In 2013, William Ruto joined the government as an equal partner and became Kenya’s Deputy President as an established politician, and is departing as both an accomplice and a victim.
In 2020, he was forced out of Jubilee, the party he wholeheartedly helped build to make it look like a national party. But what matters is the reason behind the creation of Jubilee as a stand-alone party. Previously, Jubilee was a coalition of The National Alliance (TNA) and the United Republican Party (URP) and Ruto ran a coalition government with President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The coalition governed between April 2013 and August 2017. In 2016, one year before the presidential election, Ruto was convinced to dissolve his URP party and join TNA and other small parties to form Jubilee party. That day was the beginning of the process to block him from succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The buccaneer Sugoi kid, who became a member of parliament in 1997, was eager to make a mark on politics, but the harsh reality is that he will be remembered for abandoning the bulk of his deputy-presidential duties to concentrate on election years away, and behaving as a co-president.
Ruto’s political obituary was written on March 9 2018 when President Kenyatta and former premier Raila Odinga signed a deal to work together and initiated a constitutional change process. Two years later, on May 11 2020, it was reaffirmed when Ruto’s closest allies were removed from the Senate leadership after Jubilee and KANU – a party led by Gideon Moi, Ruto’s rival, signed a coalition agreement.
Following Jubilee-KANU deal, Senator Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), was removed and replaced with Senator Samuel Poghishio of KANU (West Pokot), and Susan Kihika (Nakuru) was axed as Senator Irungu Kingata (Murang’a) took her position as the Senate Majority Whip, who was subsequently removed. Jubilee is now Uhuru Kenyatta’s.
Ruto established himself as Rift Valley political kingpin, then a national figure. In 2016, he turned a blind eye to the dissolution of his party. Now he must be regretting that decision.
There has hardly been anyone visible in Jubilee than Ruto, who believed the party will help him ascend to power in 2022, and seemed duty-bound to deliver on promises Jubilee made to voters, crisscrossing the country, seemingly selling the government agenda; boosting the economy, constructing roads, uniting Kenyans, but in reality campaigning for the next election and trying to wrestle support from Mr Odinga in Western and Coastal regions that traditionally backed the former prime minister.
He even appeared on international media on behalf of Jubilee, insisting his party won the 2017 presidential election, and labelling Mr Odinga as a ‘serial loser who will not accept the will of the people.’
The shotgun marriage between President Kenyatta and Ruto was a success in their first term in office. They built the strongest political alliance Kenya has ever seen. The president’s allies avoided criticising Ruto even when they felt he was undermining his boss because they needed his support in the following election, but hell broke loose after the March 9 handshake.
Ruto has been the face of opposition to the initiative championed by President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga. He feared the handshake between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga represented an existential threat to his path to State House. The handshake was a crisis for Mr Ruto – it complicated his political future. The ‘hustler’ as he calls himself, who carved his niche in Jubilee, is now an outsider within his own government.
Ruto felt the unity between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga threatened the existence of Jubilee and made his relationship with the president complex, shattering his dreams of becoming Kenya’s next president.
From the moment he became a member of parliament, a cabinet minister and, ultimately, a deputy president, Ruto had his sight on State House.
In an interview in 2009, he was asked whether he wants to be president. “Why would I be in politics if I do not want to be a president,” he responded.
By choosing to be a deputy president, Ruto chose the wrong path to State House. Historically, deputy presidents do not succeed their boss. Ruto could become president, but not in 2022.