Kenya: Ruto Defends Uhuru From Odinga Attacks at Government 'Failures'

25 January 2021

Deputy President William Ruto yesterday put up a strong defence of his boss, President Kenyatta over what he said were increased attacks from opposition leader Raila Odinga on the Jubilee government's development scorecard.

In a fresh twist to the Jubilee Party internal wrangling, the DP, who has lately been attacking President Kenyatta, aggressively defended the Head of State, outlining the Jubilee government's achievements since taking power in 2013.

Mr Ruto, the estranged deputy, has become an outsider in government, thanks to the March 2018 camaraderie between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga, popularly known as the Handshake. He now praises the Jubilee government's performance prior to the rapprochement with the opposition leader.

"I heard the other day Raila claim that the government of President Kenyatta and I has not delivered. I want to tell him that the Jubilee government has done 750 kilometres of standard gauge railway from Mombasa to Naivasha; 7,500 kilometres of tarmac roads; connected five million Kenyans to the national grid; built 140 new technical colleges, which are now admitting up to 400,000 Kenyan youth up from 90,000; and we have upped the National Hospital Insurance Fund subscriptions from 3 million to 7 million," the DP said yesterday at a church service at Ruthimitu Mixed Secondary School in Dagoretti South Constituency in Nairobi.

Development record

Though still a close ally of President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and his troops have lately criticised the government's development record in an effort to appeal to voters disenfranchised by the Jubilee administration's eight-year rule. He has recently painted DP Ruto as the face of the Jubilee government's failures, coining the moniker "Mr Six Months" in reference to the timeline the DP promises as time the government needs to deliver on most promises.

"Mr Six months! The youngsters you promised laptops 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!" Mr Odinga tweeted on Saturday.

Siaya senator James Orengo has publicly called on President Kenyatta to dissolve his Cabinet, claiming, there were saboteurs within who made it difficult for him to deliver on his electoral promises.

DP Ruto and his allies had until yesterday sought to blame Jubilee's failures on the fallout occasioned by the Handshake.

The DP said it was wrong for Mr Odinga to address Jubilee's failures in political rallies.

"If you have a problem with the performance of the Jubilee government, stop the contempt. Stop the condescending attitude towards the President addressing him in rallies. If you have a problem with him, look for President Kenyatta on phone or see him in person at his office. You call the President your brother. Why then are you airing your grievances in rallies, saying, Jubilee has not done this or that? Look for the President in his office," DP Ruto said in a rare defence of his boss, whom he appeared to have wanted to distance himself from in the recent past.

The DP was hosted in Dagoretti South by area MP John Kiarie and was accompanied by his key allies, including former Senate majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen and People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Omingo Magara.

Though Mr Odinga has not yet openly declared whether he will run for the presidency in 2022, the former prime minister and the, DP are seen as the leading contenders to succeed President Kenyatta in next year's elections.

Tied to the succession is the question whether or not a President Kenyatta endorsement is a blessing or a curse in the high-stakes Kenyan politics, where association can either boost or tank one's fortunes.

Keen to project himself as the man who was kicked out of government following the Handshake, DP Ruto has all but bolted out of the Jubilee government, charging an enthusiastic message of the Hustler Nation, a reference to the hoi polloi, who live from hand-to-mouth, that he has pitted against politicians whom he claims are hell-bent only on discussing power and not the common man's agenda.

Mr Odinga, on the other hand, appears to be in a dilemma.

The ODM party leader faces a support base that does not see much out of the Handshake, and is eager to craft a 2022 presidential campaign message that includes outlining Jubilee's failures.

The dilemma for him is that while he has promised to stick with the Head of State on the Handshake deal that they both say is not premised on 2022 polls, the attacks by the DP that Mr Odinga takes a share of the blame for the unmet promises since his entry into government complicates his political messaging.

In his criticism of the failures of the 2017 election promises, Mr Odinga only singled out Ruto for rebuke, sparing his Handshake partner, President Kenyatta.

But in DP Ruto's book, Mr Odinga could not have his cake and eat it. Be in government enjoying State largesse, then turn around and run away from its 'baggage.'

Yesterday, the DP defended the Hustler Nation narrative against criticism that it was intended to fuel a class war of the rich versus the poor.

"Let no one threaten you that Hustler Nation message is about chaos and destruction. Hustlers are tribeless. This is not about the rich versus poor. It is about economic empowerment. And we now have them in the right place. We told them we will change this conversation. We are not retreating," the DP said.

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