Inside Ruto and Raila rivalry as allies clash
The bitter rivalry between Deputy President William Ruto and Cord leader Raila Odinga intensified on Friday with their closest allies exchanging harsh words.
Senators Charles Keter (Kericho) and Boni Khalwale (Kakamega) led the onslaught from their respective corners, with the latter accusing Mr Ruto of behaving “as if he is the chief executive of the country”.
Mr Keter, in turn, described Raila as an ungrateful man who appeared happy to see his loyal lieutenant in the disputed 2007 General Election “lynched at the ICC”.
“Why has he not said even a word about the case facing Ruto at the ICC? Just to say that the violence was spontaneous and it took place in every part of the country, not just Rift Valley?” asked Mr Keter, one of the closest allies of Ruto.
He went on: “We do not expect him to say Ruto is innocent, but he should set the record straight when witnesses say the violence was planned in ODM offices. It is like he is happy that Ruto is being lynched.”
Mr Khalwale accused Mr Ruto of polarising the country and fighting devolution.
“You remember when we called for dialogue between Cord and Jubilee, Uhuru said he was ready for it. But, speaking elsewhere the same day, Ruto was quoted saying that there will be no dialogue. That was a clear demonstration that he is the stumbling block to any dialogue between Cord and Jubilee,” said Mr Khalwale, a former Raila critic, now turned ardent defender.
“He has been going ahead of the pack to declare that funds will not be taken to the counties as if he is the CEO of this country. Nobody elected him the CEO of Kenya,” he said.
Mr Keter’s charge points to the heart of what Mr Ruto’s supporters consider to be the point of departure between the pair.
The cases at the International Criminal Court, the Mau evictions and the contested 2013 General Election are at the heart of bitter differences between the erstwhile political comrades turned foes who first worked together ahead of the 2005 referendum campaign and fought on the same side in the 2007 contest.
Raila has also linked the Deputy President to the alleged rigging of the last General Election, and most politicians from Nyanza blame him for the defeat in the March 4, 2013 ballot.
“We always suspected that the money stolen from the public coffers was Sh15 billion; this is the money they used to steal the election. I heard the Deputy President recently accusing governors of corruption; he does not have the moral authority to talk about accountability, they should be held responsible for this plunder of public resources,” Raila recently claimed.
Mr Ruto’s camp, on the other hand, accuses the Cord leader of riding on the Kalenjin support to high office in 2007 but abandoning them shortly afterwards.
On Friday, Mr Odinga revisited the Mau eviction which many political analysts say was the decisive moment when he lost the critical Kalenjin supporters who backed him almost to the last man in 2007.
The Cord leader defended his actions to evict the thousands of families from the Mau forest and termed his critics “hypocrites.”
“To date, I remain proud of the work we did (in Mau), the care with which we did it and the benefits it conferred on our people. Those who believe only in the present time and who work only for themselves will never do conservation work. That is the lot that politicised the Mau and shed crocodile tears over it,” he said at his office when he received an award for his conservation efforts.
Mr Ruto on Wednesday defended himself against accusations that he was the stumbling block to dialogue between the government and the opposition.
Speaking in Mr Odinga’s political bedrock of Kisumu, Mr Ruto maintained that the accusation was drawn from his opposition to the new constitution during the 2010 referendum.
The love-hate relationship between Mr Odinga and Mr Ruto goes back to the pre-2002 General Election when they fought in opposite corners, with the former playing a massive role in Mwai Kibaki’s presidential election against the latter’s candidate, Uhuru Kenyatta.
President Kibaki would go ahead to form the next government with Raila as his Roads minister, while Ruto took his place as the Secretary-General of the official opposition, Kanu.
But Raila would soon fall out with Kibaki and join forces with the Uhuru-Ruto led opposition to successfully campaign against the draft constitution during the 2005 referendum.
Ruto eventually quit Kanu and teamed up with Raila to form the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ahead of the 2007 General Election.
And when the results of the presidential election tore the country town the middle, Raila picked Ruto and Musalia Mudavadi to lead peace talks that culminated in a government of national unity with Kibaki’s PNU.
Such was the faith Raila had in Ruto. He would later pick Mr Ruto to head the influential Agriculture docket when the grand coalition government was formed.