Deputy President William Ruto on Sunday moved to stop an implosion in the ruling Jubilee Party over his 2022 State House bid, even as he dismissed claims of divisions in the party and insisted he is fully supportive of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He asked his troops to tone down on their rhetoric, and dismissed talks of division in the party he hopes to use to ascend to office after his boss’s exit in three years.
Dr Ruto has been a subject of debate within and outside Jubilee Party, with a ‘Stop Ruto’ faction led by former Jubilee interim vice-chairman David Murathe - which wants him blocked from contesting the 2022 election - saying he had served as a joint pair with the President.
Mr Murathe has also threatened a mass walkout from Jubilee to form a ‘different formation’ without Dr Ruto.
On the other side, Dr Ruto is facing a barrage of accusations from Mr Raila Odinga’s ODM party, which has accused him of a plot to sabotage the March 9 Kenyatta-Odinga handshake, claims he has denied.
Dr Ruto called his troops to order, asking all Jubilee members to “respect the President”.
“I ask those interfering with the affairs of the party to keep off. As a matter of fact, there is no contest in Jubilee, and only those with parochial beliefs are advancing this position.
"There is only one leader in Jubilee. Any other person outside that framework is a liar,” Dr Ruto told congregants at Joy Celebrations Centre in Naivasha, Nakuru County.
Earlier, he had attended another church function with President Kenyatta at Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Parish-Ridgeways in Kiambu, where the two called for Kenyans to promote peace and unity.
President Kenyatta said that if all Kenyans pulled in the direction of peace and unity, the country would realise its development aspirations.
“Where people sow hatred, you shall sow love. Where people sow division, you shall sow unity because at the end of the day that is what shall ensure we take our country forward,” he said.
The special mass conducted by John Cardinal Njue, the Archbishop of Nairobi, also marked the official inauguration of the parish.
President Kenyatta spoke a few minutes to midday, and left, leaving his deputy to address the congregation.
Cardinal Njue had told the church that the President “has another appointment”.
It was the second time in as many days when the President appeared to break protocol with the DP, having sent Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo to read his official speech in Kisumu during the inauguration of Archbishop Philip Anyolo. Dr Ruto was at the function.
Dr Ruto used the Kiambu function to ask Jubilee members to focus on the singular call to help the President achieve his purpose.
“As the president’s principal assistant, I took an oath before man and God to help my boss, President Kenyatta, succeed in his role, a job I have faithfully executed,” Dr Ruto said.
He repeated this in Naivasha, saying: “No one has taken the oath to be deputy president. It is only me. And I swore to help him succeed.”
For Dr Ruto, it seems like the counter-strategy for the Jubilee implosion was a complete disavowal, or toning down, of the narrative that he was ‘owed’, a political terminology that has been used to mean an understanding between the DP and President Kenyatta for a 20-year plan that involved Dr Ruto’s 10-year presidency.
The feeling in the Ruto camp, it appears, is that the debt narrative should be kept off the table, and instead the angle of a development plan that needs to be completed upon President Kenyatta’s exit.
The second strategy, and perhaps the most feasible, is to wait it out and continuously declare their loyalty to the President.
This, it is hoped, will be achieved by Dr Ruto going about his business as the President’s principal assistant, while at the same time taming his troops to avoid rocking the Jubilee boat from within.
“All of us in Jubilee promise to rally everybody, every leader, behind Jubilee’s development agenda under the Big Four, the fight against corruption, and the unity of the people of Kenya,” Dr Ruto said in Kiambu.
He made reference to his meetings with religious leaders at his Sugoi home, Uasin Gishu County, on Friday led by Bishop Maurice Crowley, and several other meetings with the clergy, saying they had taught him to be a prayerful man.