Monday, August 9, 2010



By Jerry Okungu

Nairobi, Kenya

August 8, 2010

William Ruto is an influential politician, more so in Kalenjin politics. He is a forceful campaigner that does his politics with such single-mindedness that it is impossible for him to see any alternative route to his goal. He gives the impression that he knows what he is doing leaving his sympathizers with no other choice except to follow or abandon him.

It is this single-mindedness that made him fall out with the Moi family when he decided to remain in ODM and campaign against KANU and any other political party that the Moi family favored. When Uhuru Kenyatta abandoned KANU for PNU in 2007 and the Moi family joined the Kibaki bandwagon, he stuck with Raila Odinga even after losing to Raila for the ODM presidential nomination.

During the ODM- PNU contest in 2007, Ruto was one of the strongest voices and a tireless campaigner that ensured that the entire Rift Valley backed ODM and Raila. For this stand, he was one of the most admired popular politicians in Nyanza, Western, Rift Valley, North Easter and even Coast provinces. His popularity rose from the fact that despite having been a Moi operative for 15 years, he had the capacity to change and notice leadership elsewhere outside his community. For this reason, he was ready to burn his bridges with the Moi family and vigorously campaign against all the three sons of the former president in that election. More importantly, he made sure that those who campaigned for Mwai Kibaki such as Kipruto Kirwa were also sent packing.

It was this scenario that saw the emergence of new faces such as Joshua Kutuny and a host of former civil servants in the Moi era take up politics as the new vocations.

However, this dalliance with Raila Odinga was to be short-lived following the riots and destruction that followed the 2007 when Kibaki‘s reelection was in dispute.

After so many months of opinion polls showing that the ODM and Raila would carry the day, suddenly on day three after the ballots were cast, Kibaki was declared the winner by the then ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu under a barrage of accusations by the ODM. The hurried swearing in ceremony of Kibaki on the lawns of State House just 20 minutes later did not help any matters. The country erupted in flames. It had to take the efforts of the international community to put out the fires.

During this mayhem, Rift Valley was the worst hit with age old grudges between Kikuyus and Kalenjins over land disputes playing out afresh. With houses going up in smoke, churches being burnt down and police killing youths in their hundreds, Kenya was on the brink of total disorder. And as ethnic militias took control of major highways, Kenya’s civil unrest was felt beyond our borders as far as the DRC and Zambia.

It must be noted that throughout this mayhem, Ruto was still a strong supporter of Raila Odinga and the ODM; the more reason why ODM chose him to be among the four panel members under Kofi Annan to negotiate peace and come out with a comprehensive National Accord that would return sanity to Kenya.

From the ODM side, he was in the company of fellow Kalenjin, Dr. Sally Kosgey, James Orengo and Musalia Mudavadi.

From the PNU side was Mutula Kilonzo, Martha Karua, Prof. Sam Ongeri and Moses Wetangula. However, following the signing of the National Accord on February 28 2008 and the establishment of the government of National Unity, things drastically changed for William Ruto when he missed the number two slot as Raila’s Deputy Prime Minister.

Remember that soon after Raila beat the five contenders for the ODM nomination, Musalia Mudavadi with the second highest number of votes was automatically chosen to be Raila’s running mate and therefore the VP designate in the new dispensation. But since there was provision for the Prime Minister’s position in the ODM manifesto, William Ruto, based on the votes from Rift Valley would be the automatic choice.

But things didn’t work as planned. Elections were disputed. A new deal was in place that forced PNU and ODM to share power. In this arrangement, Raila became the Prime Minister with Kibaki as the President. The VP position went to PNU sympathizer Kalonzo Musyoka while the two positions of Deputy Prime Minister were shared between PNU and ODM. Because of this negotiated arrangement, Musalia Mudavadi had no choice but to accept a lower position than what had been promised him before the polls.

However, despite being third in line, Ruto and his Rift Valley supporters started grumbling that they had been shortchanged considering the number of votes they had brought to the table and the spirited fight they had put up after the elections were disputed. When these complaints went unanswered, the seeds of discontent among the Rift Valley MPs were planted and watered.

Therefore by the time Justice Waki’s Commission of Inquiry into post election violence was giving an audit report that pointed to prominent Rift Valley MPs as being responsible for ethnic cleansing in Rift Valley, the die was cast. Raila had only two choices; defend their actions during the mayhem or side with Waki’s recommendations and lose their support. That is what finally happened. Technically, Raila parted ways with William Ruto.