Footnote/checkmate: .......Gideon Moi, Kanu vice chair, observed and wondered recently "In 2007, Ruto fiercely criticised Kanu for supporting Kibaki yet he is now a frequent guest at State House. I urge Ruto to use his newly found friendship with the President to have innocent youth languishing in jails and police cells released following their arrest for alleged role in post-election violence. Please Bw Ruto when you take tea and githeri with the President at State House remember to address the issue of the suffering Kalenjin youth"..............
In typical Kenyan style, a vicious political war is currently going on behind the scenes that is fascinating but also worrying because most analysts doubt if it will end well. The battle is between Agriculture minister William Ruto and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
What is even more fascinating about this mostly silent war are the tactics being used some of which are fairly new and yet are proving to be pretty effective.
But let us start at the beginning.
What many people don't know is that Ruto is also an excellent natural actor, well able to work up emotions in himself and produce real tears as he did in this photo.
The first big mistake Raila Odinga made with William Ruto was to concede to pressure and adjust the ODM constitution to make room for two deputy leaders. At the time Musalia Mudavadi was already second in command but the extra slot was created specifically for Willliam Ruto. As leader of a large political party like ODM this was a very amateurish mistake to make. Too amateurish. It confirmed what many already suspected. That Ruto had ODM by the balls and without Ruto there would be no ODM.
What Raila should have done would have been to put his foot down early on. As it is he not only postponed a problem but revealed his vulnerability to the immensely ambitious, ruthless and calculating Ruto. As recently as 1990 William Ruto used to hang around at the seats outside Hilton Hilton with other jobless Kenyans hungry and broke. The man did not rise form the jobless corner to such a powerful politician by accident. Anybody who underestimates him does so at their own peril.
Ruto got his start from the massive amounts of cash that Moi printed in 2002 and which was mainly distributed by the notorious YK92 (Youth for Kanu 92) of which Ruto was an official. To his credit he followed this up with other bigger deals like getting land allocations from Kanu for free and re-selling the land at exorbitant prices, mostly to government agencies. In a few short months it became difficult to link Ruto to the man with blood-shot eyes yawning from pangs of hunger at the Hilton jobless corner.
Admittedly one of the reasons why Ruto had ODM and Raila by the balls was because Ruto played a crucial role in getting Raila to where he is today. Never forget that the troubles that forced Mwai Kibaki and PNU to the negotiating table were not the ones in Kibera and Kisumu but the mayhem and bloodbath in the vast Rift Valley. This is the reason why the Kalenjin community strongly felt that they were shortchanged in the coalition government that was formed after Kofi Anan’s peace deal. Logically-speaking such a government should have had over 50% of its’ members hailing from the Rift Valley.
Thus Ruto’s fallout from ODM was only a matter of time and indeed the local press started speculations of the inevitable pretty early.
The following are highlights of the ongoing Ruto/Raila war.
- The high point was when the Prime Minister suspended Ruto (along with Sam Ongeri) pending investigations into scandals in their respective ministries. The usually slow-to-act Mwai Kibaki moved at such lighting speed (that I am still dazed several weeks later) to re-instate Ruto and Ongeri and make it crystal clear that the toothless Prime Minister did not even have power to “suspend” his own DM ministers, let alone sack them.
- Next Raila and his allies dropped Ruto as an ODM representative in the powerful house business committee. This was long overdue because it has been known for a long time now that Ruto is a frequent visitor to Mwai Kibaki’s State House and it did not need Ruto ally, Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny to spill the beans to the rest of the world (which he did last month.
- Ruto hit back in what he saw as a smart political move but which more serious analysts see as mere Kindergarten power games mainly designed to rub egos. He visited Kisumu but not before organizing a rousing welcome in advance and ensuring that the press would be there to capture it. Hi PNU supporters also ensured that they gave ODM trouble in their bid to get thgeir changed list passed in parliament.
- The PM planned a “revenge visit” in Ruto’s constituency that should have taken place last week but was cancelled at the eleventh hour, mainly because of the President’s visit in the area when he opened the Eldoret show last week. The highlight of that function was Ruto riding in the presidential ceremonial Landrover standing on his right side and waving to the crowds.
- Allegations have been made that Ruto is receiving financial and political support from PNU to destabilize ODM from within by ensuring that his Kalenjin community is out of ODM. There is plenty to suggest that this is true the most obvious is how PNU has handled Ruto over the last year or so. Then it is also pretty obvious that Ruto has done an excellent job in dismantling ODM from the once dreaded behemoth that forced through the nomination of Kenneth Marende as the new speaker to the crumbling walking skeleton it is today.
- The PM’s allies have been working very hard behind the scenes to prop up opponents of the current seating Rift Valley MPs. The idea is to have these individual’s stand in the 2012 elections on an ODM ticket and hopefully unseat the incumbents and thus duplicate the power and popularity the party had in the Rift Valley in 2007. There is a lot of money that is being spent on the ground and it makes many people wonder where all the ODM cash is coming from. To be fare PNU are also spending a lot of cash and the same mystery lingers. About the ODM master plan for the Rift Valley for 2012; it all looks very neat on paper but as any experienced political operative will tell you neat theoretical political plans hardly ever work out when implemented in the real world (ask President Mwai Kibaki).
And the war continues. The recently “leaked” reports that have helped kick up storms over certain allegedly corrupt cabinet ministers from the ODM side of government are the latest PNU move to completely dismantle ODM and ensure that Raila Odinga comes nowhere near the presidency in 2012.
The most worrying thing about the current Raila/Ruto war is that there are signs that both sides are getting more and more desperate by the day. Desperate people do desperate things and therein lies the grave danger in Kenya’s already tricky political landscape.
Previous Kumekucha article on Ruto
Another recent post by Chris: Letter to Esther Arunga