Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has alleged that there is a scheme to rig the August 9 vote, raising the possibility of a fourth successive disputed presidential election outcome in the country since 2007.
Dr Ruto, who has been on a rare foreign tour this past week, told a democracy forum at America’s Karson Institute for Race, Peace and Justice on Wednesday that there were attempts to choreograph President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession and ensure a predetermined outcome.
President Kenyatta has endorsed Raila Odinga, the 77-year-old opposition leader and his rival in the past two presidential elections, as his preferred successor.
The endorsement is seen as a reward for Mr Odinga’s role in propping up the Kenyatta administration over the past four and a half years against an internal rebellion led by a deputy president he found too ambitious for his liking.
Mr Odinga’s ODM party has been cooperating with the ruling Jubilee Party to pass government Bills in parliament since their two leaders called a truce in March 2018. This was after the nullification of President Kenyatta’s re-election victory by the Supreme Court in September 2017.
Speaking at the ruling party’s delegates conference convened to ratify a coalition deal with ODM last week, the president said he had overlooked Mr Ruto due to his “unbridled ambition”, which he likened to “an unguided missile”.
In contrast, he showered praises on the opposition leader, calling him a “peacemaker” and a “patriot”.
Mr Odinga’s campaign, buoyed by the backing of the state machinery, has dismissed the claims about vote-rigging as reckless, saying the deputy president has sensed defeat.
President Kenyatta is yet to publicly comment on Mr Ruto’s remarks in the US implicating the Kenyan government agencies in a vote-rigging scheme.
But having repeatedly stated his wish to break the cycle of Kenya’s election-related violence as part of his legacy, he and other senior administration figures will be concerned about the possibility of the Deputy President’s allegations raising the political temperatures a notch with the 2022 polls only five months away.
A populist politician with the gift of the gab, Mr Ruto enjoys a passionate ethnic following in parts of Rift Valley and is expanding his clout in the Mt Kenya region where President Kenyatta hails from.
After the so-called Handshake deal he signed with Odinga in March 2018, President Kenyatta sought to pursue ways to stop the country’s future elections from being a war of attrition among ethnic power elites.
A reforms task force, known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which the president appointed to collect public views on his idea of a “win-win” election, recommended an expanded government structure.
But his efforts to change the Constitution through a referendum to enable the creation of additional positions in government, including that of a prime minister, failed last year after the High Court and the Court of Appeal declared the process illegal.
The Supreme Court has yet to deliver its judgment on a petition seeking to revive the BBI after hearings in January.