Kenya: Ruto's Associates and the Trouble of Perceptions

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) chats with his deputy, William Ruto, at Africa Inland Church in Nairobi on January 26, 2020.
23 February 2020

Deputy President William Ruto's long march to State House has hit turbulence, and how he navigates this rough stretch will determine whether or not he succeeds President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2022.

He is well aware of that turbulence, and accuses a cabal of government officials of thwarting his efforts to rise to the top seat. If that is true, it places him between a rock and a hard place, because the Deputy President, whether for want of knowledge or for political reasons, continues to associate, dine and wine with individuals of questionable repute.

From career politicians to individuals who pass off as businessmen, Mr Ruto's close circle of friends has brought him more trouble than good, at least in the court of public opinion. A staunch loyalist, he has stuck with them, and sometimes even publicly defends them. The Sunday Nation is not judging these associates as incorrigible or debauched, but looks at how, despite the immense political wealth they bring to the table, they routinely leave the Deputy President with a lot of egg in the face.

Zaheer Jhanda

In February last year, Mr Jhanda made headlines after the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission blocked the National Land Commission from paying out Sh787 million to a church in Ongata Rongai as compensation for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) line through the church's land. The land was initially valued at Sh600 million, but when Mr Jhanda came in as a negotiating consultant, the value suddenly shot up to Sh927 million.

Don Bosco Gichana

He rose to the limelight in 2007 when he offered Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga a Hummer for use on the presidential campaign trail. A shrewd underground operator, Gichana served a five-year jail term in Tanzania and was released in November 2018 after pleading guilty to money laundering charges. He also paid a fine of Sh13.7 million. Despite his colourful past, he continues to attend Mr Ruto's meetings in Kisii.

Rashid Echesa

The former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa, who appeared before a magistrate's court in Milimani, Nairobi on criminal charges related to fraud. Mr Echesa was charged alongside Daniel Otieno, Clifford Okoth and Kennedy Oyoo with conspiring to commit a felony, making a document without authority, obtaining money by false pretence, attempting to commit a felony and uttering a false document. They all denied the charges.

Ferdinand Waititu

At the height of his political career as the governor of Kiambu, Waititu used to fly in the same helicopter with Mr Ruto on weekends for political rallies. A shrewd political mobiliser who has a way with crowds, Waititu was later charged alongside his wife and eight others for conflict of interest in the running of Kiambu affairs and dealing with suspect property. Other charges included fraud, money laundering and abuse of office. He denies the charges.

Aisha Jumwa

During a by-election in Ganda ward of Malindi Constituency last year, local MP Aisha Jumwa was involved in a scuffle that led to the fatal shooting of Ngumbao Jola, an uncle of the ODM candidate in the mini-poll, Mr Reuben Mwambize. Ms Jumwa, whose asset value to Mr Ruto cannot be overemphasised, was arrested and later released on Sh500,000 cash bail or a Sh1 million bond.

Moses Kuria

Last month, the Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria was charged with assaulting one Joyce Wanja Gacie at Royal Media Services offices in Nairobi's Kilimani area on December 8, 2019. Mr Kuria, who is one of the foremost supporters of Mr Ruto in Mt Kenya and is seen as a possible replacement of President Uhuru Kenyatta as the regional spokesman in a future political dispensation, is also facing two other charges related to hate speech.

Dennis Itumbi

The blogger has not hidden his support for Mr Ruto. He regularly defends the DP against enemies in the digital space. But Itumbi, who was moved from his State House office under a cloud of controversy, is facing charges on the authorship of a fake letter that claimed there was a plot to assassinate Mr Ruto last year. He was charged with making a false document without authority and reprogramming a mobile phone. He denies the charges.

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