President Uhuru Kenyatta is on the horns of a dilemma as his deputy, William Ruto, and Opposition foe-turned-friend Raila Odinga go at it hammer and tongs.
With Raila and Ruto feuding and sparks flying, President Kenyatta remains tight-lipped and above the fray, although he has been consistent with his anti-corruption, pro-development rhetoric. He needs both Ruto and Raila to achieve his Big Four agenda.
The President, who thus far has ducked the verbal fusillade, on Tuesday lashed out at Ruto’s allies for criticising the war on graft. He denounced those linking him to graft and said they should take their evidence to the DCI. Ruto wants to be President in 2022; his allies fear Raila may want the same or may back someone who will give Ruto a run for his money.
Politicians and analysts have warned that the President’s silence and refusal to commit himself could further expose his deputy, who already is reeling from a sustained onslaught from his 2022 opponents.
Raila and Ruto are at each other’s throats in an early showdown prefiguring the 2022 battlefield.
While Raila is keen to project Ruto as a ‘thief’ and untrustworthy with the management of public funds, the DP has gone ballistic, branding the ex-PM a “magician and master of deceit”.
On Thursday, he called him “the ugly face of impunity”.
Despite the public show of courtesy between the two during public functions, Ruto and Raila are anything by decorous as they seek to consolidate their bases ahead of 2022.
“In the last election, you said your competitor stole the Eurobond. Now you are accusing the person you perceive to be your future competitor of stealing money from the dams. And if you are asked, ‘Boss, why not take this evidence to DCI or the EACC — is the evidence?’ You say, you know I know you are thieves because I got a call from the Pope...” Ruto said at the Sixth Devolution Conference closing ceremony on Thursday.
Uhuru, meanwhile, tiptoes strategically around the mess, but wades into anti-graft debate promising that no one will be spared, no tribes are targeted.
Addressing the dangerous undercurrents and riptides, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri on Monday warned that the Jubilee boat would capsize should Uhuru maintain his studious silence.
“You (Uhuru) are the only person who can call us and direct us. Instead, you (Uhuru) have left the country to politicking on how to fight one person and you can’t even talk when your deputy is being attacked,” Ngunjiri scolded the President.
“Why the hypocrisy? Come out and say what you know, and if it is true Ruto has stolen, then show us where the money is. The President is the CEO of this country and has not said money has been stolen and if yes, then he should tell us where he was when money was being stolen.”
The vocal MP asked the President to be forthright on his political deal with Ruto regarding succession politics in which he once openly backed Ruto?
“It is the President who told us MPs about 2022 and who we shall follow. Has the President changed his mind? He needs to tell us,” Ngunjiri said.
Adding a new dimension to the Raila-Ruto feud and the President’s silence, Ngunjiri said MPs will soon reveal details of the beneficiaries of a mega-scandal rocking Kenya Airways.
He claimed that KQ’s parking bay in the UK, given to Kenya by Queen Elizabeth in the 1960s, was sold off in 2016at Sh7.5 billion by powerful people.
“KQ currently has no parking in the UK and we want to know who are these people who sold the parking. They should not think that we don’t know. We know more. KQ is now leasing KLM parking in the UK because they have no parking,” the lawmaker said.
Pokot South MP David Pkosing on Monday warned that political dynasties were using the war against corruption as a scapegoat to advance their 2022 presidential succession agenda.
“The idea is not about corruption but about 2022 politics,” Pkosing said.
The MP, who chairs the National Assembly Transport and Infrastructure Committee, warned that powerful forces opposed to Ruto’s presidential bid were driving the corruption narrative to block the DP.
“We are tired and we will not allow that. Dynasties and sons of the rich don’t want a son of a peasant or a hustler to be the President of Kenya,” he said.
But ODM Treasurer Timothy Bosire, Raila’s close ally, on Monday told the Star that the President’s silence is critical to allow independent institutions charged with the fight against graft to do their job.
“When the process is taking place, he has to monitor the process. The silence is for the purposes of monitoring the machinery and the systems he has put in place,” Bosire said.
The former Kitutu Masaba MP said the President has already established systems in the fight against corruption through reorganisation of the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
“The President has laid a firm foundation that has taken off.
Those who have been doing monkey business are free to talk because the hour of reckoning has come,” he said, adding that the March 9 handshake gave the anti-graft war fresh impetus.
Ruto and Raila last weekend exchanged harsh words over a high-end car donated by Ruto to Kisumu Catholic Archbishop Philip Anyolo during his installation in January.
Speaking on Saturday, Raila questioned the source of the money used to buy the car, saying that the Catholic church rejected the vehicle “since it was bought using dirty money”.
“The Pope insisted that the vehicle is returned. We should stand for the truth,” he said during the funeral of former chief Daudi Owino Olak in Lifunga Kobiero village, Ugenya subcounty.
But Ruto on Sunday lashed put at Raila, saying he (Raila) was a ‘master of deceit who always spewed desperate lies’.
“...the car gift was bought by Christian leaders, including UK (Uhuru Kenyatta) and myself at the request of the chair of Catholic MPs. Understandably, empowering the church offends magicians and the evil spirits they worship. Shetani ashindwe,” Ruto tweeted.
The exchanges forced the Catholic church through Cardinal John Njue to clarify that they were not aware of the Pope’s directive, even as Anyolo insisted he had not used the car because it wasn’t registered yet.