They teach you not to eat too fast. Chew your food before you swallow it otherwise you will choke to death. This is one lesson the man from Sugoi — Deputy President William Ruto — was either never taught, or simply one his noggin refused to absorb.
The Chinese say it’s the peacock that raises its head above the others that gets shot. The man is running so fast to State House that, unlike the famed Kalenjin runners, he’s disregarded pacesetters and is unable to see even obvious traps ahead of him. To complicate matters, Mr Ruto has doubled down on blackmail. In the English language, blackmail is a dirty word. It’s criminal and akin to extortion, or a demand for ransom.
It’s been reported that in 2013, Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta promised Mr Ruto he would support him as his successor in 2022. Political wags say Mr Kenyatta covenanted himself to Mr Ruto with an extravagant promise — that he, Mr Kenyatta, would rule for ten years, and then foist Mr Ruto on Kenyans to rule for another ten years. I don’t know whether such a promise was made, or if it was, whether it was a statement made in the heat of the campaign to hoodwink the Kalenjin. Or whether it was made in jest. Politicians on the campaign trail say all sorts of dastardly things. They promise to build airports and stadia, huge boasts that often die on the vine.
Even so, it’s clear Mr Ruto and his acolytes wanted to believe Mr Kenyatta’s purported promise. The bait of such a promise is too tempting for any pretender to the throne to pass up. I can see why Mr Ruto has worked so hard to lasso Mr Kenyatta and the Kikuyu to the so-called debt of a promise. But I can’t believe Mr Ruto is so naive as to take such promises seriously, even if his brigand does. Imagine that a man, or a woman, promises that one will marry the other in a moment of weakness, or irrational exuberance. Only a fool would take such a promise to the bank. Come morning, reality should strike with clarity.
There’s the matter of the contentious — sometimes violent — history between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. Mr Ruto’s Kalenjin supporters want to conveniently forget this troubled history. Who doesn’t know that it was this history that was flipped on its head to bring Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto together in 2013 so that the two could escape the hangman’s noose at the International Criminal Court.
NO SHRINKING VIOLET
Following the 2007 elections — which neutral observers believe ODM’s Raila Odinga handily won — genocidal violence erupted between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. Each slaughtered the other with much enthusiasm. Mr Ruto was accused of killing Kikuyus and Mr Kenyatta of slaughtering the Kalenjin. But the two came together to save their hides from the ICC.
It’s because the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin are Siamese twins in the Rift Valley that Mr Ruto was able to exact a huge price from Mr Kenyatta. The story went that a Kenyatta-Ruto diarchy would end the intercommunal violence between the two communities. That’s the biggest leverage Mr Ruto had held over Mr Kenyatta until the latter’s 2018 handshake with Mr Odinga. But that cudgel is now gone, and Mr Ruto is left to bloviate like an orphan in the wilderness. However, Mr Ruto isn’t a shrinking violet. Whether by hook, or crook — and most observers believe it’s by the latter — Mr Ruto has tethered many Kikuyu MPs to himself like so many helpless goats. They bleed Mr Ruto.
Many of the Kikuyu quisling politicians have told Mr Kenyatta to his face that he must — imagine that, must — support Mr Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid, or be damned. Besieged Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was the first to openly blurt out such a threat to Mr Kenyatta at a public function. The indiscretion didn’t go down well with the scion of the Burning Spear. Soon Mr Waititu was incapacitated by law enforcement. A slew of other mugumo [fig] trees have been felled by Kamwana. Most recently, Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, an ex-matatu tout, was axed from the government. Mr Kiunjuri, a defiant Ruto errand boy, invited the guillotine on himself. Methinks the attrition on Ruto allies has just started.
I don’t begrudge Mr Ruto his right to run for the top seat. He can run all the way to the pinnacle of Mount Kenya. But he, and many of my compatriots from the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin nations, must stop forcing Mr Ruto on Kenyans. The blackmail must stop even if there are Kikuyu hostages in the Rift Valley. In a democracy, nobody is entitled to rule. Mr Ruto is free to ask for votes, but dark threats and chest-thumbing braggadocio are the dictator’s calling cards. That’s the genetic fingerprint of the oppressor. Mr Kenyatta has only one vote, even if his promise was a fact. Let all Kenyans decide.
Makau Mutua is SUNY Distinguished Professor at SUNY Buffalo Law School and Chair of KHRC. @makaumutua.