As Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga erect roadblocks to stall William Ruto’s 2022 presidential journey, the former Eldoret North MP is working on modalities to surmount the hurdles. Ruto, insiders revealed, is galvanising regional leaders’ support so that in the event Uhuru and Raila rig the elections as he believes they might do, he will have their support in winning the attention of the international community.
As a result, various state machineries have been monitoring and snooping DP telephone calls with world leaders and international businessmen likely to fund his campaigns. One of Ruto’s biggest asset is Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni who considers Ruto the ideal candidate to succeed Uhuru in 2022.
Within government, talk is rife that Ruto is using Museveni to scuttle the launch of Sh3 billion Kisumu port. Kisumu port launch has been postponed several times with Museveni being blamed. Transport cabinet secretary James Macharia revealed that the facility was 98pc ready.
Four principal secretaries at one time toured the port. They were Paul Maringa (Infrastructure), Gordon Kihalangwa (Public Works), Joseph Njoroge (Energy) and John Omenge (Mining). The project was scheduled for launch in August last year but has been postponed indefinitely. Regional presidents Museveni, Tanzania’s John Magufuli and DRC’s Felix Tshisekedi were expected to attend the ceremony. Sources say Ruto was bitter the port project had sidelined his Kalenjin region and was being used to play Uhuru succession politics.
Uhuru at one time flew from Tanzania to Kisumu to inspect rehabilitation works of the Kisumu port. Raila has also visited the Kisumu port but Ruto has not. Uhuru and Raila visited the port to check the progress of construction and drove secretly to Kisumu Yacht Club for food and drinks keeping their security in limbo.
Sources say Museveni who has not hidden his disdain for Raila and one time called Raila’s supporters mad Luos for uprooting the Nairobi-Uganda railway line at Kibera, has agreed to contribute towards the DP’s warchest as the Ugandan head of state seeks a bigger say in Uhuru succession.
On the other hand Magufuli backs Raila but on mouth, not money. The two heads of state are jostling for political supremacy in the East Africa Community as they seek reelection in their respective countries.
Raila using his ties with Magufuli has managed to have Uhuru work with Tanzanian president. Prior to 2017 polls, Magufuli was behind Raila as Museveni backed Jubilee. Uhuru and Magufuli were to later make up and Uhuru was in Tanzania hosted by Magufuli where livestock stolen from Kenya was returned to cement relationship.Already, Museveni who has been in power for 34 years has received the endorsement of the ruling National Resistance Movement to run for the presidency in the 2021 general elections while Magufuli will be seeking for a second and final term in office later this year through Tanzania’s ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.
Insiders say Museveni fears that if Raila wins the presidency he will compete with him for the regional kingpin unlike Ruto who will be comfortable leading Kenya. To woo Museveni, the deputy president has been capitalising on the bad blood between Museveni and Raila that dates back to the Mwai Kibaki era. It is to be recalled that Museveni was the first head of state to congratulate Kibaki when he was declared the presidential winner in the controversial 2007 general election.
But his declaration met stiff opposition from Raila who was also claiming victory in the Kenya’s presidential race, resulting in an exchange of words between them. To date, Raila has never forgiven Museveni for swaying the international community to legitimise Kibaki’s win, which resulted in the formation of the grand coalition government with the ODM leader in the less powerful position of prime minister.
The duo were to later exchange harsh words after Ugandan soldiers invaded Migingo Island in Lake Victoria and harassed Kenyan fishermen, most of them Luos. By getting Museveni’s backing, Ruto has sent Uhuru and Raila back to the drawing board in regional politics. Uhuru has been employing state machinery to intimidate the DP and his supporters.
Last week, the DP watched helplessly as Raila flew to Naivasha in a Kenya Airforce chopper to condole with the Keroche Breweries family following the death of Tecla Muigai, a daughter of the founder of Keroche Industries. Raila enjoyed a ride in the military chopper as Ruto has been blocked from accessing State House.
The trip however got a bashing from Kenyans who said that Raila would easily spread Covid-19 if he caught it given the manner in which, to earn political bonga points, he is throwing caution to the wind and making unnecessary trips to people’s homes and holding meetings.
A tactful politician, Ruto started wooing Museveni during Jubilee Party’s first term in office when he enjoyed cordial relations with Uhuru. In December 2015, two years after his inauguration, the deputy president was in Uganda and curiously accompanied Museveni to a campaign rally in Kapchorwa town in eastern Uganda.
At the rally, Ruto told the crowd that Museveni was the best person to continue leading Uganda, trashing the candidature of the opposition candidate Kizza Besigye. Ruto’s appearance at the rally irked the Ugandan opposition, which accused him of meddling in their elections.
