Kenya: DP William Ruto's Isolation Deepens With Latest Slap in Face

A shocking statement from Deputy President William Ruto in April this year said it all.

"I would not allow my deputy president to be humiliated the way former deputy presidents have been humiliated and the way I have been humiliated."

He is tired, his stature in government minimised by people that he calls the "deep state". His revered office, just opposite that of the President on Harambee Avenue, has lost its glory.

He has become so sidelined that workers in his office wonder where he went. The whispers on the streets are that the DP has been operating from his home in Karen, perhaps the only place he feels safe and in command.

Since President Uhuru Kenyatta and former premier Raila Odinga - the "official" leader of the opposition who has more access to State resources than the country's second in command - walked out of the most powerful office in the land holding hands, giggling and laughing, it has not been the same for DP Ruto.

With the handshake in March 2018, the Deputy President's journey has been filled with potholes, heaped with thorns and filled with smoke. It has been bumpy.

Contempt from juniors

His last four years in power have been filled with contempt from his juniors, ridicule from the President's and Mr Odinga's lieutenants and the most recent stab at his ego - the cancellation of his trip to Uganda after the State refused to clear him at Wilson Airport.

The airport's officials informed the high-profile dignitary that they had been informed by the Ministry of Interior, headed by Dr Fred Matiang'i, that the DP was supposed to first get a nod from head of public service, Joseph Kinyua's office.

The man from Sugoi reportedly sat still at the airport waiting for the strangest of things - clearance from his junior in order to proceed on his private visit to Uganda.

His accompanying lieutenants, among them Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and private fellows identified as Dr David Langat, a Turkish man by the name Harun Aydin, David K. Muge and Simon K. Mogun had to wait alongside him.

When the long wait beat their patience, the angry DP, often praised for his wit, stood up, looked around him and with a huge sigh, walked to his car and went back home to Karen.

Moments later, his Twitter page was ablaze. He posted a simple line.

"Isorait... ..tumwachie MUNGU", a Kiswahili phrase loosely translated to mean, "It is okay, we leave all to God".

Isorait....tumwachie MUNGU

- William Samoei Ruto, PhD (@WilliamsRuto) August 2, 2021

A loaded statement. The charismatic politician must have been reminiscing about the good times he used to enjoy with the "deep state", and then wincing at how sharply the events had turned in the second term of the Kenyatta-Ruto reign.

Nothing new

But the recent spat at Wilson Airport that pointed to interference from the Ministry of Interior and the head of public service is not something new. It is an open secret that the DP and CS Matiang'i do not read from the same page.

Last year, when Kenya was held hostage by the Senate's dalliance with approving the Division of Revenue Allocation Bill, a tiff between the two played out.

Whereas the Executive was pushing for the passing of the controversial bill that compelled senators to hold more than 10 plenary sessions to discuss the matter, a few individuals in the House proved to be stumbling blocks.

Upon orders from the Ministry of Interior, the police arrested three senators - Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Steve Lelegwe (Samburu) and Christopher Lagat (Bomet). DP Ruto condemned the arrests, saying police had used excessive force.

Later at a public rally the DP asked all "public servants to do the work they have been appointed to do and stop meddling in politics". It was a thinly veiled reference to CS Matiang'i and PS Kibicho, who were accused of using the police to quell dissenting voices.

In the tussles between the two, CS Matiang'i responded with one answer, that he only takes orders from one person - President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Jubilee wrangles

For the longest time, the ruling Jubilee Party has been teetering on the verge of a collapse. The party bosses split. One faction pledging loyalty to the President and another to the DP.

The two groups have names: Kieleweke and Tangatanga. Now, the former group, knowing well that they have the nod of the Head of State, have been merciless in their jabs against DP Ruto.

On more than one occasion, Jubilee vice-chairperson David Murathe has gone on record telling the DP to resign and quit the government or they would suspend him for failing to tame his lieutenants and detracting from the President's Big Four Agenda.

