from his boss following the purge.
But it is interesting that his allies have been quiet of late. In various interviews, they told the Nation they had resorted to a silence strategy to counter any possibility of their next course of action being scuttled.
But Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu says by keeping their moves secret, it means the DP’s supporters are insincere.
“DP’s cronies are dishonest and insincere in their claims that the President might scuttle their plans, it simply means that they know they are not up to any good, otherwise they would have nothing to fear being scuttled,” said Mr Wambugu.
With no support from State apparatus, the Ruto men say they neither want to confront the system nor confront President Kenyatta.
“Most of us feel that the President has State machinery therefore the DP cannot face him like some of us are agitating for, again the DP respects President Kenyatta hence he cannot behave in any way likely to suggest that he no longer respects his boss,” said Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono.
“Those who have been asking why DP has kept quiet, they should first give us their Presidential candidate for 2022 because at the moment Dr Ruto has no one to engage,” said Mr Kositany.
He went on: “The reason why most of us have agreed that DP should keep quiet is the fact that there is a lot of intimidation at the moment, if you just come up with something which contradicts the President, you are being threatened that they will send Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission sleuths to probe how you are using Constituency Development Funds.”
Mr Rono says they have told the DP had to remain silent and not to reveal his options yet saying their plans could easily be discarded the same manner as is happening to Ford-Kenya and ANC.
But with Dr Ruto breaking his silence, it will be interesting to watch his next political moves.
Mr Rono alluded to the fact that they have opted to apply a silence strategy because the play ground between the President and DP is not levelled noting that a rift has emerged in their camp on the continued silence by Dr Ruto.
Cherang'any MP Joshua Kutuny said it is obvious that Ruto men have lost sense of direction and are dumbfounded by the manner the Head of State fumigated the party after undermining him for long.
"They should stop saying that they have decided to keep silent because their plans will be discarded, they are just in a dilemma with what the party leader did, they should just accept that they are defeated," said Mr Kutuny.