To say Deputy President William Ruto is besieged is an understatement.
Since Kenneth Matiba’s memorial service in Murang’a in April, President Kenyatta has been publicly, angrily and loudly admonishing Mr Ruto and, therefore, deliberately disgracing him.
A presidential reprimand, let alone an angry public outburst peppered with uchafu (muck) and utoto (childishness) adjectives, drains self-confidence, erodes morale, instils guilt and demeans the target in the eyes of the public.
And this marks a new phase in the continuing onslaught against Mr Ruto, yet the DP is constitutionally Kenya’s most powerful second-in-command and Mr Kenyatta the most checked Head of State.
Yet in 2013 it appeared the presidency was shared between them, causing me to ask here if Kenyans got two presidents for the price of one. Five years later, Mr Kenyatta is emerging as historically easily, and dubiously, the President most publicly hostile to his Number Two.
This at a time when Mr Ruto is also up against an increasingly buoyant and rejuvenated old adversary in Mr Raila Odinga. He is snuggling ever closer to Mr Kenyatta under the presidential duvet and sucking the air out of everybody else at public and private presidential functions.
Last month, at a news conference Mr Odinga’s supporters portrayed the DP as one who would sell Kenya and bank the title deed in his personal account.
Then, last week, it emerged Mr Ruto’s most publicly committed supporters from the Central and Mt Kenya region have been targeted in a vicious social media campaign of ridicule, threat and vilification.
A whispering campaign against them alleges they are beneficiaries of a National Youth Service (NYS)-linked slush fund. This line of attack, the Daily Nation reported, is led by senior civil servants and well-heeled businessmen keen to forestall a Ruto presidency.
Three issues arise. One, times have changed. This is the President’s backyard, which was until recently expected to remain in the DP’s column in the Kenyatta II succession to a person, courtesy of a 2012 pact between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto.
Two, the slush fund claim is a bold attempt to tie the DP to the corruption that has run rampant in government. Three, the President’s public hostility to Mr Ruto started soon after he and Mr Odinga publicly shook hands on their secret contract on Kenya on March 9.
The Kenyatta II succession and, therefore, onslaught against Mr Ruto are offshoots of — if not the reasons for — this deal. And there’s a strategy: Mr Odinga does not take on the DP, leaving that to his eager disciples, but the President personally lampoons his Number Two.
Mr Odinga maintains the charade that he is not in government yet speaks about him and the President fighting corruption; his and the President’s commitment to delivering electoral justice and he being Kenya’s Special Peace Envoy to South Sudan.
That’s not surprising. The President kept the DP in the dark about the negotiations he was having with Mr Odinga only to stun him with the news of the signing of the pact on March 9. The DP smelt a rat but publicly cautiously endorsed the deal.
Then Mr Odinga called for a prime minister’s office in April and in London last month said Jubilee did not win last year’s General Election. Mr Ruto weighed in with a vengeance and vehemence, and venom enough to put a Rift Valley-size chasm between him and the pact.
Tellingly, both interventions incurred his boss’ wrath ostensibly for campaigning instead of governing and helping him realise his Big Four (legacy) agenda. But why is the President angry now when his deputy has been publicly positioning himself to succeed him since 2013?
It’s one of three reasons or all. Every time Mr Ruto holds a rally, fundraiser or meet-the-people tour – and he does all of the three every weekend – he reminds the President he is a lame duck.
BIG FOUR AGENDA
Two, the President, like his mentor Daniel Moi before him, is unhappy with his constitutional heir apparent. Worse, is the realisation that he is a lame duck at a time when the politics is about the next Head of State four years hence and not his struggling Big Four agenda.
Three, Mr Kenyatta’s and Mr Odinga’s secret contract on Kenya, contrary to what the latter preaches, is about the presidential succession. Remember? I warned in October 2016 the DP needed Plan B and on May 6, I said he was on his own.
Opanga is a commentator with a bias for politics [email protected]