Long, winding journey to clip Ruto’s wings - Beaking Kenya News

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Sunday, 17 May 2020

Long, winding journey to clip Ruto’s wings

Deputy President William Ruto
The journey to clip the influence of Deputy President William Ruto started immediately after the 2017 elections. And State House did not hide it.
This week’s replacement of Dr Ruto’s allies in the Senate was the culmination of a strategy to cut the publicly known political ties between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy.
It all started on August 31, 2017 when newly elected Jubilee MPs met at State House for the first and only full house parliamentary group meeting.
The president used unusually strong language and told the MPs to toe the party line or face consequences.
He made it clear that he was the boss and he was focused on his final term and he would not entertain sideshows.
Unfortunately, a day later, the Supreme Court overturned his win and he had to rely on the same MPs he had admonished to campaign for him.
After the October 2017 repeat election, it did not take long for the DP and his allies to realise that the president had changed.
In fact, the DP’s allies wonder why the president had not ousted Kipchumba Murkomen and Susan Kihika as leader of majority and chief whip in the Senate, respectively.
To the public, that the president and his deputy were not reading from the same script was seen in January 2018 when the Head of State announced a partial Cabinet.
Unlike in all previous addresses to the nation since 2013, the deputy president was not present at the event.
Indeed, on January 7, 2018, the Sunday Nation reported that the absence of the DP was by design and that he was not consulted when the announcement was made.
It is a story that was widely rejected by the Ruto camp, but the die had been cast.
When the DP started his countrywide tours, the president was not amused, according to insider accounts, and he reached out and sent trusted friends to plead with Dr Ruto to stop the tours.
A mutual friend arranged for a day-long meeting between the president and his deputy, where one of the resolutions was to have Jubilee parliamentary group and National Executive Committee (NEC) meetings.
A date was set but the president was to cancel the meeting at the last minute and Ruto allies adopted a hardline stance since then.
The gamble was that it would only be a matter of time before Mr Kenyatta, in his final term, became a lame-duck president and gave way for Dr Ruto to set the stage for the 2022 succession.
Further, when the president sacked Cabinet secretaries Rashid Echesa (Sports) and Mwangi Kiunjuri (Agriculture), the DP was caught flat-footed, like any ordinary citizen, according to State House sources.
In the same breath, members of security teams and the provincial administration, who ordinarily attended Dr Ruto’s meetings in the counties, stayed away.
For the past two years, there were no government security officials in the numerous meetings the DP held every weekend in various counties before Covid-19 struck in mid-March.
Sources indicate the DP currently goes to State House when he is invited through a letter to attend a particular meeting, unlike in the first term where a phone call was all that was needed to summon him.
Lack of an invitational letter means he doesn’t attend meetings at State House. Of late, he has missed crucial meetings of the National Security Council on Covid-19.
“The only thing he chairs now is the Intergovernmental Budget and Economic Council. He has been sidelined in all other engagements. And I think the reason he is allowed to chair it is because it is a bit complex,” said Soy MP Caleb Kositany, an ally of the DP.
The DP has also been sidestepped when it comes to international travel. In February 2018, he travelled to the United Kingdom and delivered a speech at Chatham House, where he outlined what he believed should be included in constitutional amendments.
The London trip was cut short that evening just before he could travel to Warwick University for a public lecture, after State House informed him that President Kenyatta was to travel to Ethiopia the next day. Dr Ruto had been set to address African students at the university.
Travelling to foreign capitals helps in establishing crucial international contacts especially for anyone nursing presidential ambitions.
With his foreign movements curtailed, Dr Ruto has not had a chance to cultivate such contacts with foreign leaders.
But the biggest humiliation was a trip he had been scheduled to make to Canada and the US that had been slated for May and June 2018.
Preparations had been finalised for the month-long visit that would have seen him visit senior officials of Canadian government and also visit the US Congress.
He was also to tour 15 States, where he was to meet Kenyans livings there.
After months of planning and getting appointments with both US and Canadian government officials and bookings of venues to meet Kenyans in US, State House called it off at the last minute.
Any member of Cabinet has to seek clearance from the president before he or she leaves the country, and the DP is no exception.
Sources indicated Dr Ruto was informed the president would be visiting Canada and it was impractical for them to visit the same country around the same period.
True to the communication, President Kenyatta visited Canada in early June, where he attended a global conference on women and girls.
Kenyans living in the United States and Canada were told by local organisers that Dr Ruto’s visit would be rescheduled.
Since then, President Kenyatta has been dispatching Cabinet secretaries to meet with foreign Heads of State, or to represent him to international meetings, a tradition reserved for the vice-president in case the president cannot make it.

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