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ORENGO'S BLUNDER

Impeachment threat will build Ruto's political capital

Counterproductive move

In Summary

• Ruto and his allies are already propagating the message that his candidacy is being fought by political dynasties and elites.

• It will be a herculean task to attempt to marshal two-thirds of MPs and have 47 senators vote to impeach the Deputy President.

President Uhuru Kenyatta when he visited hid deputy William Ruto at his office on March 26, 2019.
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he visited hid deputy William Ruto at his office on March 26, 2019.
Image: PSCU

The recent rhetoric from Siaya Senator James Orengo of possibly drafting a motion to impeach Deputy President William Ruto from office is ill-informed.

The Senate Minority leader and Senior Counsel may have given the legal grounds to impeach the beleaguered 2022 Jubilee presumptive presidential candidate but politically, it is very unsound.

In 2010, then Prime Minister Raila Odinga suspended Agriculture minister William Ruto and his Education counterpart Prof Sam Ongeri from the grand coalition government for three months following allegations of corruption and incompetence.

But even before the duo received their suspension letters, President Mwai Kibaki had reversed the decision. That demonstrated who the appointing authority was in the coalition government. And from that point, Ruto fell out with Raila, and went ahead to chart his own political career. He even led the opposition to the 2010 plebiscite albeit unsuccessfully in the NO campaign, against very powerful government machinery. This raised his profile even higher thereafter.

During the ICC period, the narrative that was bought hook, line and sinker by Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto’s supporters was that Raila “fixed” them. The allegation gained traction that millions believed that Raila wanted Uhuru and Ruto prosecuted and imprisoned at The Hague for bearing the biggest responsibility for the 2007-08 post-election violence. The result, thought of by their ardent supporters, was that it would clear the path for an easy Raila Odinga 2013 presidential victory.

That narrative birthed the Jubilee Alliance, which brought Uhuru and Ruto’s then political outfits, TNA and URP, respectively together and win the presidency.

With the same line of attack against the Deputy President, who has escaped several guillotines that were expected to diminish him politically, the impeachment rhetoric, too, will further contribute to his political capital nationally. His clout will increase and his base will stand by him. It does no good, optically speaking, that the biggest proponent of the impeachment is Raila’s closest ally and one of ODM’s leading luminaries.

Ruto and his allies are already propagating the message that his candidacy is being fought by political dynasties and elites. He has successfully fashioned himself as a “peasant’s son” who beat the odds to be a heartbeat away from the House on the Hill. Many gravitate towards a grass to grace story, which Ruto proudly and successfully encapsulates.

Already, Ruto’s allies have interpreted the impeachment to mean that Uhuru will appoint Raila as his deputy, which would be seen by millions as underhanded, whether averse or supportive to Ruto. With the legislators led by the Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, they have proclaimed that the impeachment is only meant to create a vacancy for Raila, on which they have vowed to oppose vociferously.

It will be a herculean task to attempt to marshal two-thirds of MPs and have 47 senators vote to impeach the Deputy President where Jubilee commands a majority in the bicameral Legislature. The coterie of independents majorly sides with the Jubilee parliamentary group, further cushioning the Deputy President.

The President will also be forced to stick with his deputy, who in three elections, has delivered more than two million votes three presidential victories. Jubilee is the house that Ruto equally contributed to build. Uhuru cannot afford to lose Ruto as a deputy, lest it creates conspicuous tension and deathly rivalry in the government that will foment tribal divisions and instability in the country.

Lest we forget, in early 2009 a vote of no confidence was brought in against Ruto when he was the Agriculture minister. Whilst it was sponsored by the then Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale, it was defeated and that ignited national interest in the then youthful Eldoret North MP who in four years rose to be the second in command. He has been a perpetual embattled politician who has at all times walked out of the fire unburnt.

Ruto’s clout rises nationally when he is fought politically. That has been his modus operandi.

Attempting to play Ruto off his position — 2022 presidential race — is counterproductive, as it will ingratiate him more to Kenyans. To defeat Ruto is to leave him alone, he can all bad by himself until he is interrupted. Orengo is thus indirectly building Ruto’s political capital unbeknownst to him.