Full transcript of Uhuru Kenyatta’s interview with senior editors at State House, Nairobi

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday, August 23, gave an interview to media editors.

In the candid conversation held at State House, Nairobi, the President dared his deputy, William Ruto, to resign if he is dissatisfied with the Government’s sense of direction.

In a quick rejoinder, during his Kwale tour on Tuesday, August 24, the DP steadfastly stated he will serve his term as Deputy President of Kenya to the last day of his tenure.

The boss and his junior are now engaged in a no-longer-hidden exchange of words. But, what might have led to the strange coldness between a President and his deputy, who were inseparable in their first term in office?

Below is a transcript of the President’s Monday interview that gives a hint on the genesis of the duo’s frosty relationship:

On what led to the President initiating BBi alongside ODM leader Raila Odinga.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: The violence that broke out in some parts of the country [after the disputed 2017 General Election birthed the BBI idea]. We were in a very uncomfortable situation as a country between both elections, and actually all the way to January [2018]. I was seeing a possibility of another [political] crisis erupting similar to the one in 2007. I said: ‘This country doesn’t deserve [to take that route]’. I took it upon myself to speak with those who were opposing the election [outcome], led by the Honourable Raila Odinga. I told him: ‘We need to engage because at the end of the day we’re both citizens of this republic; whatever our personal feelings or views may be, we have a responsibility – as leaders – to ensure that this country does not find itself in a situation similar to that one of 2007’. At the end of the day, we were able to discuss, and point out some underlying issues that have plagued this country for a long time.

His reaction to Court of Appeal’s ruling that threw out BBI.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: It’s unfortunate the courts have ruled the way they did. I believe they were highly misguided. I was hearing some politicians claiming that BBI was to prepare Raila Odinga for presidency [in 2022]. Raila declared his [interest in] presidency without BBI, and he is still on the ticket. BBI has nothing to do with his candidacy; BBI has nothing to do with Uhuru wanting to continue [serving as President] because there is no clause in BBI that says that the incumbent President is going to continue for another ten years. This is all propaganda and hype that is built to poison the people’s minds, and to make them deviate from looking at the real facts. At the end of the day, who are the people who suffer when we have political problems? It is not the elite. It is the masses, who are the people who are denied resources. When we don’t deal with these issues of inequity, it is the people, not the elite, [who bear the brunt]. I, as Uhuru Kenyatta, have not lost anything [following the BBI ruling]. However, I am sad because I feel we might have denied Kenyans something that would not have only improved their lives and livelihoods, but made the nation more cohesive.

On who he thinks is best-suited to succeed him as President.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: It is neither my duty nor responsibility to tell Kenyans how they should vote. However, is my duty to remind Kenyans, that they need to look at who they vote for, and why they are voting for that person. It is unfortunate that amongst us (politicians), there are those who will sacrifice [Kenyans’] interests over personal political agenda. I believe these are the things that Kenyans need to be wary of. At the end of the day, it is not for me to dictate to Kenyans who they should elect. It is my hope and prayer that they will elect a leader who doesn’t concentrate on their short term interests, but their long term survivability as citizens and the long term stability of our nation.

On Deputy President William Ruto’s perceived opposition of Uhuru-Raila unity.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: It is unfortunate. He is going against the same Government that he serves. The issues that we have been trying to solve through the BBI are the same issues that brought him and I together [in the run-up to the 2013 General Election]. So, if I want to expand that [quest for national unity]… Bringing people together has always been my agenda. If he and I could team up following divisions that arose from the 2007 General Election, what’s the problem with bringing more and more [people] on one side? What’s the problem with that? [When we do that, I believe] it doesn’t deny you the chance [of realising your political goals]. I love my country. I will continue advocating for inclusivity.

Is it high time DP William Ruto quit Government?

