By Geoffrey Sang
We already said it. Our prediction that Deputy President William Ruto would come under sustained pressure over his candidacy by powerful forces out to stop him is coming true.
We had also predicted that the pressure against him would come from his own boss, Uhuru Kenyatta, whom he solidly supported in the last three elections. Sure enough, the President has not sat quietly as the storm over Ruto’s candidacy is raging, giving statements that have only added pressure against Ruto.
The President has not defended Ruto from attacks by his newfound friend, Raila Odinga, and, in fact, he has used uncharacteristic language describing his deputy’s activities.
The boldness of the shadowy characters ‘whipping’ Mt Kenya’s MPs to isolate Ruto makes it clear that the Deputy President’s biggest enemy is not Raila. He is deep within his party.
Historians now agree none other than Jomo Kenyatta himself bankrolled the Change-the-Constitution Movement in the 1970s, wanting to bar Daniel Moi from becoming President, despite making it appear publicly that he was not. History, it appears, is now repeating itself with astonishing accuracy.
The war on graft has now been intensified but lately, it seems to be deliberately shifted towards the Deputy President. A newspaper article listed the DP’s purportedwealth; he responded by wondering why only his assets were listed and not those of other leaders.
Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen in a televised interview on Citizen TV sensationally said there are individuals within the Office of the President out to undermine the Deputy President. He fell short of naming the President as being behind Ruto’s woes.
According to Murkomen, the lifestyle audit ordered by the President was just another example of targeted pressure aimed solely at stopping Ruto from ascending to power in 2022. The new focus on the war on graft and calls for the lifestyle audit seemed to find support among traditional anti-Ruto forces, who demanded he be subjected to it. They seemed to suggest the wealth he acquired was ill-gotten. But while the DP has welcomed the lifestyle audit, questions abound as to who exactly will carry out the audit and under what legal framework.
There is currently no law that is expressly designed for the ‘lifestyle audit’ and nothing defines the limits beyond which one can ascertain an ‘extraordinary’ lifestyle. The intricacies of such audits, would probably lead to cold trails, given there are so many sources of wealth, not just for those in power but also those outside.
While indeed the Deputy President has been mentioned in numerous corruption scandals, he is not the only one. In fact, if it were to be carried out objectively, very few politicians would pass that lifestyle audit and it may just be a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
WHERE DO YOU START?
While it is difficult to do an objective lifestyle audit, questions have been asked about exactly how far back the audit should go. My lifestyle could be determined by my own ill-acquired wealth or by that handed down to me by my father or relative. Would one then ‘fail’ an audit from wealth acquired through others?
Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi called for the lifestyle audit to be extended back to 1963, when Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta, became President. Indeed, a document that is found in the Kenya National Archives makes very interesting reading about Kenyatta’s personal wealth back in 1955.
On March 5, 1955, the Kiambu district commissioner listed all of Kenyatta’s property as follows: 12 textbooks, 1 iron bed, 2 spring beds, 2 round tables, 2 chest of drawers, 1 woman’s dress, 1 khaki hat, 1½ pairs pyjamas, 1 scarf, 5 collars, 1 window curtain, 4 shirts, 2 kanzus for servants, 1 towel, 1 small table, 1 wash basin stand, 1 small lock, 8 coats, 1 chair straight back, 1 folding chair, 1 maize grinder, 6 chairs soft seat and 1 Hudson Terraplane car.
The DC instructed that this property was to be distributed to his relatives. However, another letter dated July 9, 1960, details the property belonging to Kenyatta and held by his brother, James Muigai, as follows:
One Hudson Terraplane car, 1 maize mill No. 10595, 10 dining room chairs, 1 stirrup pump, 2 chests of drawers, 2 beds and the spring of one bed, 1 table and 1 table top, 1 water jar, 1 folding chair frame. The letter noted there was no record of what happened to the remainder of the property that had been listed on the March 1955 list, and had presumably been distributed to his relatives as per the instruction of the DC, who was by then deceased.
The two documents poignantly detail the extent of Kenyatta’s personal wealth before he came to power. He was released detention fa year later and when he died 18 years later, his amassed wealth was and still remains the stuff of legend.
THE SMELL OF BETRAYAL
We now know too well that in Kenya, any deputy trying to succeed his boss always comes under sustained pressure by those who have other ideas. We also know much of that resistance is usually carried out by subordinates with the clear blessing of the leader. Vice President Oginga Odinga succumbed to such pressure by Kenyatta, while Daniel Moi sustained the same as Vice President.
