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DP turns to foreign trips to woo think tanks as he schemes for 2022

Sunday February 10 2019

William Ruto, Chatham House

Deputy President William Ruto gives a key note speech at the Chatham House in London whose theme was "Kenya's National Unity and Regional Intergration; Challenges of Inclusion, Growth and Change". He is with with Dr Nabeel Goheer from Commonwealth. PHOTO | REBECCA NDUKU | DPPS 

WANJOHI GITHAE
By WANJOHI GITHAE
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Deputy President (DP) William Ruto has now turned to foreign travels and establishing key backings in influential foreign capitals as efforts to forestall his State House bid by State machinery intensifies.

This week, he travelled to United Kingdom and gave a lecture at Chatham House in what aides say is part of a wider strategy to woo foreign influential think tanks to his side.

PUBLIC PRESSURE

Chatham House is a research and analysis think-tank whose insights on global and regional events are routinely used by world media and therefore influence world major countries business and political leaders.

It was Mr Ruto’s first lecture at Chatham House and he joins President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga as some of the Kenyan leaders who have had the privilege to address it.

Back home, Mr Ruto’s movements across the country have been hit by lack of cash in his office as well as a sustained public pressure from his boss President Kenyatta that there should no politicking until campaigns officially start.

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In what appears like a new game plan, the DP went to United Kingdom and is expected to make several other foreign visits, mostly in western capitals, in the coming months as he aims to consolidate his support in western nations.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen acknowledged that Mr Ruto’s foreign visits have increased in Jubilees second term but attributed it to the “unique circumstances” of the first term.

“During the first term, there was the International Criminal Court matters. Those were personal issues and a foreign visit would have been interpreted as if he is trying to lobby for himself. You also acknowledge that the President was also travelling more,” he said.

“The DP does not travel on his own behalf. It’s a diplomatic visit done with the blessings and on behalf of the country’s number one diplomat, the President. If there will be more travels it will be dependent on the arrangements the President and his deputy have.”

Mr Ruto chose London to lay bare his thoughts on constitutional change.

The constitution debate where Mr Ruto announced his expectations for expected amendments, aides hope will help him take control of the national political narrative now that his movements have been greatly curtailed.

The DP used the London occasion to register his disagreement with the proposal for re-introduction of the prime ministers position.

HIGH-PROFILE MEETINGS

“The national government should be reconfigured to comprise the National Executive (headed by the President) and the official opposition (headed by the leader of the party or coalition of parties whose presidential candidate wins the second highest votes). I further propose that with the leader of opposition taking leadership of the opposition in parliament, the DP should then take over the leadership of government business in Parliament,” he said.

And to buttress his points on the Constitution amendment, the DP is now planning to have meetings in various public universities across the country where he will engage students.

“You will see the DP more and more meeting university students across the country in their own universities. This will help connect with them and answer all burning questions that may crop up,” said a source.

In this Jubilee’s second term, Mr Ruto has intensified his diplomatic mission that insiders say is part of a broader strategy to enhance his international image ahead of the 2022 elections.

In the last six months alone, publicly available information indicates Mr Ruto has so far held 13 high-profile meetings.

Ruto has publicly announced to be President Kenyatta's successor amid intense criticism by politicians eyeing the same seat.

The DP has said that the diplomatic engagements will open business opportunities and build a lasting relationship between Kenya and foreign countries.

“Kenya is ripe for investment, we urge our nationals in the diaspora to seize opportunities back home and repatriate their expertise to advance economic progress,” Mr Ruto said during a recent trip in Rome, Italy.

Key handlers said it is part of the three-level strategies to reach out to diaspora as well as push for global acceptance. The strategy focuses on building his profile abroad to counter Mr Odinga and Mr Musalia Mudavadi.