When the ground shifted: The rise and rise of ‘Hustler’ DP Ruto

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When the ground shifted: The rise and rise of ‘Hustler’ DP Ruto

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have had a complex relationship.They first came together in 2001 when President Daniel Moi, in the final year of his final term, decided to craft a succession plan for Kanu that shunted his veteran allies aside and brought on a crop of fresh young faces.

His youngest son, Gideon, was key to the planning, bringing in Uhuru Kenyatta — son of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta — who had lost in his first bid for the ‘family seat’ in Gatundu South constituency in 1997.

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He also brought in William Ruto, the young MP for Eldoret North and former Youth for Kanu ’92 (YK ’92) firebrand, who had fallen out with President Moi, but was eventually rehabilitated and appointed to the Cabinet.

When Moi nominated the young Mr Kenyatta to Parliament after edging out his legendary political fixer Mark Too, it became clear that the son of his predecessor was slated for bigger things.

During the same period, President Moi was seeking political respite by reaching out to Raila Odinga, one of his key headaches since the rise of underground dissident movements and abortive military coup in the early 1980s, onto the open campaign for democracy that in 1992 resulted in the return of the multiparty system.

The intention was a merger between Kanu and Mr Odinga’s National Development Party.

As the pivotal Kanu delegates conference to seal the merger approached, it was clear that the key beneficiaries were to be Mr Odinga, Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and another youthful Cabinet minister Musalia Mudavadi, with Gideon Moi pulling strings from behind the scenes.

Kanu stalwarts such as Vice-President George Saitoti, who was eyeing the presidency, secretary-general Joseph Kamotho and powerful Cabinet ministers were headed for the chopping board.

But for his choice of a successor, President Moi seemed torn between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Mudavadi.

That was when Gideon moved in, teaming up with Mr Ruto to scuttle Mr Mudavadi’s prospects by bringing into government Mr Cyrus Jirongo, the controversial chairman of the disbanded YK 92 pressure group.

BIWOTT LEFT OUT

Mr Jirongo’s brief was to keep Mr Mudavadi on his toes by projecting himself as a more worthy western Kenya candidate.

Contrary to common belief, Mr Kenyatta was not just a pliable Moi puppet. He was, for instance, critical to the decision to dump the old guard by insisting that he would only agree to take up the mantle if discredited leaders were dropped to signal the birth of a new Kanu.

Meanwhile, Mr Ruto was moving aggressively to shape the new dispensation in Moi’s Rift Valley bastions.

One incident springs to mind. The President had called a gathering of Kalenjin leaders — Cabinet ministers, MPs and Kanu officials — at Nakuru State House to introduce the intended new line up.

Biwott, for more than two decades regarded the most powerful man in Kenya after Moi, was shocked that his name was not on the list.

He stood up to protest loudly, whereupon the President called on Mr Ruto, to “find something for Biwott”.

It was the fresh-faced tyro who then stood to announce that the fearsome Biwott could be accommodated as Kanu organising-secretary.

The incident demonstrated to the shocked leaders that indeed the ground had shifted.

Somewhere in a back room, monitoring proceedings, Gideon and Uhuru exchanged high-fives.

By MACHARIA GAITHO

Source-nation.co.ke

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