Look no further than Njonjo plight to understand Ruto's woes

Wednesday March 18 2020

Deputy President William Ruto and MPs are welcomed to Kapsigilai in Trans Nzoia County for a fundraiser on January 25, 2020. His presidential ambitions are being derailed. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


President Uhuru Kenyatta heeded wise counsel and gave the deceptively named Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally at Kakamega’s Bukhungu Stadium – a week ago yesterday – a deserved wide berth.

But the problem he started in 2018 when he branded Deputy President William Ruto variously as a gallivanting young man, early campaigner and one in need of work, will not go away through perching on convenient fences at inconvenient times.

As evidenced in Bukhungu, it is difficult to separate or shield BBI from naked campaigns for the presidency and the politics of the presidential succession.

And that is if BBI is, indeed, about Kenya and Kenyans and not about individuals, vested interests and their hunger for power.

Bukhungu’s festival of hypocrisy and prophecy, threat and bravado, hype and hysteria signalled BBI is headed in the wrong direction.

Billed as a driver for unity and identity, peace and liberty, justice and prosperity, Bukhungu's rhetoric painted BBI as a divisive campaign creature. The writing, however, was on the wall.


During a well-publicised and well-attended campaign meeting for the Kibra by-election last November, BBI principal Raila Odinga typified the initiative as a tsunami that would sweep away takataka (rubbish).

And in his football analogy pitted BBI Combined against Tangatanga Combined. In the latter team he included Dr Ruto and Luhya bigwigs Moses Wetang’ula and Musalia Mudavadi. That was not coincidence. That was deliberate.

So it was not in the interests of the organisers and owners of BBI for Bungoma Senator Wetang’ula and Amani National Congress leader Mudavadi to appear at Bukhungu.

But, put simply, BBI cannot create a fraternity by isolating leaders from their community. BBI cannot drive the vehicle of tribal, religious and racial cohesion and, therefore, diversity-as-strength, when it profiles leaders and communities as either BBI supporters, or enemies of BBI.

Subsequent developments in Ukambani bear out this position. I spelt it out here last week thus: just like the ‘traitor’ campaign of 1983 was about removing Mr Charles Njonjo and co from the power circle, so is BBI about evicting Dr Ruto and co from the Kenyatta II succession equation.


Mr Njonjo was a msaliti (traitor). He wielded power as Attorney-General but had his wings clipped as Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, and his docket whittled down to no more than the management of the National Archives.

Then from 1984, he was subjected to a lengthy and humiliating commission of inquiry. The charge? He plotted to seize power through devious means. It was spurious and was never proven.

At great public expense, however, it finished Mr Njonjo politically. Dr Ruto is a heartbeat away from power.

But he has been the subject of a sustained public campaign of humiliation and vilification since 2018. In it he is portrayed as the chief priest in Kenya’s temple of mega-corruption. But there is a significant difference.

Mr Njonjo, the son of a colonial chief, was in his time ridiculed as a white man in a black skin, complete with the moniker Duke of Kabeteshire.

He was the epitome of elitist arrogance and ivory tower residence. So much for his presidential ambition.

But it was Attorney-General Njonjo, reminding that it was criminal to imagine the death of the president, who thwarted the change-the-constitution move primed to derail Vice-President Moi’s rise to power. Mr Njonjo believed President Moi owed him a favour.


Dr Ruto is the polar opposite to Njonjo. He is a peasant’s son come good politically, a big beast and solid business and property owner, and man of means.

His arraignment in The Hague on crimes against humanity charges bound him to co-accused Uhuru Kenyatta. They shared the winning presidential ticket in 2013 and twice in 2017.

But the men, who would high-five on the lawn of State House and wear similar suits, shirts and ties, ceased to be friends in 2018 and are now colleagues who barely tolerate each other.

And last week, it was announced the DP is to be investigated in the corrupt sale of public land.

The investigative agencies should by now have tonnes and tomes of evidence against the DP. The best way to keep politics out of fighting crime, and in this case economic crimes, is to investigate, arrest, arraign and flood the courts with evidence to prosecute and convict.

But this is not about justice. This is siasa ya kumalizana. It is about killing the DP politically, painfully, publicly, slowly.

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