Last December, the ex-Gatanga MP poked the DP, accusing him of setting roadblocks on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that was birthed by the President's and Mr Odinga's handshake.

He said Jubilee's position was that BBI should be supported and anyone opposing the party would be shown the door.

"If you are going against the party positions on these issues, possibilities of expulsion, suspensions are there. They are on the cards," Mr Murathe said.

Asked whether the party's deputy leader would be affected for his opposing stance on the BBI, the answer was curt.

"It doesn't matter who you are. He must have read our party constitution," he said.

This jab came nearly two years after Mr Murathe said at a burial ceremony in Rarieda that DP Ruto was not eligible to vie for the 2022 elections, vowing that he would work in all ways to scuttle his ambitions.

He said a person who has been second-in-command for two terms could not run for the presidency. He cited Chapter 9 (148) (6) of the Constitution.

It says that the term of office of the Deputy President runs from the date of the swearing-in and ends when the person next elected President is sworn in or on the Deputy President assuming the office of President. So, Mr Murathe thinks, the fate of DP Ruto was tied to the President's term in office.

"In effect, if he automatically becomes President without going for the mandate from the mwananchi, then that is why 148 says you cannot run again. Na nitaenda mpaka Supreme Court. Sisi hatucheki na watu," Mr Murathe said.

Economic policy

Over time, his sentiments have been adopted by other MPs, including Kanini Kega (Kieni), Maina Kamanda (nominated) and Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), who have been demolishing every statement the DP has made at public rallies, especially those related to the 2022 General Election.

The most recent slap on the DP was when Mr Wambugu rubbished Dr Ruto's "bottom-up" economic philosophy.

"Jubilee has been implementing & delivering bottom-down projects for the last 8 years, but TangaTanga have been so busy campaigning to get to the top from the bottom, they never noticed!" he tweeted three days ago.

Last October, the DP was embarrassed again in Murang'a when chaos rocked his planned trip to the AIPC church in Kenol. A few deaths were reported in the clashes that ensued between opponents of the DP's visit and supporters of the "Hustler Nation".

The same month, another function in Nyamira where Dr Ruto was to officiate was cancelled. Disrupting the event, police said the DP and the organisers had failed to adhere to the authorisation requirements set out by the National Security Advisory Committee on October 7 and were adopted by the Cabinet the next day.

A related gazette notice from the head of public service had effectively cancelled the Nyamira meeting.

The police thus outlawed the gathering and dispersed residents who had gathered at Kebirigo High School. It emerged that in line with the new dictates, the DP needed to obtain clearance for the meeting from the area's sub-county police commander.

It goes without saying that the sub-county police chief is way below in rank for the DP to seek permission from him. A very embarrassing episode.

But the meeting happened a week later, though the message was clear: the DP is an isolated man who cannot even have the State organise his functions anymore.

In February this year, the DP's handlers said he had failed to attend a ceremony marking the first anniversary of President Moi's death because he had "not been invited".

Uhuru's prerogative

President Kenyatta, evidently angered by his deputy's no-show, reminded people to emulate the humility that President Moi showed to his boss, President Jomo Kenyatta, when he was vice-president.

Four months later, at Madaraka Day celebrations in Kisumu, the President broke protocol after being invited to the podium by his deputy, who had completed his speech, and invited Mr Odinga to speak after the DP was done. Another slap on DP Ruto's face.

Then, to seal the DP's fate as a senior public servant with no one to give orders to, his private visit to Uganda was cancelled without any explanation given.

Despite all these, the DP said three months ago he had no quarrels with the Head of State.

"The President has broken no law. He has just chosen a different style. It is his prerogative. My space is to advice the President and my advice, when sought, has been very forthright and honest," he said.

"If the President decides to deliver government business in a different way and elevate other people, consult more with the former leader of the opposition and work with other ministers to deliver government business, I have taken it with grace," he said.

"You have not heard me complain because of the respect I have for the office of the President."

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