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: In a decent, civilised society where people disagree, the honourable thing that leaders do is to say: ‘I disagree with the policies of this Government, and, therefore, I wish to disassociate myself from it’. I wish this is what people would do [here in Kenya]. As they say, you can’t live in a glass house and you are, at the same time, throwing stones at the house to demolish it. I have tried to incorporate everyone in Government, including those who criticise us. I was elected [as President], and work must continue. If you are not happy with what I’m doing, then step aside and allow those who want to continue with the journey to do so. You can’t have your cake and eat it.

On what caused the fall-out between him and DP William Ruto.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: I have no idea what transpired [between him and I]. Maybe it is because he is trying to create a [political] base for himself, which is okay. I have never denied him that [opportunity]. He is free to do so. However, the manner in which he is doing it [seeking political approval] is unfortunate. He is doing so by going against the same Government that he is serving. I think that is wrong.

On why he has excluded DP William Ruto from several meetings he has had with opposition leaders in State House Mombasa and Nairobi

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: [I have excluded him from the meetings] for two reasons. First, he has been opposed to what I’m trying to do (bringing the opposition leaders to the negotiating table). I don’t know why he’s been opposed to that. Those meetings have not been about selecting a [presidential] candidate [in the 2022 General Election]. They have been about tracking the progress of what we had agreed on – [the need to unite Kenya]. We discuss on how to birth the baby (a united country). You can’t bring on board someone who is opposed to the discussions and doesn’t want to see that happening. I fail to understand why [he has been opposing the idea of onboarding the opposition], yet he has been part of the process. It would have been wonderful [to have him with us]. However, you can’t force something down someone’s throat. You won’t be democratic when you do that.

His opinion on the possibility of postponing the 2022 General Election due to Covid-19 crisis.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: I have no comment on that. However, going by what the court ruled about the BBI, they are essentially telling us: ‘We can’t have a general election because we don’t have a [fully] constituted IEBC’. I wouldn’t want to comment on that [postponement of elections]. However, I would say: ‘let’s wait and see how it unfolds’. I am ready for an election at the prescribed time (August 9, 2022). I have been working with that schedule at the back of my mind.

On the stagnated economy.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: First, we must acknowledge that we’ve had a very difficult two years, and this is not just Kenya. It is a global phenomenon occasioned by the pandemic that has hit us, and necessitated a slowdown of the global economy. Therefore, I must admit I’m not where I would have preferred to be under normal circumstances. However, we have started to see the Tourism, Financial and Agricultural sectors picking up. We are putting in a lot of money into all these small and medium enterprises, trying to see how we can ensure they become proper job-creators.

On fight against graft.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: We have done the best we can [to prevent corruption]. If you actually look at the situation currently, there are few new cases of corruption. The key problem we’re now facing is not how to tackle corruption, but how to expedite the graft cases in court. That’s the only thing that will prove to Kenyans and the world at large that we are serious in the fight against graft. I’d encourage you to go to the anti-corruption [commission] and the DCI [offices] and see the number of files ready for court action. My prayer is that these cases can be heard and determined in the shortest time possible. The ultimate weapon against corruption is conviction.

On accusations of weaponising the war against graft, and using it to target his political critics.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: I have never, and will never do that. If anyone has a case against me, and can prove that I weaponised graft against him or her, let him or her come forward. I have lost very many people close to me [due to my stance on graft]. I ordered some [friends in Government] to step down because of the [corruption] cases they were facing in court. I know how it feels to be wrongly victimised. If you’re facing corruption charges, go to your accuser, go before the law courts and prove your innocence. Why would I want an innocent person prosecuted, for what benefit?

On Covid-19 vaccine inequality in the world.

PRESIDENT KENYATTA: My position on that has been clear. For the first time [in a long while], Africa was more than satisfactorily prepared to fight a pandemic (Covid-19). However, when vaccines came online, the developed countries exercised vaccine apartheid. Despite all the [acquisition] arrangements and agreements that we had in place, vaccine nationalism, came into effect; they decided to hoard and look after themselves and ignore the rest of the world.

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