Mwai Kibaki, Josephat Karanja, George Saitoti and Kalonzo Musyoka all suffered from frosty relations with their boss, President Moi, who used juniors to stage dramatic ousters of the deputies. George Saitoti was, in fact, ousted in favour of Uhuru in the most dramatic fashion.
Betrayal it seems, is the fate of whoever deputises the President in Kenya. Ruto was subjected to humiliating intrigues almost as soon as he became DP and is now facing what is increasingly a difficult position as he forges towards 2022. And as in the past situations, Uhuru can scarcely feign ignorance of what is happening. While Ruto has put on a brave face and continued with his activities, it is clear the sword of Damocles is dangling dangerously above his head. The unexpected return of Raila into the centre of Kenya’s power politics through the handshake has given Uhuru the kind of leverage he needed to implement his legacy dreams. This has immediately made Ruto dispensable.
THE POLITICS OF DISTRUST
The coming together of Uhuru and Ruto was hailed as the reversal of negative ethnicity. They represented communities that were traditionally at odds,particularly during the Kenyatta and Moi regimes. But the distrust is returning fast. This week, the chairman of the Kikuyu Council of Elders, Rev Peter Munga openly asked Ruto to ‘retire’ alongwith Uhuru as he will not have any new ideas to offer Kenyans.
While it appears Munga was speaking for himself, it served to rock what is turning out to be an increasingly fragile partnership between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin. It is also true that others such as Gatundu MP Moses Kuria have openly confessed coming under the pressure of shadowy forces aimed at distancing Mt Kenya MPs from the DP.
It is really not clear why these characters do not want Ruto to be President, but it is safe to conclude that for them, the desire to preserve power in the proverbial ‘House of Mumbi’ is very hard to resist.
To this clique, Ruto is guilty of sins of the past and present. Despite being exonerated by the ICC, Ruto still carries the blame for what happened during the post-poll crisis of 2007-08. They firmly believe that Ruto was behind the killing of the Kikuyus in the Rift Valley. Besides, Ruto was also mentioned in shadowy deals in the Moi and even post-Moi regimes. Given the many scandals that have rocked the country in the past few months, there are those who have raised concerns at whatever role he may have played in them.
His financial dealings, lifestyle, ambitions and investments have given the jitters to many, and there are those who wonder what he would bel ike when he becomes President. There are some large business concerns, particularly those that sprang up in the post-Moi era, that look at his presidency as a threat to their interests. Many of them have not spared any unkind word in describing his leadership and also his lifestyle.
Besides, unlike Uhuru, Ruto tends to be hands-on and quick to spot danger or opportunity from afar. He is also a good judge of intention, particularly that which is not favourable. And he acts quickly, thanks to his massive energy levels that give him near-round the clock alertness.
The big question is: What would really happen if Ruto, one way or another, becomes President? Now we can only use ‘informed imagination’ based on what happened before to predict. All previous efforts to block people from power, ended tragically for all those who invested their energy on this. For instance, preventing Kenyatta from power before Independence, left the British participants in such schemes too ashamed to remain in Kenya and they had to go. Some, such as notorious British anti-Independence operatives, were expelled.
It also ended badly for all those who tried to frustrate Moi. Most of them lost their seats in the elections of 1979 and their political careers were brought to a total standstill and, for most of them, permanently. Moi also brought down their businesses and their lives were not the same after that. It remains to be seen what Ruto would do, but victor’s revenge is almost inevitable in Kenyan politics.
SILENCE OF OUR FRIENDS
In what was clearly victor’s revenge, the powerful GEMA was dissolved by Moi and indeed all tribal associations, including the Akamba Union and the Luo Union. Moi then set his mind on the Kenyatta Family and started by removing Kenyatta’s cousin Ngethe Njoroge as High Commissioner to London. Dr Njoroge Mungai, who was serving as chairman of the Kenya Pipeline Corporation was coerced to step down. When he declined, his salary was reduced and benefits of office taken away. Another Kenyatta relative, Udi Gecaga, the chairman of Lonhro EA, had to go and he was replaced by Mark Too. Kihika Kimani, at the front of the Change the Constitution Movement, was forced out as managing director of his giant land-buying firm Ngwataniro-Mutukanio and his farms raided by police.
Even Kalenjin detractors of Moi such as Jean-Marie Seroney and Dr Taita Towett controversially lost in the 1979 election and never returned to the political mainstream. When Kibaki came to power, the axe came down on his detractors who had risen to high positions in government. The fear of victor’s revenge is one reason that has prevented Raila from leading this country.
All said, with hindsight, it is really bad business to expend so much energy to try and stop one from becoming President. And in the circumstances of Ruto, who used so much of his energy to defend the President against NASA, one is reminded of Dr Martin Luther King words, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”