Mark Masai: Top on the minds of Kenyans is the issue of corruption. As the deputy president, how does this make you feel, and will you take responsibility for the poor state of the country?
William Ruto: As the deputy president, I wouldn’t run away from responsibility on the management of affairs of Kenya because the president and I were elected and we are the people who ultimately the buck stops with (sic). We have in the last five years doubled resources available to all agencies that are charged with the fight against corruption. We have added 100 additional investigators to the Kenya anti-corruption commission. We have bolstered staff at the office of director of public prosecutions. More than any other government, we have consistently ensured that that these offices have the men, have the equipment and the software to be able to deliver in the fight against corruption.
Then why is it that there seems to be more cases of graft— NYS, maize scandal, inflated electricity bills, sugar and even Kenya Pipeline?
We have a constitution that provides for what the executive can do and provides for what other institutions can do.
We have done our part. The DPP’s office, which is an independent office, will deliver on its part, the IG and the investigating authorities must deliver on their part, the judiciary must do their part too.
It is not the president or the deputy president that will give you a conviction. It is the judiciary that must deliver the convictions.
Are you saying that it is lagging in its mandate, the judiciary?
I think that is a question you need to ask the DPP. I don’t speak for the DPP, I do not speak for the judiciary.
As for what we in the executive are expected to do we have done the best that any government would have done.
You know, sometimes we glorify theft. We call it corruption, we colour it, we make it a big issue. Let me tell you, the biggest threat to Kenya is not necessarily corruption. The biggest threat to Kenya is and I want to say this for the public to know, is actually leadership that has no vision, that is incompetent, that has no plan.
Someone might say that you are describing the Jubilee leadership ...
Why do I say that? I mean, we have built the standard gauge railway, which we have talked about for 30 years. We have connected seven million Kenyans (to the national grid) to date, only two million were connected in 50 years. Did corruption stop the construction of a standard gauge railway? No. Did corruption stop the connecting? Did corruption stop us from having additional referral facilities in Kenya? No. What stopped us from moving Kenya forward? It is incompetence, it is a leadership which has no vision, which has no plan.
You’ve mentioned the standard gauge railway. There is a report right now that the daily runnings of the SGR are not as glamorous as they are made out to be. First is the issue of racism and discrimination but besides that mounting cost in its maintenance that some reports in the papers today say has gone up to a billion a month.
That’s correct. It costs a billion a month to run the SGR. The SGR, my friend, is not a matatu. The SGR is a huge operation. Today, we have seven cargo trains every day on the SGR. By December, we will have 12 cargo trains every day on the SGR. By the end of this year, the SGR will have broken even, less than a year since we began operations. In fact, some countries around us who have SGR and started earlier than us are not where we are. They are operating one train a day. By the time it gets to 2020, when we will begin to pay the loan on the SGR, it will not be from the Kenyan exchequer. It will pay for itself.
Now the electrification project. There is the issue of inflated bills that has come up in the recent months.
The story of the inflated bills was explained by the minister responsible. There were issues initially of drought, there were issues initially of the connection between the various parts of the country. We couldn’t access Mombasa because of the problems of the transmission lines, and therefore we were using more diesel and we ended up with higher bills. The minister has explained. We have issues that have been raised about transformers. These are issues that are being investigated. When we listen about NYS and Kenya Pipeline and the sugar scandal and many of those things, if you look at the percentage of what they are issues about, they do not form five or 10 per cent of what we have done. And if you were to mark the exam, today, have we passed the exam or not?
This seems like you are burying your head in the sand or …?
I am not disputing that there are failures in government, I just want you to be fair and say, well you have failures in 10 per cent of what you are doing but don’t make it look like the only thing that the Jubilee government has done in the last five years is to steal money in the NYS, to steal money in Eurobond, and to steal something in the ministry of health.
The Sh790 million scandal (at NYS) and you spoke very strongly against what was going on then. What do you say to what is happening now? You are talking about the big four pillars without having first dealt with the loopholes in this NYS project.
What I said then shows you the kind of anger with which this government takes when public money gets lost. And we did take steps, people were taken to court. Unfortunately, some of those cases are hanging in court. For your information, even this Sh400 million, which is currently under investigation is only a percentage of Sh20 billion. That’s the kind of money that we are spending. And I’m not saying that 400 million is little by any measure, but I’m saying even then we were bold enough to say even though many young people have benefitted from the NYS and much has been achieved by the NYS there are still areas where public resources are not being spent well. We have said any public officer without judging anybody must face the full force of the law and we are allowing due process to continue.
If you are dealing with it with that rage that you described earlier, then why did it recur?
I have told you Mark, if it was up to the president or myself to decide who is guilty or who is not, maybe you will ask me fairly that decision.
We run a country not of men but a country of law, so when somebody is charged, they have to be taken through due process and due process, which has its own mechanisms.
It’s not for the executive to decide, it is ultimately for the judiciary to decide the guilt or otherwise of anybody. So, this is a conversation that we must have as a nation.
Would you say that this due process that you point out is delivering anything tangible?
It will deliver. It may take long, it may take time but I am confident that due process, the rule of law will never fail. The rule of law will finally catch up with those who pilfer public resources.
