Current Disagreements in ODM: Who is William Ruto?
Chasing The Presidential Dream:
Raila Odinga’s Strategic Alliance
With Political Opportunists
Extract from “Stolen Presidency”
Before the advent of the November 21 Referendum, the unfolding crisis with the writing of a new Constitution after NARC came to power, the dumping of the MoU and the formation of ODM, William Ruto, Uhuru Kenyatta, Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi who all became “leading lights” in ODM, were all members of the vanquished ruling Party KANU before they resurfaced to join Raila in the anti-Kibaki struggle. Uhuru Kenyatta was the Chairman of KANU Party, William Ruto, the Secretary General, while Musalia Mudavadi was the immediate former Vice President who served under none other than former Dictator Daniel arap Moi, a ruthless dictator who plundered Kenya’s economy for twenty four years.
However, Raila decided to work with these politicians, some of whom had frustrated his efforts towards rising to the Presidency after he accepted to merge his NDP Party with Moi’s KANU. Raila accepted to work with Uhuru Kenyatta who was central in his departure from KANU four months before the December 2002 elections. Despite the unpredictability of these newfound political allies, Raila convinced his supporters that unity with previous enemies was the way out. In fact, there was little alternative because Raila could not mobilize to defeat the Wako Draft of the Constitution using LDP alone. He needed support countrywide. Who were the opportunists Raila decided to work with in the process of chasing Presidential ambitions?
At forty-two, William Ruto was definitely one of the youngest politicians in Kenya whom, like myself, also belongs to the restless “post-Uhuru generation.” Ruto is very promising and it may be too early to judge him on the basis of his brief political history. Despite his profile as a key element in the Kenyan reform movement represented by ODM, Ruto is another political child of former dictator Daniel arap Moi who came into prominence in 1992 as Treasurer of Youth for KANU 92 (YK92), a marauding and gangster-like lobby group that was set up by KANU to drum support for the re-election of Moi at a time when the despot was very
After Moi was installed as President following the 1997 elections, Youth for KANU 92 became irrelevant and Ruto became politically unemployed. It is at this point that the son of Eldoret plunged into electoral politics eventually emerging as the winner of the Eldoret North Parliamentary seat after the 1997 general elections, which was widely believed to have been rigged by Moi who returned to power to serve his last term as President. Ruto had no problem capturing his seat because he had the support of President Moi whom, as President of the Republic, called the shots in the wider Rift Valley Province dominated by members of Moi’s Kalenjin ethnic group.
The real political profile of the real Ruto emerges after his election to Parliament on a KANU ticket both in December 1997 and December 2002. After Raila opted for a political pact with Moi when the son of Odinga failed to become President in the 1997 election, and after Raila fused his National Development Party (NDP) with KANU to form the New KANU, Ruto supported the move because this was not just politically expedient but because Ruto had to support anything Moi said since Moi was the kingmaker in Rift Valley who also introduced the young Ruto into politics. As soon as it became clear that Moi had other ideas that were represented by “Project Uhuru,” Ruto became one of the most ardent opponents of Raila Odinga in his quest for the Presidency because Ruto was dancing to the tunes of Moi and other senior Kalenjin politicians such as Nicholas Biwott. Moi was Ruto’s political Godfather and going against the old man’s wishes could have been anathema at that point in time.
After Raila formed the “Rainbow Alliance” in his struggle for democratic nominations of the New KANU’s Presidential candidate, Ruto was among the first “KANU hardliners” to dismiss the Rainbow Alliance. This was because soon after it was initiated, Ruto emerged as one of the staunchest believers in the Uhuru Project mainly because his political fortunes at that time were tied to being loyal to Moi. Ruto dismissed the Rainbow Alliance that was being headed by Raila and asserted that Uhuru would be nominated by the New KANU as the Party’s Presidential candidate because “there was no other candidate.” By then, Ruto was the “Director of Elections” in the New KANU and Minister of Home Affairs in Moi’s government. Dismissing Raila Odinga’s group, he said, “We are going to Kasarani to endorse Mr Kenyatta and those criss-crossing the country under the umbrella of the Rainbow Alliance are wasting their time. There will be nobody to vote for or against.” (287)
Raila was running for nomination and by asserting that there was “nobody to vote for” at the New KANU nominations except Uhuru, the signal Ruto was sending was that he had adopted the “no nonsense” and authoritarian methods of Moi to ensure that the will of the President, his Godfather, prevailed. As the holder of the powerful position of Director of Elections in the New KANU and by asserting strongly that the issue of Uhuru Kenyatta’s nomination was as good as over when Raila was still in the race and campaigning across the country, Ruto sent a strong message to Raila that he was no longer welcome in the New KANU outfit if he had ambitions of running as President under the New KANU ticket.
