SUCCESSION POLITICS

Ruto on course to break myth of jinxed vice president

Fallout with Uhuru is a potential source of sympathy votes for Ruto countrywide

In Summary

• As Kenya’s number two, Ruto stands at a unique moment in the country’s presidential succession history.

• The 10 men who occupied that perch before him were all appointees of the Presiden

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto during the State of The Nation Address on November 12, 2020.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto during the State of The Nation Address on November 12, 2020.
Image: DPPS

Will William Ruto be the first deputy president in Kenya to succeed his boss?

None of his 10 predecessors was lucky. They were a heartbeat away from the seat of power but it eluded them. Daniel arap Moi had to wait until Jomo Kenyatta died to succeed him.  

As Kenya’s number two, Ruto stands at a unique moment in the country’s presidential succession history. The 10 men who occupied that perch before him were all appointees of the President.

 

They typically kept a low profile, fearful not to appear to outshine the boss. Only first vice president Jaramogi Oginga Odinga openly contradicted his boss and inevitably quit office.

Ruto is not President Uhuru Kenyatta’s appointee. They came into office under one ticket. Uhuru cannot wake up one morning and fire him.

After their first term, Ruto began to recast himself as his own man, emboldened by Uhuru’s promise that upon completing his two terms, he would support his deputy to succeed him.

Uhuru’s attempt to renege on that promise through the handshake split Jubilee and helped create Brand Ruto. The fallout is a potential source of sympathy votes for Ruto countrywide, but especially in Mt Kenya region, many voters believe they owe him.

Ruto is highly driven and has never pretended he doesn’t want the top job. Even his worst critics credit him as an indefatigable tactician, whether working with Uhuru in the 2013 and 2017 elections or with ODM leader Raila Odinga in the 2005 referendum and the 2007 election.

Now the man from Sugoi is riding the BBI wave. The process that is intended to lock him out of the Uhuru succession is taking exactly the path he wants. He has turned the tables on his adversaries.

Uhuru and Raila who thought they would ram the BBI report down the throats of Kenyans are belatedly realising the process has taken a life of its own. It is no longer in their hands. The greatest beneficiary will be Ruto.

 

This is how.

At the launch of the report in Bomas on October 26, Ruto braved a hostile crowd to tell the nation the document was flawed and needed further consultations.

He pointed out the proposals he found problematic. Ruto has stressed the need to build consensus on contested provisions of the document.

But the “brothers” and their self-declared “cows” swore that not a comma would be changed in the report. It must be passed without amendments.

That says something about their much-touted democratic credentials, doesn’t it? The hard-line position also suggests the real agenda of BBI is suspicious.

Under mounting pressure from different groups, Raila appeared to change tune. He promised representatives of the pastoralist community that their views would be incorporated in a revised report.

But Baba changed tune again a day later.

There is significantly little chance of significant new ideas being brought into the BBI document ahead of the referendum, except for editorial work to make it explicit on demands by various groups where it sounds vague or general, as is the case with the issues of pastoralists,” he said on Wednesday.

It is basically done and there is little likelihood that new ideas will be pushed into it.”

The flip-flopping is interesting. The brothers have lost the plot. They were expected to address governors at a retreat in Naivasha on Wednesday but they apparently found better things to do.

The governors insist the report must be amended. MCAs are also making their demands. The county assemblies are crucial in the referendum process.

The BBI report is beginning to feel like a tonne of bricks on the shoulders of Uhuru and his brother.

Wait, did they congratulate US president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris on their victory over Donald Trump?

That’s funny. The “brothers” don’t like a winner-takes-all election. They are trying to replace it with an absurd loser-gets-something system.

Under their BBI philosophy, Trump should be made a prime minister or given some job in an expanded Executive for “inclusivity”, Nairobi’s latest contribution to political theory.

Thus far, the winner of the BBI battle for hearts and minds is Ruto. His insistence that the report should be reviewed is being echoed countrywide.

The “brothers” are not sure how to proceed. Ruto will likely push his hustler anti-system narrative to a winner-takes-all victory in 2022.