You have styled yourself as a hustler, hustler number one, and you have amassed a lot of wealth. Would you tell us how you made your money but in the name of lifestyle audit, would you tell us how much you are worth?
If you want to know the size of my bank account or what I own that is conversation that we can have. The president has said he will lead on the lifestyle audit and I said that I will be among the first to follow. I will be too happy to make what I own public. A lot of stories like what you have just said, Oh William Ruto has amassed a lot of wealth. In that chain of things that people have said I own is this house, the one behind us here. For your information, this house, is a public house. It is listed as one of the properties that I own and many other things. I also own 680 hotel and Boulevard and I don’t know which other hotel and I don’t know which building and I don’t know how many choppers and I don’t know how many planes… and many of the rumour mills rolled out. It has been made to look like the whole of the lifestyle audit was about William Ruto. I don’t mind, I have been in the eye of the storm many times. But when that process begins, I will be too happy to make what I own public.
You have mentioned what has been in the headlines and you have been at the centre of the focus … Can you truthfully say that William Ruto is a rich man in this Kenya? Richer than the people that we all know? Would you say that you are a poor man?
I would not say I am a poor man but I wouldn’t say that I would be in the class of people that Kenyans can want to be interested in what they own. There are people who own things in this country and I am not in that class.
Do you think this lifestyle audit then will be in any way beneficial in helping us know how much public servants are worth?
Definitely, because then it will put an end to rumours. It will help people like me who have been accused of owning this and owning that and unfairly merely because people are trying to drive a narrative. Something interesting happened on Friday. I was in Kakamega and one person who spoke said something profound, and he said it in Kiswahili. He said, “Mtoto wa maskini akipata, ameiba. Lakini mtoto wa tajiri akiiba, ni kwa sababu ni ya baba yake.” (When someone from a poor background prospers, they say he has stolen. When someone from a wealthy background prospers, they say its inheritance)
Let’s move on to the other issue that you were addressing today about whether you have a debt to pay to a certain region and if you expect any debt to be paid back to you come 2022. What was this in reference to?
Uhuru Kenyatta, the president of Kenya today, and I sat down and talked in 2012 and we discussed about politics then. We were very clear that we wanted to achieve two things. Politics then was ethnic, really, really negatively ethnic. And we wanted to change that. We are well on the way to changing the politics of our country.
Secondly, we also wanted to bring a stop to the animosity that had become part of the politics of Kenya. so, we have achieved both things.
Can you say that the handshake has achieved this?
It is part of it. The foundation we built in 2012. Uhuru Kenyatta was asked, how can you work with William Ruto? I was asked, how can you work with Uhuru Kenyatta? But we did.
In fact when we sat down, it was not about winning the election. It was about bringing peace to Kenya and about making communities that had not worked together for many years and a lot of animosity had been built, to work together.
By God’s grace, we won the election, but we had achieved the primary thing to ensure that the election was peaceful. And politics was less ethnic.
Who was this directed to today? Is it the voices of people talking about you losing some favour and winning in some regions?
When I spoke today, I was basically retracing that step. There are new comers into the scene who think that when we sat down with Uhuru Kenyatta I told him that I would support him for 10 years and that he would support me for 10 years. That was never the discussion. The reason why I made this statement is for people who have misunderstood Jubilee. There are people who think that the only business of Jubilee is to win elections and this community has a debt to William Ruto.
I wanted to set the record clear. Nobody, no community not even Uhuru Kenyatta has a debt to pay William Ruto. I am happy that I supported Uhuru Kenyatta, I am happy with what we have achieved with uhuru Kenyatta as our leader.
Not in any one of your campaigns did you say that you would be in power for 20 years as Jubilee? That’s not the case?
When we sat down with Uhuru Kenyatta, it was never about me supporting Uhuru Kenyatta so that he can support me. I supported Uhuru Kenyatta not because he came from central kenya, I supported him because I knew him and I knew his capacity to lead.
And when the time comes for me to run, if Jubilee nominates me, I am not going to run on the basis that because I supported Uhuru Kenyatta anybody should support me. No. I want to be judged by who I am.
But you are also running for the top seat, aren’t you?
I will be seeking the Jubilee ticket. If somebody else gets that ticket I will support whoever else gets that ticket. I have heard somebody, your commentator, saying that William Ruto is automatically the candidate.
That is not correct. Jubilee as a party, through its processes will nominate a candidate in 2022.
People are also seeing that there are serious cracks, divisions or disunity in the party. Two weeks ago you were with the president to talk about the state of affairs in the jubilee party.
There is no crisis. In fact, when we had this discussion, our discussion was about how do we create more buy in, especially by the legislature.
The legislature was misunderstanding many things, for example, the housing fund. They were thinking it’s an extra tax whereby it is actually a benefit. It is money you pay so that you can get an extra benefit.
Where was DP Ruto when the handshake of March 9 was taking place and why didn’t we see you there?
Uhuru Kenyatta has made many decisions without consulting me and those decisions I support 100 per cent. The decision for the handshake, he asked me and I supported him.
Can you face the camera and say on oath that you have not been involved in corruption?
My friends, William Ruto has never ever been involved in any form of corruption either as a member of parliament or today serving as deputy president and I give my pledge that I will not.