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WORDS OF WISDOM

Ruto should mend fences

He only need consider steps taken at strategic moments by Raila.

In Summary
  • No politician has proved more flexible in building of bridges and mending of fences, than Raila has.
  • And this has served him well.

Over the past few weeks, I have read many analyses of the current political drama swirling around the Deputy President, Dr William Ruto, which emphasise that there is really nothing new about all this.

Indeed, right from Independence in 1963, there has been a fixed pattern for such dramas which invariably play out in four acts. As follows:

First, a prominent political figure works to help an even more prominent political figure to ascend to the presidency.

 

Second, the serving president signals in a variety of ways that this man who played such a key role in getting him elected is his chosen heir, who will in time also get to serve as president.

Third, this heir apparent starts to build up his own power base, consisting of loyalists whom he expects will be useful in his struggle to ascend to the presidency.

Fourth, a group of political insiders whom we may term as “the deep state” gang up against the heir apparent (who is usually either a Vice or Deputy President; or else recognised as a “senior cabinet minister”). They proceed to systematically deconstruct his power base, leaving him weak and vulnerable – and more or less assured of losing in any attempt he may make to become the next president.

For Dr William Ruto, the first three acts have long played out and the fourth act is already well underway. Various elected leaders invariably referred to as “key Ruto allies” have been losing their positions in senatorial and parliamentary committees in quick succession. At this rate, he will soon have very few allies left, who can do any serious heavy lifting when the time comes for the hazards of running for president.

What is a man in Dr Ruto’s position to do?

It is in such a context that I would argue that Dr Ruto would best serve his own interests by swallowing his pride; setting aside any rage he may feel over broken promises; and seeking to revive his political partnership with the President.

Well, one of the advantages of being a media commentator is that you get to offer plenty of unsolicited advice to the top leaders of the day.

In this case, my advice to the DP is that he should seek to build bridges and mend fences. There is really no other path that can restore to him the advantages he has apparently lost.

 

And to see why this is the path that wisdom dictates, he only need consider the steps taken at strategic moments by the former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga.

No politician in Kenya has proved more flexible in this building of bridges and mending of fences, than Raila has. And this has served him well.

Back in 2001, Raila astonished both friend and foe when he formed a close political alliance with the long-serving authoritarian President, Daniel Moi. What was astonishing is that Raila had spent many years behind bars during the earlier part of Moi’s rule, as a political prisoner and had long been seen as being irreversibly opposed to Moi and all his works.

Raila then went on to serve in Moi’s cabinet, and even got elected secretary general of the very political party, Kanu, through which Moi had exercised a highly exclusionist form of single party rule.

A few years later, in 2007, Raila was strong enough to mount a remarkably effective run against the serving president Mwai Kibaki – whom he had incidentally played a key role in hoisting to the presidency.

Raila and his supporters believed that in that election, “his victory was stolen”. This did not prevent him from accepting to form a coalition government with Kibaki, which is when he ended up as Prime Minister.

More recently, in 2017, Raila went so far as to be “sworn in” as “The People’s President” in broad daylight, arguing that his victory against President Uhuru Kenyatta had been stolen; along with this, some of his key political theorists argued openly for a secession scheme that would have isolated Central Kenya if successful.

This too has not prevented Raila working very closely with Uhuru to modify the imperial presidency out of existence, with their Building Bridges Initiative.

It is in such a context that I would argue that Dr Ruto would best serve his own interests by swallowing his pride; setting aside any rage he may feel over broken promises; and seeking to revive his political partnership with the President.