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CHOOSING TO WALK AWAY

Ruto's leaving banned Kisii rally was a 'BATNA' win for Kenya

BATNA - Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. Ruto probably wise to walk away, live to fight another day

In Summary

• Tension in Nyamira was palpable and everyone waited, wondering what would happen. Would Ruto double dog dare the so-called system? Political nature of ban was evident.

• Ruto chose to 'walk away' from the anticipated Nyamira anticipated clash. He stood down, retreated, opted to abide by directives. To his credit, his decision to pick his battles earned him authorisation to hold his rallies later.

 

Deputy President William Ruto with East African Court of Justice Judge Charles Nyachae at his Karen, Nairobi
Deputy President William Ruto with East African Court of Justice Judge Charles Nyachae at his Karen, Nairobi
Image: DPPS

“Sometimes you just have to walk."

In early 2019, US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of North Korea, were in Vietnam for what is now known as the Hanoi Summit.

This was the second meeting between the two leaders, following their first unprecedented meeting in Singapore the previous year.

 

The meetings were projected to declare an end to the Korean War, establish liaison offices in each other’s capitals, and most importantly, trade the destruction of North Korea’s main nuclear facility for easing some of the sanctions against Pyongyang. The anticipation was palpable. History was about to be made.

But in a sudden turn of events, their meeting ended abruptly with Trump walking away from the negotiating table, a planned state luncheon and a joint signing ceremony.

The sticking point that catalysed this unexpected moment, was when Kim declared that he wanted all international sanctions on his country lifted, as a pre-condition for dismantling his nuclear complex.

On his part, Trump was not willing to entirely relieve the economic pressure on North Korea without Kim providing a full inventory of its nuclear weapons programme and doing away with the programme, including additional suspected uranium-enrichment sites, ballistic missiles, nuclear warheads and weapons systems. In Trump’s view, Kim’s ask was grossly disproportionate to what he was willing to offer.

On one hand, Trump's critics called it a stunning setback and a failed summit in the pursuit of reducing the threat of Kim’s nuclear weapons and also for Trump’s much-touted signature approach to nuclear talks with North Korea. On the other hand, his supporters hailed his walking away from a bad deal, not a great success, but nevertheless not a complete failure

Trump, when addressing his supporters said, “Sometimes you just have to walk."

This week, we had our own Kenyan rendition of when “sometimes you just have to walk."

Deputy President William Ruto was set to hold a funds drive for boda boda operators in Nyamira and Kisii. However, despite the much-publicised meeting, when supporters who had already started streaming into the venue, the events were abruptly stopped by riot police.

The day prior, there were directives issued by Head of the Public Service Joseph Kinyua that required all political meetings to be held held in strict compliance with Section 5 of the Public Order Act Cap.56.

The OCS ought to be informed of the intent to hold a political meeting at least three days  prior to the scheduled date [and give permission]. Some lawyers have argued that this Public Order contravenes the Constitution that grants Kenyans the freedom of association.

Ironically, other politicos held uninterrupted political rallies over the same time frame that Ruto’s meeting was banned. Was this a case of turning a blind eye in favor of those seemingly aligned to the current so-called system, or was it a case of scoring an own goal because the selective application of the rules was clear as a bell?

Just as Trump was trying to reset the parameters in negotiating with Kim, the directives by the National Security Advisory Committee reset the parameters in the nation where it was unprecedented that a sitting deputy president was banned by the same government that he is a part of, from holding a political rally. Indeed, just as has been ushered in by Covid-19, a new political normal had set in.

The tension in Nyamira was palpable and everyone waited, wondering what would happen. Would Ruto double dog dare the so-called system? A double dog dare is when you challenge someone emphatically or defiantly.

Probably desiring to avoid a repeat of the violence that had happened just a few weeks earlier in Murang'a county on account of his presence  Ruto chose to 'walk away' from the Nyamira anticipated clash. He stood down. He retreated. He chose to fight another day, he opted to abide by the laid down directives. To his credit, his decision to pick his battles earned him authorisation to hold his political rallies at a later date.

Begs the question, was his 'walk away' a stunning setback, or was it not a great success, but nevertheless not a complete failure either? You be the judge.

Oftentimes, when one is in a position of economic, political or social status strength, there is a tendency to believe that negotiations are all or nothing, that there has to be one winner and one loser, and that the negotiations have to be done sitting across a table from the other party.

While it is an undisputed fact that the goal of negotiation is to most certainly get what you want, the reality is that the best deals in life that stick, are those where neither party is happy because it means that neither party has been shortchanged at the expense of the other. It is an indication that neither party fully got what they had hoped for. And that’s the best deal.

I submit, that neither Ruto, nor the so-called system that orchestrated this sudden turn of events, was happy with its outcome. On the one hand, it denied Ruto the opportunity to stick it to his critics the display of his popularity, whether perceived or not, as he has been brazenly parading.

On the other hand, it denied the so-called system the opportunity to entrench their branding him a warlord and one who has a thirst for shedding innocent blood. From all accounts, this was a good deal. Because, neither side got what they fully hoped for. In the discourse on negotiation, this is known as BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. And you and I, are the better for it.

Finally, my unsolicited advice is to the unsolicited advisers of Ruto who keep asking him to resign from government. When your ship is taking in water, you do not jump. You grab a bucket. Likewise, Ruto should scout for more BATNA moments from within government, not from without.

He will win, he who knows, when to fight and when not to fight – Sun Tzu