Opinion is divided over the political future of Deputy President William Ruto two days after President Uhuru Kenyatta and NASA leader Raila Odinga closed ranks and entered a deal that would see them work together.
At the steps of the Office of the President at Harambee House, Nairobi, Uhuru and Raila announced they were keen on healing the deep divisions in the country brought about by their sustained political competition for high office.
“We have agreed to roll out a programme that will implement our shared objectives. The programme shall establish an office and retain a retinue of advisors to assist in this implementation,” Raila said in their joint statement.
In the midst of this loaded political statement from Uhuru’s political nemesis was an awkward moment. Ruto’s absence from the Friday meeting sent tongues wagging. As Uhuru and Raila spoke, the DP was seated few metres away from in his office across the street.
As the dust settles on the surprise closing of ranks between Uhuru and Raila, the DP’s no-show at the talks and the perceived political implication has caused a tinge of apprehension and confusion in his support base.
Immediately after the meeting, Ruto welcomed the new-found unity in a tweet: “Congratulations Pres Uhuru and Raila for being statesmen. You have risen to the moment for Kenya and against hate, negative ethnicity and division. The unity, stability and transformation of Kenya supersede all other partisan interests.” Ruto spoke on Twitter less than one hour after the meeting.
Saturday, the DP seemed to have picked up the spirit of the talks. He even reached out to the other Nasa co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Bongoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, asking them to join hands with the Jubilee government.
“This is not time cry foul about consultations and dialogue. We want all Kenyans to join hands and support the government for the sake of unity and development,” he said. Speaking at Turbo Hill Catholic Church in Ol Jororok, Nyandarua County, the Deputy President said time for politicking was over as Kenyans are now focused on development. “We are glad that time for politics and elections are over. What happened yesterday was a clear indication that we are now opening a new chapter for development. We will now concentrate on delivering to the people what the Jubilee government promised,” he said.
But although the DP seemed to have endorsed the political pact, in his political base, there was a feeling that the closing of ranks by Uhuru and Raila could have complicated things for him.
“We are concerned that this will not augur well with the DP’s bid in 2022. It concerns us that Raila should have been brought in when a lot has been done to consolidate support for Ruto,” said William Kiplagat, the MCA of Chepkorio ward in Elgeyo Marakwet County.
Others like Emurua Dikirr MP Johana Ng’eno say Friday’s events were a warning shot to the DP. “It is time Ruto started mending fences with his political rivals. If Uhuru can sit down with Raila, why can’t Ruto sit down with Kanu leader Gideon Moi, Chama Cha Mashinani leader Isaac Ruto, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter among others and make the Kalenjin Nation great again?” he posed.
To political risk analysts Dismas Mokua, the Uhuru and Raila unity pact signaled the birth of a possible third force in the 2022.
“This means that we will have Ruto possibly facing off with Raila and a third candidate who will come from the Kalonzo, Mudavadi and Wetang’ula axis,” said Mokua.
Many Kenyans, Mokua said, were happy with the unity programme. But a significant number felt disappointed, and are likely to support a third force in 2022.
Mokua was, however, quick to caution those who believe that Ruto’s 2022’s bid for the presidency was dented by Friday’s happenings. “Anybody who tries to underrate or ignore Ruto will be on a political suicidal path. The DP understands Kenya’s political space and has created a countrywide network -- he has the benefit of incumbency,” he said. “Besides, the DP is workaholic who has no equal in holding multiple rallies and meetings in a day.”
Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny urged Kenyans not to read too much from Uhuru and Raila’s unity.
Kutuny dismissed the notion that the single event would significantly change the political equation. He believes the structures and networks being put down by Jubilee Party will be strong enough to ensure a smooth transition from Uhuru to Ruto.
“The unity of purpose for the two politicians is welcomed and encouraged. It allows the Jubilee government to deliver and the biggest beneficiary is the DP,” he said.
To the Cherang’any MP though, it is time for Ruto to reach out to friend and foe as he helps President Kenyatta unite the country.
Nandi Senator Kiprotich Cherargei told Sunday Standard the unity pact betweenUhuru and Raila means Jubilee can focus on delivering on the big four agenda, which will be the DP’s rallying point in 2022.
“In the past, there has been a lot of distraction, especially by Raila. Once he is in the fold, Ruto can put his energy on service delivery to Kenyans under Uhuru. This will help him win accolades from Kenyans,” said Cherargei.