OUTSIDER CAUSING JITTERS

Is Ruto a threat to Uhuru, Raila in 2022?

Uhuru-Raila allies dismiss Ruto as inconsequential, call hustler vs dynasties talk dangerous

In Summary

• Deputy President William Ruto has fired up his 2022 presidential campaigns, declaring that his grand march to State House is unstoppable.

• The country's second in command appears to have switched into full campaign mode.

Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
Deputy President William Ruto, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at a past event.
Image: FILE

In last two months, Deputy President William Ruto has fired up his 2022 presidential campaigns, declaring his grand march to State House is unstoppable.

In fact, the DP has openly claimed the so-called 'system' and the 'deep state' will not block his presidential bid because he has the "millions of Kenyans and God" on his side.

The country's second in command appears to have doubled down into full  campaign mode, two years to the next General Election. His hustler vs dynasties narrative -despised by the mainstream and establishment - is gaining momentum, to their dismay.

 

Furthermore, Ruto's populist 'no man's land' strategy — meaning no part of Kenya belongs exclusively to any one person or community — will be trumpeted far and wide as he campaigns and appeals to the common man and popular discontent.

He talks about jobs for the millions of jobless and donates equipment — from carpentry tools to sewing machines to wheelbarrows.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has shoved Ruto from the centre of power, stripped him of his allies in Parliament and reduced his functions and funding. Still, he won't give up.

Legal experts say there are no fixed timelines for the start of presidential campaign vote hunt.

The DP's relentless scouring for 2022 support has put him on a collision cause with the President, who says early campaigns disrupt his development agenda.

Ruto's fast and furious campaigns anchored in the hustlers vs dynasties narrative are a direct assault on President Kenyatta and his newfound friend Raila Odinga, the ODM boss.

Uhuru is the scion of the country's founding President, Jomo Kenyatta, while Raila is the son of Kenya's first vice president, Jaramogi Oginga.

 

As the momentum builds for the so-called hustler movement, the questions being asked are: Can it really produce an earthquake that can shake the Uhuru-Raila duo?  Will aspiring Kenyans buy into the 'underdog' narrative? Don't they really admire and envy the dynasties and wish they were part of them?

The DP's close confidants say for the first time in Kenya, a man from obscurity could become Kenya's fifth president.

However, politicians coalescing around the handshake — the Uhuru-Raila 2018  pact that ended post-2017 polls hostilities — claim they will vanquish the Deputy President before the 2022 duel. It is said, however, no one in politics is ever really vanquished. 

Jubilee nominated MP Maina Kamanda, a key ally of the President, told the Star that Ruto will be hobbled in his presidential marathon.

“The Deputy President is just a lone ranger. He cannot mount any serious threat to a combination of the President and former Prime Minister Raila. He will lose terribly,” the ex-Starehe MP said.

The veteran politician said once Uhuru and Raila roll out their 2022 plans, most of the politicians who have recently jumped ship for the DP, as well as his old allies, will dump him.

“He (Ruto) is just dishing out money and buying political loyalty, when the time comes and we hit the road, he will be completely nowhere,” Kamanda said.

It is clear both camps are calculating far-reaching metrics to outdo each other. The much-anticipated Building Bridges Initiative report is likely to give fresh impetus to the pro-handshake, Kieleweke team.

The Uhuru-Raila camp is said to be relying on the BBI report and ultimately constitutional amendments to expand the government by creating the posts of prime minister and two deputies. These can be promised to allies.

Analysts said if the BBI report is adopted and a referendum is held, Ruto's State House dream would suffer an immense blow. He and his allies oppose constitutional amendments.

“Should Kenyans approve a referendum and adopt an expanded structure of government, then be sure Ruto's goose would be cooked and his State House march crippled,” political analyst Alphonse Andama said.

He said the BBI process offers Uhuru-Raila the requisite ammunition to deal with the restless DP and "annihilate him" ahead of 2022.

“Raila and Uhuru's hopes lie in the BBI. If the final report is rejected or not processed further, Ruto would be comfortably storming State House - he will be unbeatable in 2022," Andama said.

There are reports Raila would dangle either the carrot of the PM's post or the deputy president's to win over the President's Mt Kenya backyard to block Ruto's forays.

An increasing number of Uhuru's allies have come out to back Raila for President, setting the stage for a gruelling two-horse race. Raila, has not announced.

Most of the President's allies from Mt Kenya have visited Raila's Capitol Hill office as the landscape shifts in anticipation of an expanded Executive.

While Uhuru has kept everyone guessing about his succession plans, his ugly falling out with his deputy two years to the General Election leaves him with limited options.

Uhuru's allies have publicly claimed Raila is his best successor and can defeat Ruto.

The President is,m however, yet to pronounce himself on his 2022 choice, but his cosy relationship with Raila has caused speculation he could back him.

The Uhuru-Raila axis is already countering the DP's revolutionary hustler narrative by claiming it is a recipe for anarchy and what's needed is solid national development.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, a Raila confidant, warned the DP's campaign narrative is setting the country on a divisive path.

“Ruto is running a dangerous hustler narrative that aims to divide this country into the haves and the have-nots. Grouping Kenyans into hustlers vs dynasties is a recipe for anarchy,” Junet said.

The National Assembly Minority Whip maintained that unless Ruto's campaigns are contained, his narrative has the potential of creating chaos as the country hurtles toward the polls in two years.

“Ruto is fuelling chaos with his money, he must be stopped. The violence meted out to the people in Murang’a was initiated in his name,” he claimed.

Two people died on Sunday last week when two rival groups clashed at Kenol, Murang'a county, during the DP's church fundraiser. Ruto blames the government.

But his critics are capitalising in the chaos to derail on the man from Sugoi whom they accuse of sponsoring the mayhem for mileage.

With  pro-handshake politicians trying to turn the tables against Ruto by branding him a "warlord", the DP is fighting back, aggressively helping unemployed youth and women.

In what appears to have triggered jitters within the Uhuru-Raila axis, Ruto has stepped up his empowerment programmes, donating water tanks, car-washing machines, motorcycles, carts, animal feed and agricultural implements, among other goodies.

He is holding fundraisers for boda boda operators, churches and other groups in what his allies call a sweeping strategy to propel him to high office.

His camp claims his campaigning poses a serious threat to the political establishment so his enemies have ganged up against him because they fear they will lose their benefits if Ruto wins.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, a Ruto ally, told the Star the DP's rivals should expect a major upset.

“Kenyans are tired of the dynasties and it's is clear from the millions of youths we have engaged that they want leaders who are ready to address their economic challenges,” Barasa said.

The politician claimed the DP's rivals have always refused to engage the country in serious sustainable efforts to empower vulnerable youth and women.

“The future is bright for the youth and that's why they want to entrust their future to a leader who cares about their financial well-being," he said.

The DP is building on his harambee philosophy to endear himself to churches, while Raila's team accuses him of of using riches acquired through suspect means to fund religious causes.

However, the state's push for a ban on non-authorised meetings countrywide would reduce the DP's rallies and dim the messaging.

In an indirect reference to the DP’s meetings, the National Security Advisory Committee on Wednesday warned against campaigns it said were being used to incite millions of jobless youth.

“Sadly, some individuals are taking advantage of the vulnerabilities in our population occasioned by the socioeconomic shocks of Covid-19,” head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua said.

NSAC also fired a warning shot at those whose messages they said attacked personal rights and could trigger discrimination based on economic status