20 August 2018

Kenya: Ruto, Raila Trade Barbs Over 2022 Poll and Past Deals

Photo: Charles Kimani/DPPS
ODM party leader Raila Odinga, left, and Deputy President William Ruto chat during the burial ceremony of former minister Henry Obwocha in Nyamira County on August 17, 2018.

Once bosom friends who mounted a successful campaign in the 2007 presidential election, Deputy President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga have launched yet another all-out war against each other.

For the past three days, the two leaders have been on each other's necks over the 2022 presidential elections and whether Mr Odinga owes Mr Ruto a political debt for his support in the 2007 poll.

Also featuring in their back-and-forth is the 2017 election and whether Mr Odinga was cheated out of his victory or he was just a power-hungry despot who refused to accept defeat.

The two leaders have in the recent past also clashed over whether or not Mr Ruto knew beforehand about the historic deal Mr Odinga made with President Uhuru Kenyatta, and whether Mr Ruto's frequent tours across the country amounted to premature campaigns.

2007 PACT

On Sunday, Mr Odinga continued the war of words, laughing off Mr Ruto's suggestion that the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader was a stubborn politician who never concedes defeat.

"He claims that we were undemocratic because we did not accept defeat. How do you expect us to concede defeat in a contest we did not participate in?" Mr Odinga asked at Friends Church Quakers Maringo, Nairobi.

The ODM leader was making reference to the October 26 repeat presidential election -- ordered by the Supreme Court after their historic decision to annul the August 8 poll -- that he boycotted citing lack of electoral reforms.

The renewed war of words started on Friday during the burial of former minister Henry Obwocha, a function attended by Mr Odinga when Mr Ruto, without mentioning names, asked leaders to be democratic enough "and accept defeat when you lose".

But it is the move by Mr Ruto to revive debate about the 2007 polls that has angered many in ODM, as well as Amani National Congress leader Musalia Mudavadi.

THE HAGUE

Mr Ruto, speaking in Kakamega during the homecoming of Lurambi MP Titus Khamala on Saturday, said that Mr Odinga and Mr Mudavadi had abandoned him after the disputed poll in which he was charged at the International Criminal Court for the post-election violence that marred the country.

He told the crowd that the trio had made a deal to have him as prime minister, with Mr Odinga as president, and Mr Mudavadi his deputy.

"When the election was disputed, a deal was made, and Mr Odinga took what was mine -- the prime minister's post, with Mr Mudavadi as the deputy prime minister. They left me out," Mr Ruto, who was named agriculture minister in the coalition government, said.

On the ICC, Mr Ruto said: "After the election, I was taken to The Hague, and my friends here, Raila and Mudavadi never even bothered to come visit me there."

For all his troubles, Mr Ruto concluded that Mr Odinga and Mr Mudavadi owe him their support in 2022.

On Sunday, Mr Odinga's ODM said there was no such deal.

"The position of PM did not exist before the 2007 election. It was forged out of the national accord after the post-election violence," ODM secretary-general Edwin Sifuna stated.

COMMON GOOD

"There is no way it could have been party of any pre-election arrangement. The politics of debt are retrogressive. Let Ruto convince Kenyans that he is fit for the office of President without blackmailing leaders with non-existent debts."

And yesterday, Makadara MP George Aladwa reignited debate about whether or not Mr Odinga will run for president in 2022.

"Some people are saying that Raila should not run in 2022, and I want to ask: Is there any law that bars him? No! So why should he not run? We will support him fully," Mr Aladwa said at the service attended by Mr Odinga.

ANC secretary-general Barrack Muluka, on the other hand, termed Mr Ruto's claims as "political levity".

"I think the DP was only making a little joke. If he wasn't, then Kenyans have reason to be afraid -- very afraid.

"In the end, these things are not about individuals and their selfish ambitions. This thing about "me, me and more me" is nauseating," Mr Muluka told the Nation on phone.

"Where does it leave the remaining 45 million (Kenyans)? We want vision and not throwbacks to retrogressive individual focus on "promises" and "debts" that never were," the ANC secretary-general added.

POWER SHARING

He said there is only one debt "and that's the debt that the political class owes Kenyans. The debt of responsible leadership."

But Mr Mudavadi, speaking at the same function, said there was no power sharing agreement in ODM in 2007 to warrant Mr Ruto's calls for support.

"Besides, President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto short-changed me in 2013 when they lied to me in my house that they would back my candidature," he said.

He challenged Mr Ruto to prepare for a bruising battle to succeed Mr Kenyatta in 2022.

ODM chairman John Mbadi on Sunday accused the DP of being obsessed with 2022 elections.

"There is no debt in the world of politics. In politics you do what you think is right and not to be paid back," Mr Mbadi said.

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