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The Battle Within: What Next For Ruto After Uhuru, Raila Take Control Of The House?

Clinton KE

July. 16, 2020

It is clear now that President Uhuru Kenyatta's ruthless purge on his deputy William Ruto allies is complete. The president is now shifting focus to the implementation of the Building Bridges Initiative report. 
The Head of State and ODM leader Raila Odinga have tightened their grip on five parliamentary committees crucial for constitutional reforms and approval of Cabinet appointments.
The two party leaders packed the committees with their loyalists, completing a purge that saw allies of Deputy President William Ruto moved to less influential ones.
But what next now for who has been left in a no man's zone?
Making the battle known
DP Ruto had been silent for a long time as President Uhuru destroyed his army.
In what his allies called “tactical retreat”, Ruto reportedly took solace in the 22nd law of power which warns against battling for honours sake when one is obviously in a weaker position.
According to this school of thought, he surrendered to get time to recover when Kenyatta's fighting power wanes and he loses interest.
But recently, Ruto made the battle known.
In an uncharacteristic outburst delivered from his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu County last month, Ruto protested that his allies were being threatened with all manner of punitive action because of their steadfast support for him.
“Initially, we were only talking about ethnic division in Kenya. Today, a new form of rift has emerged - political division. In the recent past, we have seen several elected and nominated leaders being ousted from positions in Parliament, and are also being fought on several fronts simply because they are affiliated to DP William Ruto,” the DP told a meeting.
“In Kenya today, several politicians are being threatened they would be taken to court for alleged corruption-related offences, face tax evasion litigation, or they’ll be investigated by the EACC, and consequently arraigned. Others are warned that they will lose their positions in parliamentary committees and other postings.
"They are subjected to all that simply because they are affiliated to the Deputy President, and not because they are involved in any wrongdoing.
"I am also an innocent Kenyan, who shouldn’t be subjected to such aggressive fighting,” the DP concluded.
Politicians and observers interpreted his remarks as the first public acknowledgement that all was not well between him and his boss, a show of frustrations and morale boost to his troops who were the subject of Uhuru’s ruthless purge.
Allies going back to the drawing board
In Rift Valley, the hotbed of DP support, political activity has cooled as strategists go back to the drawing board.
Outspoken Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, his Nakuru counterpart Susan Kihika, Bahati’s Kimani Ngunjiri, Kapseret’s Oscar Sudi and Soy’s Caleb Kositany are now weighing their words carefully.
“Our support for the Deputy President is intact. We have taken a retreat to support President Uhuru’s legacy,” Mr Ngunjiri, a fierce Ruto defender, said in an earlier interview.
Murkomen, Ngunjiri, Sudi and Kositany have since 2013 been in constant touch with the DP and this perception of their closeness with Ruto has elevated them to who they are today in Kenya’s political arena.
Before the events of the last few weeks, they were high flying Jubilee honchos and fierce Ruto defenders in Uhuru’s government.
A number of them christened the Sky Team, used to fly in choppers attending harambees and rallies across the country after the 2013 polls.
Although most of them have been putting on brave faces, some have been quietly grumbling as they sought to mend fences with President Kenyatta through allies.
Pushing DP agenda
Murkomen, Sudi and Kositany capitalised on Ruto’s International Criminal Court (ICC) case at The Hague to gain prominence in Rift Valley after branding themselves as the DP’s ‘spokespersons’ when he was battling the charges.
They have stuck in Ruto’s camp and are among leaders pushing for the DP’s presidency in 2022.
Murkomen says all is not lost as he has a role to play as a senator for Elgeyo Marakwet. He predicts that succession politics will dominate the next two years of the Jubilee administration.
“It will come in various forms; fight for legislative control, changing the constitution, firing and hiring of CSs and other senior government officials, political arrests, intimidation of judges etc. The boom-time is over. Nothing much. Peace, be still!” he wrote on Twitter.
Political commentator Kobia Ataya says going forward, many of Ruto allies in the region will disappear like mist until next year.
He also thinks that sparing Aden Duale was a logical de-escalation of the Jubilee row.
“The dilemma will remain that on one hand, this region loves the President as its kingpin while on the other hand Dr Ruto is entrenched there in a way,” adds Prof Kobia who warns that it would still be unwise to write off the DP’s head start in the 2022 race.
Banking on Jubilee Asili
Ruto opened up a new battlefront with President Uhuru Kenyatta in the tussle for the control of Jubilee Party.
He unveiled a parallel office predictably named Jubilee Asili Centre, located on Makindu Road, off Riara Road in Nairobi’s Kilimani area. [Off shoots from political parties in Kenya predictably take the suffix "Asili", Kiswahili for "original/genuine]
At the new address, an elated DP hosted 20 Jubilee MPs, including those removed from parliamentary committees and leadership for supporting his presidential campaigns.
Outspoken Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who was ousted from the Senate Majority leader, said they had opted to open new party offices to hold party meetings.
He claimed they had been denied access to Jubilee Party headquarters in Pangani on Thika road.
In a tweet, Ruto said: “Had lunch with Jubilee MPs who were recently assigned other responsibilities in the party. Thanked them for exemplary service to the party and the nation. I implored them to continue focusing on Jubilee’s people-centred transformational agenda now and in the future. Sote pamoja.”
The Tangatanga Jubilee faction assembled at the new offices a day after the President’s camp hosted Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka and former governor Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani, whose parties signed a cooperation agreement at Jubilee Party headquarters. The ceremony was attended by Secretary-General Raphael Tuju and vice-chairman David Murathe.
Next move - fighting the BBI report
Insiders have it that now DP Ruto and his camp are planning to frustrate President Uhuru by fighting to reject the BBI.
Ruto's allies have questioned the motive behind delays in the release of Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
Jubilee Party deputy-secretary Caleb Kositany, who is also Dr Ruto’s de-facto spokesperson, on Sunday accused President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga of taking Kenyans for a ride by keeping silent on when the report will be released.
The Soy MP claimed that there is a political game behind the delays, arguing that as Tanga Tanga brigade, they are ready for any recommendation of the Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji-led taskforce.
"They should release the BBI report rather than trying to play politics with it, we know they are still looking for those who will oppose it, let them bring it, no one will oppose it," he said.
"The taskforce has completed its work, where is this report? Why are they taking long before releasing it?"
Although some Ruto allies are backing the extended executive in the BBI, the DP may turn around things and face President Uhuru head-on in the referendum. If successful, he would have made a big step in his presidential ambitions.
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