A look inside Ruto's kitchen cabinet think tank

A team of technocrats and political operatives plot strategy

In Summary

•The DP’s behind-the-scenes team has expanded in the last month, bringing on board well-known economists and  political experts.

• Ruto has promised to revolutionalise the economy by adopting a bottom-up, not a top-down approach.

Economist David Ndii, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwah and Deputy President William Ruto during the retreat
Economist David Ndii, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwah and Deputy President William Ruto during the retreat

Deputy President William Ruto’s presidential campaign is driven by a two-tiered team of the political elite and top technocrats as his think tank, the Star has established.

The country's second in command has embarked on an elaborate strategy to build a manifesto centred on ordinary people as he aggressively forges a formidable campaign machine.

The DP’s behind-the-scenes team has expanded in the last month, bringing on board well-known economists, political experts and veteran political leaders from around the country.

Ruto is rallying the country around his hustler narrative, which he says is a “bottom-up-middle-out economic approach". The main responsibility of the kitchen cabinet think tank is to crystallise the approach and decide how to sell it.

In this bottom-up approach, taxation revenues would be used to invest in infrastructure to spur growth countrywide — not big loans that burden the people..

In the professional tier, the Star has established  the team has been expanded to 21 people — most of them university professors teaching in Kenya and their counterparts in the diaspora.

The team has been split into small clusters, each researching and writing papers on thematic areas and providing practical ways to implement them.

The professional think tanks include former Central Bank Governor Prof Njuguna Ndung'u, economist Dr David Ndii, former Cabinet Secretary Davis Chirchir, who is an ICT expert, and Prof Larry Gumbe, a former ally of ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Others in the team are Augustine Choge, Kap Kirwok Jason, Prof Edward Kisiangani, Dr Mugambi Mureithi, Prof Raphael Munavu, former Raila ally Eliud Owalo and communications expert Barrack Muluka.

The team includes three former principal secretaries, including one from the Coast, and top government officials who are advising the DP weekly.

This team is complemented by the DP’s communications secretary David Mugonyi and a team of communications experts who were previously working for President Uhuru Kenyatta, such as Munyori Buku and Dennis Itumbi.

Some of the think tank members have previously worked for Raila and ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi.

For instance, Ndii and Owalo worked for the opposition chief in the last election, while Mulaka is a former ANC secretary general.

Management consultant Owalo on Monday told the Star they are a team of professionals “who are working on clear policies that will change Kenya for good”.

Speaking to the Star on the phone, Owalo said they are meeting regularly to fine-tune the “hustlers plan”.

“We believe there is a need for a paradigm shift from politics built around tribal enclaves and ethnic chiefs to a radical progressive, transformative, inclusive and issue-based political dispensation. It will be responsive to the needs and aspirations of all Kenyans,” he said.

Oalo added, “Equally, it’s our well-considered opinion that our envisaged bottom-up economic model will provide an enabling macro-level policy framework. It will facilitates equality in distribution of national wealth that eliminates unwarranted income disparities that we have witnessed since Independence.”

In 2013, Owalo worked as Raila’s presidential campaign manager, but the two fell out in the run-up to the 2017 polls after he unsuccessfully ran for the Kibra parliamentary seat.

The political tier includes UDA chairman Johnson Muthama, Turkana Governor Josphat Nanok, ex-Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale, former Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar and former Agriculture CS Mwangi Kiunjuri.

Others are Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri,  Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua and nominated MP Cecily Mbarire, among others.

Khalwale told the Star most of the people working on the hustlers manifesto are volunteers and “individuals who are determined to see Kenya change”.

He said the previous political arrangements have been based on tribal blocs, saying the upcoming election will be about the hustlers versus the people who want to maintain the status quo.

“You will not hear the tribal card [from us] in the next election but rather issues. That is why our competitors are doing all they can to take back the country to tribal groupings. Kenyans are yearning for real change and that change is coming in 2022,” he said.

Omar said the team brings together politically experienced leaders and professionals who have the know-how on what ails the country and how to fix it.

He said each region is now working on their own economic blueprints that will be merged into one national charter.

“We are working round the clock identifying economic issues of interest to our people. No corner of this country will be left out in the new economic model we have adopted.

"The bottom-up model, which the US President Joe Biden has also adopted, will see ordinary people empowered,” Omar said.

He added, “Since Independence, the conversation has been how to share power and positions among the tribal leaders but the conversation has changed.

"The hustler movement has been received very well by Kenyans and they have decided to try it.”

Omar said they will put a mechanism in place to ensure the manifesto is implemented in all levels of government.

"The DP has committed to implement what we are proposing. It is no longer about colourful manifestos just to win an election but there will be an implementation method with deliverables reviewed quarterly,” he said.

(Edited by V. Graham) 

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