Kenyan deputy president Ruto's catch-22 moment

Tuesday February 08 2022

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto (centre) with ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi (left) and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetangula (right) at a rally on January 26, 2022. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN


As Kenya prepares for general elections on August 9, the usual political realignment is now taking shape, but this time, as a reflection of what happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo elections in December 2018.

Then incumbent president Joseph Kabila abandoned his ruling People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, and supported opposition candidate Félix Tshisekedi of the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP). Similarly in Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta has abandoned his Deputy President in the Jubilee Party, Dr William Ruto, in favour of the opposition leader Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), courtesy of the March 2018 rapprochement, commonly known as “the handshake”.

Dr Ruto, the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party leader, on January 23, join hands with former vice president Musalia Mudavadi of the Amani National Congress (ANC), when the two parties’ leaders—together with a nominal outfit Ford-Kenya led by former foreign minister, Moses Wetangula—attended the ANC National Delegates Conference in Nairobi.

Just like in DRC  where the then most popular opposition candidate, Martin Madidi Fayulu, cried foul that Mr Kabila had tinkered with the elections in favour of Mr Tshisekedi, Mr Mudavadi—a long time ally of Mr Odinga, who fell out with the former Prime Minister—is not happy that President Kenyatta is favouring Mr Odinga.

The current question is whether Dr Ruto—who has been planning his presidential bid since Jubilee came to power in 2013—can replicate Mr Odinga’s 2002 declaration that Mwai Kibaki was fit to lead the opposition to ensure that Moi’s protégé, President Kenyatta, did not ascend to power. Word within ANC and UDA reveal that it is Dr Ruto who reached out to Mr Mudavadi and that there are very high chances that Dr Ruto could opt to present Mr Mudavadi if he realises that state-sponsored roadblocks in his way are unsurmountable, and that could present somebody that is acceptable to the power wielders like Mr Mudavadi.

Dr Amukowa Anangwe, who is Mr Mudavadi’s Campaign Manager, told The East African that there are high chances that Dr Ruto could pass the baton to Mr Mudavadi, although the decision on who between the two will vie for the president is a work in progress.


Aaron Cheruiyot, the Senator for Kericho County, on a radio interview on January 24 said that Dr Ruto is capable of stepping aside for Mr Mudavadi because the bigger picture is more than Dr Ruto becoming the president, but protecting Kenya’s democracy from the threats posed by the current power-wielders.

However, Herman Manyora, a Political Analyst said that it is extremely remote that Dr Ruto, who has been planning and investing in his presidential bid since 2013, would give the ticket to another person. “In politics, they say everything is possible. While it is possible that Dr Ruto could pass the baton to Mr Mudavadi in case he is cornered, it is still too early to say given the investment and time Dr Ruto has put in his campaign for the last five years,” he said.

Mr Manyora believes that the reason why Dr Ruto reached out to Mr Mudavadi was simply on the basis of optics, to give the psychological impression that Dr Ruto is doing well and attracting the unlikely.

Yet, there are similarities between Dr Ruto in 2022 and Mr Odinga in 2002. Mr Odinga, who had engineered rebellion within Moi’s Kenya African National Union (Kanu) after being detained by Moi for nine years, knew very well that the continuation of Kanu meant another stint in detention. He, therefore, went behind other aspirants in the opposition such as Simeon Nyachae, former vice-president Kalonzo Musyoka, and Prof George Saitoti to surprisingly declare “Kibaki Tosha” (Kibaki fits the bill) at a public rally at Nairobi’s biggest recreational grounds—Uhuru Park. Mr Kibaki won.

Dr Ruto is facing serious opposition from his boss, President Kenyatta, who has threatened to reveal how he has been undermining him for the last ten years. Mr Odinga has also publicly said that he would jail Dr Ruto should he come to power because of the many allegations of corruption that have been linked to the Deputy President.

Dr Anangwe conceded that Dr Ruto is taking Mr Odinga’s threats seriously, given that he faced a similar situation in 2012 when he and President Kenyatta were charged with crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC) following the 2007/08 post-election violence. The case against President Kenyatta was dropped while that of Dr Ruto was withdrawn by the former ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, due to witness interference and lack of cooperation by the Kenyan government.

The question as to why Dr Ruto would reach out to Mr Mudavadi still lingers on.

Mr Mudavadi contested for the presidency in 2013 and received 483, 981 votes, which amounted to 3.96 percent. Following the January 23 NDC that Mr Mudavadi had dubbed as “earthquake”, Mr Mudavadi has experienced considerable backlash from his Western region for associating with Dr Ruto—which gave the impression that he had abandoned his presidential quest. This forced the ANC on January 25 to release a statement that Mr Mudavadi will still be on the ballot on August 9 regardless of the recent announcement of a collaboration with Dr Ruto.

Omboko Milemba, ANC MP for Emuhaya Constituency, stated that Mudavadi's path to the presidency is on track, as the NDC only gave the party leader the mandate to seek friends, but the party has resolved that he will not settle for anything less than the presidency. Already, Mr Mudavadi’s ANC and Mr Wetangula’s Ford-Kenya have gained after Dr Ruto agreed that his UDA will not field candidates in some areas of Western region who they hold sway.