DEFENDS PRESIDENT

Is Ruto changing strategy to drive wedge between Uhuru, Raila?

In Summary

• The DP and his troops have perceived the handshake to be a political arrangement aimed at stifling his ambitions of becoming the country’s fifth President in favour of Raila.

• Raila and his allies have lately been criticised over government’s development record in their BBI and 2022 election campaigns.

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

Edged out of government power, Deputy President William Ruto seems to be changing his strategy to drive a wedge between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his handshake partner, ODM boss Raila Odinga.

Could he possibly aim to win back the President's favour?

In an apparent effort to set the two handshake partners on a warpath, the DP appears to have devised a new plan to gain favour with the President and portray Raila as the enemy within.

Ruto – who has set his eyes on succeeding President Uhuru – has not been at ease since the two erstwhile political rivals closed ranks and shook hands on March 9, 2018. Ruto and the Nasa trio were excluded.

The DP and his troops have perceived the handshake as a political arrangement aimed at stifling his ambitions of becoming the country’s fifth President in favour of Raila.

Ruto has suddenly made an about-turn in his criticism of the Jubilee administration's performance as his ally- former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko make sensational allegations on the government on the 2017 election chaos that have the potential of dividing the ‘two brothers'.

At a church service in Dagoretti South last Sunday, Ruto strongly supported the President and his administration’s development record and went ahead to list projects he and the President have completed since 2013.

“The government of Uhuru and Ruto has built a railway line from Mombasa to Naivasha, almost 700 kilometres. We have built roads of 7500km, connected electricity to five million Kenyans, and built technical training institutes,” he said.

The apparent change of heart - or strategy - came a day after he admitted Jubilee administration’s failure to realise its development agenda but blamed it on Raila for "infiltrating and diverting" the government priorities.

Ruto scathingly attacked the former Prime Minister, accusing him of despising, humiliating and embarrassing the head of state with his constant attacks attack on Jubilee’s output.

“If you have a problem with the performance of Jubilee government, I want to tell you to stop despising and humiliating President Uhuru. Stop talking to him in rallies,” he told Raila.

He added, “You are saying Uhuru is your brother. Why  are you embarrassing him in public, saying the government has not done this or that?”

Raila and his allies have lately criticised the government’s development record in their BBI and 2022 election campaigns.

The ODM brigade has painted Ruto as the face of Jubilee's failures and accused him of trying to run away from his own government’s failures.

They cited the laptop project, stadiums and creation of at least one million jobs for the youth every year as among the pledges Jubilee has failed to deliver.

Of course, Raila has his own problems of being seen to be too close to Jubilee, no longer the champion of the poor and not a meaningful alternative, especially for those who don't remember the Second Liberation struggle.

“Mr Six Months! The youngsters you promised laptops to 8 yrs ago are now old enough to see through your lies. The youth you promised 8 million jobs in eight years can see through the wheelbarrow lie you are now peddling. It has been 8 yrs, Mr 6 months and not 3yrs. No, Mr 6 months!” the ODM boss tweeted on Saturday referring to Ruto’s campaign promises to Kenyans.

Political analysts Elias Mutuma and Mark Bichachi observe Ruto as a man out to exploit every opportunity that may create a rift between Uhuru and Raila.

“The friendship between Uhuru and Raila is costing the DP...so he would ensure that the two go their separate ways so that he can have a better chance of succeeding his boss,” Mutuma said.

He added that Ruto is wounded and feels his space was taken over by Raila and thus will be keen to take advantage of any scenario that would see them apart.

"If he gets an opportunity to edge Raila out, he would not hesitate. He is taking advantage of the fact that there has been a bit of some discomfort within ODM circles [over the handshake],” he said.

“Ruto understands everyone loves anyone who opposes the sitting government. That is why is roping in Raila so that he can increase his chances,” Bichachi said

And in what appears  part of the wider plan to split Uhuru and Raila, former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, a close ally of the DP, sensationally claimed  Interior CS Karanja Kibicho and other influential people in the Jubilee administration planned the 2017 election chaos, which was then blamed on ODM.

Making the claims in the presence of the DP, Sonko alleged that he and influential people in the Jubilee administration, otherwise known as 'the deep state', printed ODM branded T-shirts.

“We then bought second-hand vehicles in the showrooms and burnt them on Ngong Road so people would say it is ODM. It was 'the deep state' and 'the system',” Sonko said at the event in Dagoretti attended by the DP.

Kibicho has denied Sonko’s claims and has already recorded a statement with the DCI. He has threatened to sue the ex-city county chief.

ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna..
SIFUNA: ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna..
Image: FILE

Sonko’s assertions, however, triggered anger in Raila’s ODM and threatened to sever the cordial relationship the outfit and the President’s Jubilee Party enjoy.

“ODM demands a full inquiry into the matter to establish the motives and extent of these mafia-like covert criminal acts as well as all persons and institutions involved,” secretary general Edwin Sifuna demanded.

Uhuru and Raila – the main antagonists in the 2017 polls – have had a cosy relationship since they shook hands on the steps of Harambee House in March 2018.

So close are the two leaders that during one of his allies in Kisumu, a place where he could not set foot before the handshake, Uhuru said Raila "is now fully" in government.  

They have been calling each other brothers.

The famous handshake has been credited for the restoration of peace and normalcy after the deadly and chaotic 2017 General Elections.

The DP’s latest attacks on Raila for "despising" Uhuru can thus be interpreted as a change of tack in an apparent attempt to put the two leaders at loggerheads and scuttle the handshake.

Ruto and his troops have been critical of the cooperation between the two leaders, terming it a plot to edge out the DP from succeeding Uhuru in 2022.

On Friday, Ruto told Raila to take responsibility for the government’s failure to meet its development agenda.

“They pushed their way into the government through the handshake, they took over committees in Parliament, they took over the running of government. They  now want to run away from their own failure,” the DP said.

However, Raila has argued has argued he is not in government and took the blame to the DP’s doorstep for attempting to run away from Jubilee’s failures.