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February 20, 2019

Ruto’s turn to face betrayal?

"It may soon be William Ruto’s turn to sample the workings of this iron law of Kenyan politics."
"It may soon be William Ruto’s turn to sample the workings of this iron law of Kenyan politics."

Whether you like the Deputy President William Ruto, or detest him, if you are at all objective, you will admit that he possesses a certain political indestructibility.

There have been several occasions in the past when it seemed safe to write off the DP for good. But he has somehow managed to get past these brutal disappointments, and to continue to move his political career forwards.

Consider the crushing setback he faced, for example, when he remained loyal to Uhuru Kenyatta and Kanu, as the Grand Old Party sleepwalked towards a historic defeat in the 2002 General Election.

Also, following the post-election massacres of 2007-08, it was an article of faith among the governing hegemons of Central Kenya that Ruto had played a key role in orchestrating that tragedy and — despite lacking any proof of this — they were determined to make him pay.

Or when in September 2011, he was summoned to The Hague to answer for crimes against humanity at the ICC. I could go on. But suffice it to say that any one of these would have been enough to bring down the curtains on the careers of most ordinary politicians. But not Ruto.

Of course, he is not the only politician who has this amazing aura of indestructibility. President Kenyatta has it too, to some degree. It is now easily forgotten that Uhuru suffered a crushing defeat in his first attempt at elective politics, back in 1997. And likewise, was buried in a landslide in 2002 when he ran against Mwai Kibaki for the presidency. Uhuru too, of course, had his rendezvous with the ICC in the year 2012 and beyond.

But none of this stopped him.

Perhaps the only political figure who is even more indestructible than Ruto is the opposition leader and former PM Raila Odinga. I have occasionally come across online commentators who gleefully write Raila’s political obituary. I can only assume that such commentators are very young, and have no memory of those who walked earlier on the very path that they now tread.

For the writing of Raila’s political obituary has been a cottage industry for over 20 years now, with confident declarations made after each major setback he faced that this surely must be the end of his overwhelming influence over the Kenyan electorate.

And yet a short while after such assertions, Raila was again right back on top, offering a formidable challenge to the President of the day, if not somehow absorbed into the political establishment (eg by President Daniel Moi in 1999, when he joined Moi’s Cabinet; and by President Kibaki in 2008, when he was appointed Prime Minister of the coalition government).

But back to Ruto, if all the analyses we have read following the formation of the new “Uhuru legacy Cabinet” are anything to go by, then an irresistible force of Kenyan politics is currently moving at high speed towards the immovable rock that is William Ruto.

One of the iron laws of Kenyan politics — a law which thus far has allowed no exceptions — is that any leader who plays a central role in helping a personal friend or political ally rise to the presidency, inevitably finds himself sidelined once victory is secured. Any dreams of reciprocity and an overflow of presidential gratitude quickly turn to dust and ashes.

Consider our founding President, Jomo Kenyatta, in the late 1960s, effectively banning from all politics his former VP Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, who had been the most relentless campaigner for old Jomo’s release from arbitrary detention in colonial times.

Or the former Attorney General Charles Njonjo (later minister for Constitutional Affairs) being subjected to a blizzard of false accusations in the early 1980s as a preliminary to being drummed out of elective office by President Daniel Moi — who owed his elevation to, above all others, that very same Charles Njonjo.

And more recently, Raila received nothing but cold ingratitude for his efforts in helping Kibaki ascend to the presidency in 2002.

It may soon be Ruto’s turn to sample the workings of this iron law of Kenyan politics.

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