An intense succession war is tearing through ruling party Jubilee and isolating Deputy President William Ruto from some of his top allies and defenders.
The tussle pits those seeking to stay on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s good side against those who want the party to confirm that the DP will be their presidential candidate in the next General Election.
A Central Kenya lawmaker who has been angling to be DP’s running mate in the 2022 polls told the Saturday Nation that Dr Ruto had asked them to assume “a low profile for the time being.”
And now after President Kenyatta read the riot act to Jubilee luminaries who included the House Majority leaders Kipchumba Murkomen (Senate), Aden Duale (National Assembly), and Majority Whip Susan Kihika (Senate) and her National Assembly counterpart Ben Washiali, all perceived close Ruto allies, even the courageous ones may have to scamper for safety.
Former Jubilee party vice chairman David Murathe’s outbursts that the DP should not succeed President Kenyatta — and the failure by the President to defend his assistant — has caused some luminaries who were about to join the DP to believe Dr Ruto may not be the President’s favoured successor.
Among the leaders DP Ruto was looking forward to receiving in his camp are Governors Amason Kingi (Kilifi), Josephat Nanok (Turkana), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula. They were to form his core team as he reached out to more pointmen across the country.
Similarly, some like Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya, who was a dyed-in-the-wool supporter of the Deputy President, has suddenly gone silent amid reports of a fallout over the chairmanship of the Council of Governors. In a deal hammered by Mr Ruto in 2017, Mr Mvurya was to take over the council in June 2018. It did not happen and instead, his Kakamega counterpart Wycliffe Oparanya emerged the winner during the election held last week.
Former Mombasa senator Omar Hassan Omar is no longer seen regularly in Mr Ruto’s company, while Dr Paul Otuoma took up a government job offered by people close to the President.
In Western Kenya, where the DP had received a major boost after the endorsement of former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale early in the year, things have gone silent.
In Dr Ruto’s own backyard of Uasin Gishu, Governor Jackson Mandago has gone quiet. Being a second term governor in the DP’s stronghold, one would expect him to lead from the front. However, it is thought he has never forgiven the DP for what some say is his preference for Mr Bundotich Kiprop alias Buzeki in the gubernatorial polls in 2017.
Political analyst Martin Andati says the DP’s political star, which was on the rise a while ago, has dipped considerably since the beginning of the year. “He cuts a forlorn image,” he said yesterday.
“We have seen a DP struggling to be part of the Presidency yet he is part of it. Very weighty decisions have been made by the President but he has not been involved,” he added, alluding to this week’s publication of the Executive Order No 1 of 2019, which appeared to have caught his team off guard.
The DP was also absent from a Friday morning meeting where the President met the entire security machinery which includes police commanders and Provincial administration.
“A strong message is sent when you are not part of such a gathering. Clearly things are not right for you.”
Mr Andati takes the example of the decision by the Deputy President to take to Twitter on Wednesday to reinforce the executive order that elevated Interior CS Dr Fred Matiang’i to de facto prime minister.
“Why would he go out to reinforce what the President said? Why (should) the President’s word be reinforced?,” Mr Andati said.
Majority leader Aden Duale, a man who has in the past vowed that he could take a bullet for DP Ruto, recently declared that it was time to observe some silence.
Meanwhile, the chemistry of the earlier “bromance” between the President and his deputy was missing from photographs taken after a luncheon the President hosted at a Mombasa restaurant on Wednesday.
Former State House Director Denis Itumbi, who operates from the DP’s office, took to his Twitter to tellingly state: “President Kenyatta had a meeting with DP Ruto and House leadership in Mombasa. He bought his Deputy lunch and then took him to a popular spot in Mombasa. Photos were taken. The President did all that in public, but well....” he said.