Born on 21st December 1966 in Sambut village, William Samoei arap Ruto has risen from the humblest of beginnings to be among the most powerful politicians of this decade. He is a step away from clenching the ultimate political seat and from his achievements so far, it would be a surprise to many for him to break the pot at the doorstep. A brief walk through Ruto’s rise to power may reveal why he poses as the most viable person to clench the presidential seat come 2022.
William Ruto attended Kerotet Primary School for his primary education and later joined Wareng Secondary School for his secondary education. After completing his O level at Kapsabet Boys, he joined University of Nairobi graduating first in his class with a BSc in Botany and Zoology. Apart from being an exemplary student, William Samoei was a staunch Christian and was leader of the University Christian Union choir.
His first encounter with politics came in 1992 after establishment of the multi-party system and he was appointed the organizing secretary of Youths for Kanu ’92 (YK’92). The YK’92 movement drummed up youth votes for the re-election of President Daniel arap Moi during the 1992 elections.
He steadily rose in power following Daniel arap Moi win during the 1992 elections and eventually clenched the Eldoret North parliamentary seat in 1997 with a Kenya African National Union (KANU) ticket. A year later, Ruto was appointed as Assistant Minister for Provincial Administration by the Moi government.
The first loss of his political career came when he supported President Moi’s decision to back Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential bid in 2002 which was clenched by Mwai Kibaki’s NARC coalition. All was not lost since Ruto retained his parliamentary seat in Eldoret North and was also appointed as Minister of Home Affairs in the same year. After the lost election, KANU was hammered to be part of the country’s opposition.
By 2005, Ruto was the Secretary General of KANU and in the same year, the first constitutional referendum was held and the “NO” vote led by the opposition leader Raila Odinga won with a 58% lead. The referendum vote led to the formation of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) represented by the orange symbol of which KANU was a part of until its defection from the movement in 2007.
An ambitious man, Ruto declared his presidential bid for the 2007 general elections in 2006. This did not seat well with KANU members and the former President Daniel arap Moi condemned this move. Following no support from the KANU members, Ruto joined ODM seeking nomination as the party’s presidential candidate. After resigning from his post as KANU secretary general on 6th October 2007, he lost to Raila Odinga during the ODM presidential candidate nominations on 1st September 2007.
Despite the nomination loss, Ruto rallied the Kalenjins in support of Raila Odinga during the 2007 general elections. The election ended in an impasse leading to the formation of a coalition government following the 2007-8 post-election violence. William Ruto was appointed Minister of Agriculture in 2008 by the coalition government.
Shrewd and calculative, William Ruto performed exemplary as the Minister of Agriculture. He ensured subsidized farm inputs were availed to farmers and ready market sought for their produce. He was transferred to the Ministry of Education in 2010 following the maize scandal of which he was acquitted. He then continued his exemplary performance in the education sector ending the one year waiting period in universities by instituting the double intake process.
The same year 2010, Ruto suffered his second political loss after he lost the 2010 constitutional referendum vote to the “YES” campaign. William Ruto led the “NO” campaign with the support of Kalenjins who were against the new constitution land taxation issues among other matters. Although Ruto lost on the referendum, the campaign gave him significant clout in the Kalenjin voting bloc which aided him during 2013 elections to clench the Vice President seat.
While traversing the political arena, Ruto’s greatest tribulation came in the same year 2010 when the prosecutor of the International Criminal court (ICC) summoned him over his involvement in the 2007-8 post elections violence. The financial and emotional drain of the prosecution showed the resilience of this revered politician.
In 2012, the fall out between Raila Odinga and William Ruto led to the formation of United Republican Party (URP) which mostly constituted members of ODM who were opposed to Raila Odinga. The URP party was founded by Charles Keter but Ruto became its de-facto leader.
The ICC prosecution threatened Ruto’s political ambition but an oasis sprung in the desert of political desperation. Being in the same predicament as the leader of URP party, Uhuru Kenyatta agreed to form the Jubilee Alliance in a quest to clench the presidential seat during the 2013 general elections. The two leaders who were taken to ICC formed a government that was not only meant to safeguard their ICC acquittal prospects but also to cement their political ambitions.
