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Why Ruto is walking a political tightrope in his 2022 ambition

Latest onslaught by Uhuru and emerging new alliance complicate Ruto plans

In Summary
  • Ruto, the self-proclaimed king of the hustler nation, is walking a political tightrope with a multiplicity of challenges threatening to consume his Presidential ambitions.
  • The President has accused Ruto of rocking Jubilee from within and dared him to resign in what has highlighted the height of their political war.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the funeral service of Mzee Simeon Nyachae at Gusii Stadium, Kisii County on February 15, 2021.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the funeral service of Mzee Simeon Nyachae at Gusii Stadium, Kisii County on February 15, 2021.
Image: DPPS

Deputy President William Ruto, the self-proclaimed king of the hustler nation, is treading a tightrope with a multiplicity of pitfalls threatening his presidential ambitions.

After his free fall from being Uhuru's favoured successor, the DP is facing a ferocious onslaught from his former buddy, casting doubt on his chances to ascend to power.

For the first time since their relationship started to sour, the President has accused Ruto of rocking Jubilee from within and dared him to resign. His remarks were lethal.

This if-you-don't-like-it-quit 'advice' is the clearest indication of an irredeemable break-up. The two are exploring different options  as the 2022 presidential battle shapes up.

Ruto has fought back, insisting he is the country's second in command serving a constitutional term.

While Uhuru has launched the vicious fight for power with his deputy, a coalition on the horizon involving at least four kingpins has further complicated Ruto's victory maths.

The emerging coalition by Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Gideon Moi (Kanu), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Ford Kenya's Moses Wetang'ula has  triggered jitters in the Ruto camp.

“Even if I remain alone, I am walking this journey ,” Ruto told the  nascent formation, which he called largely clueless on how to drive the country forward.

 

Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, three Nasa principals, in Karen.
TRIO: Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, three Nasa principals, in Karen.
Image: COURTESY

The DP's swift reaction to the alliance, which is campaigning on a platform of integrity and accountability, revealed the undercurrents roiling Uhuru's succession battle.

For the first time and in a direct tackle, Ruto claimed the new alliance was a coalition of ethnic chiefs attempting to trivialise and reduce the solutions to the country's challenges to tribal quick-fixes.

"Even if they regroup as they are doing, there is no problem. I know all of them, they have no clue where this country is supposed to go, ” Ruto fired on Wednesday.

He went on, “ Let them wind up their retreats soon and tell us who is  the candidate of the tribal chiefs.

The DP's outbursts against the new alliance came on the day his main rival and ODM boss Raila Odinga uncharacteristically defended him against proposed legislation to criminalise the hustler vs dynasties narrative.

The proposed punishments are severe fines, jail time and even removal from office for any leader who propagates the slogan.

“As a country, we fought for and should respect free speech and association. We should be able to allow the Deputy President and his team to continue with their chosen slogan without any inhibitions,” Raila said.

The DP has been campaigning for a bottom-up economic model to empower the downtrodden - whom he calls hustlers - through employment and access to opportunities like business to create wealth.

Raila has called the slogan dangerous and even compared it - wrongly - to Hitler's National Socialism that emphasised ethnicity, not class.

But his surprise support for Ruto could contain a political message.

There has been talk that should Uhuru play Raila the way he has Ruto, the duo could easily team up to vanquish the President's favourites in 2022.

There are suggestions the emerging third force, parading the self-styled saints of the country's muddied political landscape, have the blessings of the so-called 'system' and the 'deep state'.

The Star has established there is palpable concern within even Raila's inner circle following a rare show of camaraderie and might by Gideon, Musalia, Kalonzo and Wetang'ula during their rallies in Western Kenya this week.

The four have stepped up campaigns for ANC and Ford Kenya candidates in Matungu and Kabuchai, respectively, ahead of the March 4 by-elections.

They have triggered panic in both Ruto and Raila camps.

“As a third force takes shape, we are looking at a possible run-off in 2022,” Tongaren MP Eseli Simiyu said.

He said the DP's chances of succeeding the President had been complicated  by the rivals teaming up.

“The new alliance does not inspire a lot of confidence but the battle is now wide open," Simiyu said.

Critics say the notables have mounted very expensive and well-oiled campaigns never witnessed in the region in the recent past, raising suspicions about the sources of their funding.

The coalition taking shape, 16 months to the presidential battle, is seen by critics as a scheme to trigger confusion among the political elite to give the President space to consolidate his succession plan.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House for the handshake on March 9, 2018.
HANDSHAKE PALS: President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga outside Harambee House for the handshake on March 9, 2018.
Image: JACK OWUOR

Uhuru's handlers fear the political fight against Ruto and his dilly dallying instead of openly taking the former Prime Minister to tour his Mt Kenya backyard have caused unease that the President was keeping his options wide open

However, analysts said should the emerging alliance have the quiet backing of the President's inner circle, that would deal a staggering blow to Raila.

The former Prime Minister has established a larger-than-life presence in the Jubilee administration since his March 8, 2018, handshake  with Uhuru.

The DP has been crying foul that the handshake was the root of his problems and the source of conflict raging within Jubilee.

Political analyst Felix Odhiambo told the Star the new formation could shake up the 2022 alignments.

“The four are obviously not on their own. As  to whether the state is backing them, that would be crystal clear after the BBI is approved. Expect another gigantic formation ahead of 2022 outside the new one,” he said.

Odhiambo said the DP is walking the toughest political tightrope because the President has already declared open war against him and obliterated his influence in government and the Jubilee Party.

On Thursday, former Cabinet Minister Franklin Bett warned hat the DP's succession chances were dimming daily and could plummet further following the President's war against him.

The former Nyayo-era State House comptroller insisted the former Eldoret North MP would suffer massive consequences once Uhuru  forcefully gives the country direction.

“It was risky for Ruto to start his presidential campaigns too early, the battle lines are drawn and should the President continue campaigning against him, then his goose is cooked,” Bett said.

The former MP said the President's Mt Kenya region, where Ruto has been running roughshod over the terrain against Uhuru's will, has started to drift away from hustler nation politics. 

“After the President left Sagana State Lodge and met select opinion leaders, the ground is shifting against Ruto,” Bett said.

Earlier, this month, the President made a four-day visit to his Mt Kenya turf where he met at least 10,000 grassroots leaders and elected politicians  to counter Ruto's forays.

The President's tour was also seen as part of his plan to lift the spirits of his despondent people after the hustler nation took the region by storm and hammered home the message that the President had neglected them.