Ruto’s profile as a political opportunist was strengthened because when he discovered that Moi was already a spent force after the December 2002 elections, which removed KANU from power, he chose to forget historical factors and agreed to work with Raila Odinga who also needed him as part of the wider ODM strategy for power takeover. Ruto was among KANU sycophants who once created great anxiety to the Kenyan nation by making a public declaration that it was fine for Moi to rule Kenya for the next one hundred years. At a fundraiser for Kaiti Educational Fund in June 2000, Ruto was quoted in The Daily Nation saying that “As far as President Moi’s retirement is concerned, it is up to those who voted for him to decide. Right now, we are still okay with him going on even for another 100 years.”(288)
“Kalenjin Protection Plan”
After Moi’s “Uhuru Project” was defeated, Ruto dumped Moi to join Raila he had opposed during the Uhuru Project crisis. In certain instances, Ruto went overboard in his campaign that Moi rule beyond 2002. At a funds drive in aid of Sugoi Secondary school in April 2001, William Ruto together with former Finance Minister, Chris Okemo, MP Ekwe Ethuro and MP John Marirmoi declared that they would ensure that the clause limiting Presidential term would be repealed to enable Moi rule after the December 2002 election “because it was President Moi’s democratic right to vie for another term in the next general election.”(289) At the same function, Ruto added that he was not afraid of being called a sycophant of Moi and “… wondered why opposition leaders get jittery when they hear that President Moi should continue ruling the country.” It was these kinds of utterances that provides a pointer to Ruto’s brand of opportunism. After he participated actively in opposition to Raila’s Presidential candidacy in the New KANU, Ruto then proceeded to surprise Kenyans by making a public pronouncement to the effect that Kenyans needed to proceed to the December 2002 elections with the old colonial Constitution (290) that many Kenyans believed was undemocratic because it favoured KANU.
The “Ufungamano Initiative,” a church led move that was also trying to get assurances from political parties, prepared a memorandum that was presented to political parties to sign as a commitment to the delivery of a new Constitution by mid 2003. When KANU was approached to sign it, it is Ruto who emerged as the voice of opposition against such a move. According to The Daily Nation, which reported KANU’s opposition, “The memorandum drafted by the faiths-led Ufungamano Initiative seeking to commit political parties to a new Constitution by mid next year ‘is of no consequence,’ Kanu’s Director of elections William Ruto said yesterday.”(291) Ruto, the then Director of KANU Election, had also warned that there would be chaos if Ufungamano group dared visit Bomet District.(292) After KANU lost the election in 2002, it was no longer opportunistic for Ruto to continue opposing the delivery of a new Constitution. The rules of opportunism dictate that political positions could change according to circumstances.
When KANU was eventually defeated and NARC failed to deliver a new Constitution to Kenyans, it is the same Ruto who emerged in ODM to take a strong position on the need to abolish the colonial Constitution he supported when KANU was calling the shots and had the advantage. This abrupt shift of position was the product of pure political opportunism because for Ruto, it became fashionable to support (after 2002) the Bomas Draft of the Constitution as a matter of political survival.
Opportunistic politicians who understood this simple arithmetic such as Ruto abandoned their political parties and crossed over to ODM while those who were blinded by the goodies that came with their top positions in the Kibaki government are the ones who later walked out of the Bomas Constitutional Conference since the new Constitution that was being crafted was not in the interest of the ruling class that was sitting in Kibaki’s government at that point in time.
Even as members of the “Youth for Kalenjin Unity” publicly opposed Ruto’s support for Uhuru Kenyatta and as other members of the Kalenjin community insisted that Uhuru was not fit to be President because nobody knew his background, Ruto surprised his community by saying that he was supporting Uhuru Kenyatta to succeed Moi because the former dictator needed someone to protect him and the Kalenjin after Moi went into retirement.(293)
Leaning heavily on “Kalenjin protection plan” as the basis of political support for Uhuru, Ruto said, “Kalenjins need protection after Moi’s retirement and that is why we have chosen Kenyatta, who will protect us.”(294) It was Reverend Maritim Rirei, the Anglican Priest at the Eldoret Diocese, who later answered Ruto by reminding him that the Kalenjin did not need anybody to protect them and that “most Kalenjins suffered like other Kenyans both economically and socially and that the community should not be hoodwinked to vote for anybody imposed on
However, the voices of reason that was represented by the likes of Reverend Maritim did not get their way because they were nowhere near the power structure where main decisions were being made. Project Uhuru did proceed as planned, Raila jumped out of the New KANU and the former ruling Party lost elections to NARC with Kibaki as President. It was after Kibaki took over the realms of leadership that clues about Ruto’s alleged illegal deals began to surface, deals that might have been concealed by KANU government in some kind of “protection arrangement.”
After NARC came to power, Ruto was arrested together with Mr. Samwel Mwita (a former Commissioner of Lands) and charged with hiving off a portion of Ngong forest and selling it to hurriedly formed companies in a deal that was estimated to have cost Ksh272 million.(296) The former Minister was later charged with Mwita of defrauding the Kenya Pipeline Company (which allegedly bought the land) of Ksh77 million although the thirty-three counts they were facing were reduced to nine. Ruto was charged with receiving Ksh9,916,836 from Ms. Hellen Njue, the Finance Manager of Kenya Pipeline by pretending that they could sell to her 1.75 hectares of land in Ngong Forest in Nairobi on September 6, 2001,(297) when he was still in office. After the land was hived off, it was split into thirty-two plots, which were then allocated to thirty-two different companies, which, in turn, sold the land to Kenya Pipeline Company.(298) Apart from Ruto, Mr. Mwita and Mr. Joshua Kulei, companies that were listed in the case as the accused were Berke Commercial Agencies, Priority, Celtic multi-systems and the Sovereign group. According to a report published in the April 15 2004 edition of The Daily Nation newspaper, police believed that five of the companies that bought the stolen land before selling the plots to Kenya pipeline belonged to Ruto…
From: Raila Odinga’s Stolen Presidency: Consequences and the Future of Kenya (Pages 163-168)