How Uhuru confounded allies with Ruto take-over game plan
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to appoint his deputy William Ruto as acting President when he travelled to The Hague confounded even his closest confidantes as he pulled off a historic measure before attending the International Criminal Court summons.
The decision was more startling because many of the people normally close to the Head of State were not sure whether he would make the trip to the Hague in the first place.
Sources familiar with the goings on at State House ahead of the President’s departure on Tuesday last week told the Sunday Nation that the President had kept the decision to himself and a very small number of trusted advisers, mainly family members.
The sources said that when the ICC judges declined his request to attend through video link, President Kenyatta asked Attorney-General Githu Muigai to look at legal provisions on how best he would honour the summons without lowering the stature of the Presidency.
The first decision was that the statement from the President preceding his travel would be fashioned as an address to Parliament “to preserve the dignity of the Kenyan people and sovereignty of the country”.
The President is also understood to have been briefed that the general public mood indicated that he should travel to The Hague rather than defy the summons and live as a fugitive.
“President Kenyatta has never placed private interest, personal welfare or selfish benefit ahead of his duty to serve the people of Kenya,” said a statement from his media team late on Friday evening, giving away little about the eventual decision.
CAUGHT BY SURPRISE
The President’s letter to Senate and the National Assembly on Friday afternoon asking them to summon MPs for a special sitting on Monday caught Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro and his National Assembly counterpart Justin Muturi by surprise.
That letter would set in motion what emerged as a cleverly crafted plan to create a frenzy over whether he would heed the summons by the International Criminal Court or not.
The Speakers immediately embarked on having text messages sent to MPs as they drafted the notice in the Kenya Gazette to give legal effect to the request by the Head of State.
They did not know what the President was going to tell MPs.
“My only imagination is that it may be something about ICC,” Mr Muturi said when contacted.
Some of the MPs received the text messages from the Speakers while at the Dutch embassy, which had been forced to open on Friday to accommodate the large number of applicants who wanted to accompany the President to the Netherlands in case he decided to go.
Majority Leader Aden Duale, who speaks for the Executive in Parliament, was entirely in the dark as he had travelled to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for the 1435 Islamic Hajj pilgrimage.
He also had no idea whether President Kenyatta would travel to The Hague and kept asking those with whom he was in touch whether a decision had been announced.
The President’s speech was written at the weekend, with the Head of State offering the basic structure that was built on by his media team.
At the centre of the plan was the President’s Chief of Staff, Joseph Kinyua.
On Saturday evening, the media team published: “President Kenyatta believes in and practices patriotism, selfless service and the public good. Selfless service is consistent with the feature of President Kenyatta’s character as a person and of his entire career. President Kenyatta can be relied upon to take decisions in the nation’s best interest at all times.”
The message did not categorically state whether the President would attend the court sitting yet, only heightening anticipation about what he would tell Parliament and the nation in his address on Monday.
Sources say that it was on Monday that President Kenyatta finally briefed the National Defence Council of his intentions to cede power to Mr Ruto while abroad.
MET WITH DISBELIEF
Office of the President officials familiar with the briefing say the announcement was met with some with disbelief among some of those present.
Part of the plan by the President’s spin doctors and the legal team from the State Law Office to attach the President’s aide-de-camp to Mr Ruto was dropped after further consultations with defence chiefs.
The official says that some members of the council tried to offer alternative views but the President was firm that he had made his decision and their job was to work out ways of executing that decision.
It was at this meeting that the decision on what trappings of power would be accorded to Mr Ruto was made.
At the end of the day, acting President Ruto, it was decided, would work from Harambee House, and presidential escort assigned to him as Mr Kenyatta slid into life as a “private citizen”.
It was also telling that on Monday, his 2,258-word speech was sent to the press two hours after the special sitting. It is normally released to the newsrooms just before he finishes reading or immediately after.
The first statement on the direction things would go did not come until at the 45th paragraph of his 49 paragraph speech:
“It is for this reason that I choose not to put the sovereignty of more than forty million Kenyans on trial, since their democratic will should never be subject to another jurisdiction.”
But that was still not a definite statement and could have been taken any other way. He laid his mission bare in the 46th paragraph:
“Therefore, let it not be said that I am attending the Status Conference as the President of the Republic of Kenya. Nothing in my position or my deeds as President warrants my being in court.