The duo won the 2013 elections and Ruto’s political life line was restored as he became the Vice President of Kenya under Kenyatta’s leadership. The cost of this political alliance was that Ruto was to shelf his presidential ambitions for the next 10 years.
Jubilee was taunted to be the youthful political party that was to revamp Kenya political scene and forge a new era of accountability and prosperity. After five years of rule and dismissal of their ICC cases, the Jubilee government did not vindicate itself but was merged with allegations of being a rouge government.
Jubilee mishaps saw the opposing National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition give them a run for their money during the 2017 general elections. As promised, Ruto stuck with Uhuru Kenyatta during their most turbulent time when the Supreme Court nullified their first win after the 8th August 2017 general elections and later ratified their second win during the 26th October elections.
In the present, Willam Ruto is the seating Vice President. The recently concluded 2017 general elections has left much to be admired of this accomplished politician and his strategic game play. Our analysis at Kenya Brief Research forecast the following pros and cons to Ruto’s presidential bid come 2022.
Strengths to Ruto’s presidential ambition
- Disarming of his political rivals
The last election outcome cemented Ruto’s political ingenuity. There was significant doubt on his control over the Rift Valley voting bloc before the elections when Isaak Ruto threatened to split South and North Rift votes. As of now, Isaak Ruto is a dead beat and poses no threat to William Ruto who has shown his iron fist that he commands the Rift votes.
On the other hand, Ruto did wonders to leave the Kikuyu vote with no substantial leader following his strategy to disarm Peter Kenneth and William Kabogo. Unless someone really guns up before 2022, Uhuru’s retirement may leave the Kikuyus leaderless.
- Inevitability of war
This may come out as a strong statement but the country would be at risk of war if Ruto fails to be president come 2022 especially at the hands of the Kikuyus. The past has clearly shown that the worst inter-tribal fights arise between the Kikuyus and Kalenjins.
Ruto has been loyal for 10 years which inadvertently means that the Kalenjins have been loyal to the Kikuyus for 10 years. Anything shorter than full support would mean inter-tribal fighting between the two tribes.
Kikuyus have heavily invested in Rift valley and any foul play would be to the detriment of the Kikuyus in Rift valley which is a risk they would gladly avoid.
- Leadership superiority
Charismatic, strategic, loyal, patient, ambitious, and strong are some of the attributes that can be used to describe Ruto. He has been associated with the winning side during most of his political career and has shown patience and loyalty during his tenure as Vice president.
The strength and authoritative character he has exhibited may bring some sanity into the Kenyan political arena and the presidential seat may be returned to the status of being respected and feared. He has what Kenya needs from a leader and he may usher in years of prosperity for our great country.
Threats to Ruto’s presidential ambition
- KANU influence in the Rift Valley
One of the major threats to William Ruto is from Gideon Moi and West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapou who are veteran KANU loyalists. It can be noted that Ruto avoided confrontation with Gideon during 2017 elections since KANU supported Jubilee but come 2022 we will see another fight for control of the Rift vote.
In terms of charisma and popularity among the people, Gideon is a shadow of Ruto but in terms of monetary and hereditary superiority, Gideon is a man to be revered. This may explain the association of Ruto to several scandals since he may be in a bid to boost his bank account.
Full control of the Rift valley vote is paramount for Ruto to secure his presidential bid. Any vote split in the Rift would only weaken his ambitions to clench the presidential seat and so we are in for a nasty battle for the Rift vote which Ruto may emerge the winner.
- Mount Kenya Mafia
Kikuyus have been noted to only vote for themselves. This would be the first time Kikuyus actively voted for another tribe fully. The Kikuyu vote turn out would depend on the Mount Kenya Mafia support for a Ruto presidency. Any change of heart from the elite that run the country from the shadows would mean more trouble for Ruto.
- Corruption scandals
Arap Mashamba was a nickname conjured up to describe Ruto’s appetite for land. He has been linked to various scandals but he remains aloof of any meaningful prosecution. The association to corruption scandals may dampen Ruto’s political prospects but to a minimal degree.
Unless something sinister happens to this ambitious leader, the dawn of a new legacy beckons that would go down in history. The era of the Kenyattas, Mois and Odingas would have come to an end and Kenya would experience a new form of leadership. Whether it would be beneficial or detrimental to the prosperity of our country, only time would tell.