Year when Uhuru and Ruto political ‘divorce’ happened

As coronavirus wreaked havoc and turned life upside down, a political pandemic running parallel to it was eating away the little trust left between the two men at the apex of Kenya’s political hierarchy.

The year 2020, now five days shy of being dumped, was undoubtedly a political annus horribilis for the once united “dynamic duo” of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto. The facade of their camaraderie that had been sustained by the officialdom for years, began to make way for the ugly truth of a relationship long gone sour.

In social media parlance, what had begun in 2011 as “in a relationship” to “married” in 2013 mutated into “domestic partnership”, “open relationship” and “Its complicated”. And finally, in 2020 all pretenses were dropped; “divorced.”

Kenyatta began 2020 by sending clear signals that it would be a different year.

The year began with a cloud of suspicion after the DP was locked out of his official residence at the Coast. Soon thereafter, Kenyatta struck at the core of Ruto’s political corner, sacking Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.

Neither Kiunjuri nor his political mentor saw it coming. A week before, at the burial of Martha Kirigo Gachagua in Mathira, they rained raw fire on Kenyatta’s henchmen. They cursed and spat at political brokers, spoke of covenants that had to be kept, issued ultimatums and asserted their place in Jubilee Party.

“Whenever we make covenants, let us live to the covenants, otherwise there are consequences of breaking the covenant,” Kiunjuri said.

“Uhuru is our investment, 10-year worth of investment! He cannot leave us and neither can we leave Jubilee. If he cuts a corner, we cut alongside, until we redeem our investment in him,” then Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen said.

From that moment, the president picked his axe, Kiunjuri becoming the first casualty.

The marginalisation of the DP from the core of government appears to have been upgraded and enhanced from that point, so that he found himself having to catch up with developments of a government he helped form.

“Essentially, the DP alienated himself from the centre of power. Through his acts of commission and omission, he pushed himself away from the president and relegated himself to the periphery. It was his own doing,” Irungu Kang’ata, the Majority Whip in the Senate, explains.

At the political level, Uhuru’s men went for the jugular and forced changes in the party leadership. Ruto and his men first screamed aloud, and eventually wailed when the enormity of what was in the offing, dawned on them.

“As Kenyans are focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, some shadowy characters are attempting to fraudulently institute illegal changes in officials of Jubilee party. As deputy party leader, I have alerted the registrar of the fraud,” Ruto, the whistleblower in his own party, tweeted.

But there was no stopping for President Kenyatta. He moved his axe to Parliament and chopped, in one fell swoop, all Ruto allies from parliamentary leadership. Again, none of them saw it coming, including the voluble former Majority Leader in the National Assembly Aden Duale and the indefatigable Kithure Kindiki, the former Senate deputy speaker.

Cheering on the sidelines, the president’s men led by party Vice Chairman David Murathe described the purge as a “fumigation exercise”. Murathe had resigned from the party last year but announced, early this year, that he was back because his resignation had not been acted upon.

In hindsight, Murathe’s return at Jubilee House was purposeful. When the heat in Jubilee became too much, Ruto’s acolytes began to leave his kitchen. Among those who crossed was the fiery Laikipia woman representative Cate Waruguru who had once described the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) as a “Blue Band Initiative”.

“There are no hard feelings in politics. It’s about interests, timing and priorities. We differed on the timing bit, the politicking for 2022. I realised I needed more focus on development for my people. I have absolutely nothing personal against William Ruto or his followers, none!” Waruguru explained yesterday.

Others ducked and simply vanished from the front rows of the DP’s public events.

The DP himself hibernated from countrywide visits, transformed his official residence in Karen into a charity centre and fully embraced Twitter as his official communication channel.

“They are boasting that I will not be there soon. Since the system cannot elect anybody, they can only kill. But there is God in heaven,” he tweeted.

Big rift

But it was the handling of the BBI politics that exposed the big rift between the two. While President Kenyatta made it very clear that BBI and constitutional changes were of utmost importance to the country, Ruto (pictured) and his supporters made it clear it was not a priority and that its packaging was awful.

They suggested that monies allocated for BBI be channelled elsewhere, that referendum be postponed and that the country refocus on essential fights.

Kenyatta, and his handshake partner Raila Odinga carried on with their plans, and Ruto eventually caved in but with half-hearted support.

While in government, Ruto has condemned police brutality, chastised Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) and complained of government officials out to drive a wedge between him and the man he calls his boss.

As his influence in government diminishes, he hangs on to the fact that he was elected alongside the president. His adversaries, however, cannot wait to see the last of him in government. Raila has severally called on him to resign from government.

As the year ends, the twists and turns of the period in between have transformed Ruto into a rebel within, cemented his role as a spectator and affirmed his new role as the unofficial opposition leader within government.

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