Is JAP William Ruto’s pit, or pit stop?

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BY KENYATTA OTIENO

A day is a very long time in politics. This phrase is too much for a social engagement christened “the dirty game”. Boys love games that make them dirty, and they say inside every man is a boy yearning for toys and power. This could be the reason politics is more attractive to men than ladies, who prefer the cleaner, neater games from an early age.

In the Kenyan political scene, things are getting dirty as the honeymoon seems to be ending in the Jubilee Alliance. After the surprise push to fight corruption in his State of the Nation address to Parliament, President Uhuru Kenyatta released the list of suspected corrupt government officials from EACC to the public. William Ruto’s URP leaders came out to claim their side of the coalition was being targeted. A closer look at the list will reveal more than what it is meant to achieve even as Ruto publicly asked those named to step aside.

The purge went for none other than the DP’s Chief of Staff, Marianne Kaitany. It then went for URP’s powerful appointees to the cabinet save for Philip Rotich – Treasury. Felix Kosgey of Agriculture, Kazungu Kambi of Labour and Davis Chirchir of Energy stepped aside. To add to the Cabinet Secretaries, several allies of the DP, among them Kenya Pipeline CEO Charles Tanui, NSSF Managing Trustee Richard Lagat and Ruto’s sidekick Patrick Osero, chair of the Agricultural Finance Corporation and who was named as the owner of Weston Hotel.

The Jubilee Alliance recently said all its constituent parties must wind up before the next general elections. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto then announced the formation of Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) and sent it out to the Kajiado Central by-election for a test drive. In the by-election to replace Joseph Nkaisery, ODM’s Elijah Memusi beat JAPs Patrick Tutui. This result shocked the ruling coalition as they had spared nothing in their bid to clinch the seat.

Major headache
The new party has received cold reception from several leaders in Rift Valley, with Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto as its most vocal opponent. Even those who have not come out publicly to reject it do not seem to support it. One major headache Ruto is grappling with is how to sell JAP to his supporters.

To compound this huge headache, independence party Kanu under the leadership of Gideon Moi and Nick Salat has been criss-crossing the region popularising the party. This comes in the backdrop of the crimes against humanity charges Ruto faces at the ICC; anything can happen. KANU is positioning itself to fill that vacuum should it present itself. Isaac Ruto has been reported as saying he can work with Kanu now that Ruto has cut links with him.

In the two years that Jubilee has been in power, the TNA side of the coalition has not been happy with the Deputy President. The main problem is a perceived Ruto stranglehold on Uhuru. Ruto is reported to have told a rally in Nandi in 2013 that he will be leading the country as “that drunkard” will be drinking. The truthfulness of this statement is already being seen at the Judicial Service Commission. After Christine Mango completed her tour of duty at the JSC in December 2013, the two sides in government could not agree on her replacement. Uhuru had to get Rev. Samuel Kobia to resign, so as to create two slots for each of them to appoint an ally in Winnie Guchu and Kipng’etich arap Korir.

This group behind the throne has been waiting for a chance to “save” Uhuru from Ruto’s grip and a chance seems to have presented itself. I can bet Gideon Moi’s forage into Ruto’s main political catchment is not out of sheer ambition. Uhuru and Moi remain close ever since the self proclaimed professor of politics proposed Uhuru as his successor in 2002.

Another pointer is the ICC case. The two were bound together in the campaigns with the ICC glue. They shared a common enemy so they were better fighting it out together. How Uhuru’s team managed to wriggle out their man by hook and crook using state machinery and leave Ruto to fight on his own beats the initial reason behind their alliance.

Last month, a local daily splashed a headline that Uhuru has turned down several invitations to events in the Rift Valley. His political advisor Joshua Kutuny downplayed the matter saying that the president was not invited in good time and through the right channels. I may be reading too much but nothing is ever clear in politics until it is clear.

Realpolitik
World over, there is always an elite controlling things away from public scrutiny. This group is composed of political and business elites. It is this group that is rumoured to be against Raila’s ascent to the presidency. In December 2007 as general elections results were streaming in, Raila began to prepare his victory speech one night. Meanwhile a group of people were conniving on how this will not happen. Their main reason is that Raila is a self-made, independent-minded radical who will upset the cart in the system at the detriment of their business interests.

If you look at Ruto through the lens above, you find a man who may end up worse than Raila. Raila is a populist who revels in pulling crowds while Ruto is a straight shooting leader who can go against the popular will for his own interest. Raila is a child of privilege who chose to play politics of the masses. Ruto is a child of lack, who has worked his way into the political elite. This makes Ruto more of an outsider as the elite have an inbuilt system to keep off outsiders.

This may be the reason why the powers that be are on an offensive to tame Ruto on the road to Uhuru’s succession. By dissolving URP and taking him into a vehicle he has no control over, Ruto may be going into very deep political waters without a life jacket, and his cronies are apprehensive. The fact that the new party was formed a few months to the corruption purge, with Gideon Moi rocking his boat in his stronghold at around the same time looks like a scheme to keep the URP boss busy away from pursuing power games.

Is the die cast?
It was reported that Ruto is out to accumulate a war chest to push his political agenda; of course, TNA was not going to sit and wait for elections in 2017 with a partner more prepared than them. This could be the reason why Ruto’s main allies were caught in the war on corruption crosshairs and his cronies are upset with their TNA counterparts. They know, unlike Ruto, that Uhuru does not have to worry about funding his political campaigns. TNA Chairman Johnson Sakaja says they will not relent on the war for political reasons; is the die cast?

Uhuru’s father stood his ground on his choice of Moi, “an outsider like Ruto” as his successor against the wishes of the powers that be during his reign. The so called “Kiambu Mafia” even proposed a constitutional amendment to bar the vice president from the presidency upon the demise of the president but failed. This is often quoted as the reason why Moi decided to “return his hand” to Kenyatta’s household by choosing Uhuru as his successor.

The bonhomie witnessed between Uhuru and Ruto after the 2013 general election could just be real friendship after all. The president may have formed JAP to stem the push by his cronies from barring Ruto from succeeding him. Now that his main power strategists Mutea Iringo and Francis Kimemia have been affected by the purge, he can push his ideas. This could be Ruto’s only life line, where Uhuru has made JAP as a pit stop for Ruto to oil up and prepare his charges for a drive into the presidency.

Either way, if Raila did not make it to state house there is no reason for Ruto to believe he will make it. The system would rather have an old Raila in power than a young Ruto who will be a challenge to control. If you put ICC, Kanu and an enemy you should never have in Isaac Ruto in the equation, Ruto has never encountered a political battle of this magnitude. JAP could be Ruto’s pit, rather than a pit stop. Let us wait and see what the “hustler’ has in his hat of tricks.

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