Kenya: Ruto on a Mission to Spruce Up Image Ahead of 2022

Deputy President William Ruto.
21 September 2020

Deputy President William Ruto is a man on a mission like no other.

With the baggage of alleged corruption weighing down his 2022 State House march, Kenya's second-in-command has embarked on a self-cleansing and image-sprucing mission ahead of his first stab at the top seat.

From launching an anti-graft crusade against his own government to building an altar in his Nairobi home, giving alms and speaking for the less privileged in the society, the 'hustler-in-chief' is taking the meaning of image-is-everything axiom to a whole new level.

With high-gear ground and cyberspace campaigns, he is leaving nothing to chance as he seeks to peel off tainted veneers and project an image of a man fit to occupy the House on the Hill.

The DP, political pundits say, is literally a man fighting to save his political skin after years of being painted in negative light by both his rivals and state machinery.

An outsider in his own government, he has of late become the chief critic of President Kenyatta's Jubilee administration on matters corruption and other excesses of the regime he helped install in 2013 -- including abuse and misuse of state machinery, especially police.

Brokers and conmen

"The corruption 'consultants', brokers and conmen, some bankrupt in 2013, are now billionaires after looting while scapegoating WsR (William Samoei Ruto)," he said on September 2 in the wake of Kemsa scandal in which some top Jubilee officials are implicated.

"Their overgrown IMPUNITY is shamelessly making them steal even from the sick in a pandemic. The END is nigh. NOWHERE TO HIDE. NO MORE SCAPEGOATING."

The alleged Covid-19 scandals came as a blessing in disguise for the DP, who for many years has borne the brunt of attacks from his opponents over alleged corruption.

"At least for once it won't be possible to be blamed for what someone said started in Wuhan as a virus, landed in Italy as a pandemic and now in Kenya as a multibillion-shilling corruption enterprise," the DP tweeted on August 20.

Political analysts say President Kenyatta's deputy is on a mission to debunk the notion that he is corrupt, and create a level playing field for his candidature in 2022.

"He wants to make sure that the 2022 campaigns are not about fighting corruption. He wants to discredit that war by government and ensure a level playing field in 2022 election," says political analyst Mark Bichachi.

The DP, he says, is "very desperate to discredit the fight against corruption so that in case any of his cases are brought, he can say that it's unfair. That's the game, and it can make him get away with any corruption allegations levelled against him."

But due to Dr Ruto's criticism of the agencies tasked to fight malfeasance, his current stance "may not augur well with his quest for the presidency", says Maseno University don Tom Mboya.

And while his strong bond with the Church dates back to his pastor-cum-chicken-seller days, the DP now more than ever before cuts the image of a soldier in the 'army of the Lord'.

At his Karen home in Nairobi, he recently erected a National Prayer Altar in what observers say is aimed at improving his image before the country's populace.

Prayer delegations

It is at this worship centre that the DP has been hosting prayer delegations from across the country as he seeks to enlist the support of church leaders for his presidential bid.

Besides, setting up his own prayer house, the DP religiously attends fellowship every Sunday in different churches across the country where he continues to donate funds.

"I sympathise with those who keep on complaining about my giving in churches, going to the church as well as helping youth and women improve their lives. Does it mean they don't have something else to do?" he said on September 11 in a veiled attack on his friend-turned-foe Raila Odinga who has questioned the source of the "million's the DP gives at fundraisers.

Yesterday, the DP attended the installation of the Reverend Joshua Nzau Kimuyu as Africa Inland Church Nairobi Area bishop in Ziwani.

"Jesus himself said in the book that it's more blessed to give than to receive," he told the faithful as he hit back at Mr Odinga and his ilk.

A twitterati-in-chief, the self-declared 'hustler' has perfected the use of Twitter to break news of his daily activities-- including his campaigns to empower the poor, youth and women groups.

Clean his image

"Led the empowerment of the 2,000-member Getembe Boda Boda Sacco and 118 women and youth groups in Kitutu Chache South and South Mugirango, Kisii County," he tweeted on September 10 when he took his campaigns to vote-rich Kisii County.

This, as the DP's troops recently fought off claims that he had sought the services of a UK-based data mining firm seeking to "clean his image ahead of the 2022 polls"

Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany, the de facto spokesman of Ruto's Jubilee camp, termed as "fake" claims that they had sought the services of Eliminalia Group for the project.

Contacted by the Nation, Eliminalia Group, a UK-based firm that erases internet content to protect people's and companies' reputation, said it was surprised of the claims. "Our company has absolutely no contract or agreement with anyone from Kenya," Mr Yeferson Nefast of Eliminalia Group told the Nation.

In his community backyard, the DP has also sought the blessings of the elders in a bid to win their confidence amid fight by Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi to wrest the region from his grip.

Mr Javas Bigambo, a political-analyst-cum-governance-expert, says as he submits to the routine of criticising the government to which he belongs, he is pushing his luck to the limits and testing the temperament and patience of his boss, the President.

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