Days later, there were reports in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspapers that Museveni on realising the potential of big data in politics had requested Ruto to send to Kampala a team of data specialists in his office to train government officials on how to manage Uganda’s elections. But the opposition read sinister motives with some accusing Kenya of helping Museveni rig the elections.
Ruto dalliance with Museveni also came to the public limelight when in 2016 his personal aide, Farouk Kibet, accompanied by Narok governor Samuel Tunai and then Endebess MP Robert Pukose flew to Uganda for fundraiser in Sebei to support construction of three schools. They presented a donation of Sh4.5 million at the event which sent shockwaves across the landlocked country.
And just months after the contested 2017 presidential election, the deputy president was again in Uganda, this time to receive the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award at an event held at Serena Hotel, Kampala.
This was followed by another visit on March 12 2019, during the Africa Now Summit at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, Uganda where the deputy president almost undid the diplomatic efforts Uhuru had been making to resolve a raging dispute between Uganda and Rwanda. Speaking at the event and in the presence of Museveni, Ruto castigated Rwanda for closing its border with Uganda.
At the time of Ruto’s speech, Uhuru was shuttling between Kigali and Kampala in an effort to bring the two neighbours to resolve the diplomatic dispute which was threatening the unity of the East African Community. To please Museveni, Ruto also attacked Magufuli for his country’s decision to burn Kenyan chicks and also ban the grazing of cattle from Kenya in its country. In December last year, Ruto upped his wooing of Museveni when he flew to Uganda and joined him in a tour of Eastern Uganda to launch the 150-kilometre Kapchorwa-Suam road which connects Kenya and Uganda.
It was during the tour that Ruto heaped praises on Museveni’s leadership saying it had made it possible for citizens of the two countries to work together. Those who accompanied him included cabinet secretary Adan Mohammed, governors John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) and Josephat Nanok (Turkana), and MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Robert Pukose (Endebess), several Ugandan lawmakers and principal secretary Chris Kiptoo.
Also present were Ugandan ministers David Bahati (Finance) and Amelia Kyambadde (Trade and Co-operatives). The deputy president was also hosted for a breakfast meeting by the private sector members from Uganda in Kampala. This was followed by the inauguration of the William Ruto Leadership Institute at the Makerere University.
Before going to Makerere, Ruto had held talks with Museveni at the Mubende State Lodge where the Uganda head of state pledged Sh10 million towards the construction of the institute. The event went on despite murmurs from discontented Makerere University academicians who argued it was in the same location as the Mwai Kibaki Presidential Library, a Sh4.5 billion establishment that was launched in February 2015 but has never got off the ground.
Also questioned was Ruto’s intention given that he is not an alumnus of Makerere University. The Makerere academicians had also raised questions about Ruto’s character, arguing he is not a role model due to his association with graft. Insiders add that by Ruto winning Museveni, Ruto has countered Raila’s relationship with Magufuli.The deputy president will also use the relationship with Museveni to appeal to the communities that straddle the Kenya-Uganda borders, as he strategises for the 2022 elections. For Raila, he changed the game plan in EAC politics when he brokered a truce between Magufuli and Uhuru.
Before the 2018 handshake between Uhuru and Raila, Magufuli was an enemy of the Jubilee government which saw it supports his opponent, former prime minister Edward Lowassa, with reports that the regime offered both technical and financial support in his campaigns. In reciprocation, Lowassa endorsed Uhuru for a second term in office ahead of the 2017 polls urging members of his Maasai tribe who are spread across the borders of the two countries to vote in the Jubilee government.
But a livid Magufuli hit back by throwing his weight behind Raila in the 2017 elections. Magufuli boycotted Uhuru’s inauguration on November 28 2017 despite a tradition of neighbouring heads of state attending such fetes in the East African Community. But after Raila brokered the truce, Uhuru visited Tanzania and was hosted at the rural home of Magufuli in Mlimani Chato district where he prayed for Magufuli’s ailing mother.
The newfound friendship was firmed up when Kenya returned stolen gold to Tanzania with then Foreign Affairs cabinet secretary Monica Juma leading a delegation that included the Director of Public Prosecutions, Attorney General and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations boss.
They returned more than Sh15 million in cash recovered from a suspect. With Museveni on Ruto’s side, Raila has been sent back to the drawing board since, besides being a neighbour, Uganda is one Kenya largest trading bloc. Also, Kenya has given Uganda land in Naivasha to build a dry port. Museveni was also the first visiting president to use the standard gauge railway