BBI and ICC: Deep state going all out to stop Ruto?

At worst, the case at the Hague could end the deputy president's political career.

In Summary

• Elite power plays are not games of chance, everything is choreographed. 

• Just days before a prominent lawyer surrendered “voluntarily” to the International Criminal Court, BBI stalwarts President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga declared that the reforms ship had set sail. 

Deputy President William Ruto.
Deputy President William Ruto.
Image: FILE

It looks like an uncanny coincidence. Perhaps it is. But politics has no surprises.

Elite power plays are not games of chance. Everything is choreographed, including murders that might appear to be a “normal” crime.

Just days before a prominent lawyer surrendered “voluntarily” to the International Criminal Court, BBI stalwarts President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga declared that the reforms ship had set sail. There was no turning back. No further review of the BBI report as critics have been demanding.

You remember all those loud calls upon wananchi to read the report, critique it and propose improvements? All that was just hot air.

Politics as usual. Turns out all forces are being mobilised to pass the report as is, whether anyone likes it or not. In the words of Raila in Kisii, “Nyoka ametoka” (the serpent has exited its hole, meaning it cannot be pushed back). 

Upon receiving the report in Kisii, Uhuru struck a similar note. He said it would be passed as a package, without amendments or isolating contentious issues to build consensus. That is democracy as Uhuru and Raila see it. They must have their way. BBI is a fait accompli. Done deal.

Analysts agree that this hard-line position puts Deputy President William Ruto in a tight spot.

The plan seems to be to push him to climb down from his rejection of certain aspects of the report and accept it without question. Or the BBI ship will sail off without him. Of course, it is not difficult to see that the entire charade is a weaponised process to stop Ruto.

And then came lawyer Paul Gicheru’s alleged voluntary surrender to the ICC.

Gicheru is accused of witness tampering, claims chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said led to the collapse of the crimes against humanity case against Ruto and journalist Joshua Sang’.

Gicheru is alleged to have influenced key witnesses to withdraw from the case. A warrant of arrest for Gicheru was issued five years ago. Why did he decide to surrender now? Media reports said he travelled to the Netherlands quietly, without informing even his lawyer.

In 2016, Uhuru vowed he would not allow another Kenyan to be tried at the ICC. But Gicheru will stand trial, the court confirmed. A judge has been appointed to hear the case. Uhuru’s government has said nothing on the issue.

Gicheru’s decision may have important implications for Ruto, depending on what the lawyer is prepared to reveal during the trial. Ruto seems cornered in the BBI matter. And now he has a new ICC headache.

Is it a sheer coincidence that the ICC matter has surfaced at a time of spirited efforts to pass the BBI? We don’t think so.

Uhuru is reportedly focused on his legacy. Might that include a “handshake” with the ICC? He has largely won the acceptance of the so-called international community after the crimes of humanity charges tainted him. Could Gicheru’s surprise move be part of a larger scheme?

With the collapse of the two high-profile cases, a vigorous campaign to pull Kenya out of the ICC and Uhuru’s promise never to let any citizen face trial in The Hague, it all appeared that the court had been tossed into the dustbin of Kenyan history.

But it hasn’t. In January, the DP said there was a plot to revive his case to frustrate his presidential ambition.

“I had a conversation with the NSIS director last year and, as we speak, some characters have sent some people to Kenya to revive ICC cases. But I want to categorically tell them they won’t succeed. In fact, it will be a big surprise to them,” Ruto said.

His allies say they are aware of the plot. Gicheru’s ICC case will, at the minimum, distract Ruto from his opposition to the BBI report and the 2022 grand march. That alone would be a huge score for the DP’s political enemies. At worst, the case could end his political career.

A key deep state operative, Cotu secretary-general Francis Atwoli, cryptically said come 2022 Ruto would not be on the ballot. He did not explain. The remark ignited a political firestorm. Atwoli’s statement acquires fresh significance in view of the current developments.