By NLM Writer
Deputy President William Ruto’s frequent ‘Tangatanga’ tours across the country give the chance to meet voters whose votes he will be seeking in 2022. His staff and army of bloggers in his office call the travels all sorts of names including ‘#MashinaniEmpowerment’, and the people who attend the political rallies disguised as development initiatives, the ‘Hustler Nation’.
But these almost daily countrywide rallies come with a cost to the taxpayer. As of June 22, 2019, reports put the number of tours made by the deputy president at a record of 300 in just 18 months since the he was sworn for a second term on November 28, 2017. In fact, he was back on the campaign trail as soon as the swearing in was done with and, despite President Uhuru Kenyatta warning against early campaigns, he has sustained a countrywide tour blitz launching projects and conducting church fundraisers especially in the wake of the March 2018 handshake.
Protecting the Deputy President isn’t easy or cheap, and Ruto has more than 50 armed police guards drawn from the elite Recce Squad of the General Service Unit (GSU) around him 24 hours a day, protecting his person and homes. On top of that, the State provides him top-of-the-range vehicles and drivers at his disposal.
Yet, as the ‘Tangatanga’ tours gather steam amid his inner circle’s concerns that the State machinery is against Ruto succeeding his current boss after the 2022 elections, so he has ramped up the countrywide rallies which makes the cost to taxpayers even higher.
An investigation by the Nairobi Law Monthly has established that everywhere the DP goes in his Tangatanga tours, a full media outfit from his office consisting of reporters, photographers, camera crew, social media editor, video editor and either his spokesman David Mugonyi or his deputy Emmanuel Talam have to be present at every stop he makes.
If the Deputy President has three events in a day like he often does, different teams of media crew, security and protocol are sent to the different venues. With David Mugonyi and Emmanuel Talaam assigned individual State-maintained cars, the rest of the media crew occupy up to three vehicles, bringing to at least four vehicles per stop over Ruto makes.
Also in the entourage are security, protocol and a team of advisors. All these are paid for by the taxpayer. For security and protocol people, they are required to advance various venues the Deputy President is to hold rallies, which means more manpower and eventually the cost to the taxpayer to foot political campaign bills for Ruto. All these people – media crew, security and protocol people have to be paid some out-of-pocket allowance for accommodation and meals.
In traversing the country, the Deputy President flies in his personal choppers fuelled and maintained by the taxpayer. Ruto has been associated with Kwale Island Development Limited (KIDL) which operates the helicopters that he frequently flies to his rallies across the country. Twice, KIDL has been in the news for all the bad reasons, first in 2016 when a pilot, Captain Alistair Patrick Llewelyn, who had flown Ruto to a church fundraiser in Ndunyu Njeru, Nyandarua County, was caught on camera assaulting a police officer. Then in 2018, it was reported that KIDL had built its hangar so close to the Wilson Airport runway that it was posing a security risk to large aircrafts coming in for landing at the airport.
In addition, there are the ’36 bloggers’ at the Deputy President’s office who too have to be maintained. They started out as 36 individuals occupying a large corner office at Harambee House Annex but the team has been expanded over time as the Ruto team seeks to have control on social media 2022 debates. The bloggers have been accused of slandering people perceived to be anti-Ruto. One of the Ruto social media allies, Dennis Itumbi was arrested and has been charged with forging a letter supposedly written to President Uhuru Kenyatta by an unnamed cabinet secretary alleging a plot to assassinate Ruto.
All these are expenses besides the other indirect costs that the taxpayer continues to incur on the Deputy President’s rallies. An example of these indirect costs is that as a Deputy President, whenever he arrives somewhere, the local administration and police are diverted from their core duties to escort him and guard the venue of his event until he leaves. This has become a point of contention in the intra-Jubilee wars as Ruto’s camp has accused the Principal Secretary for Interior Karanja Kibicho of ordering the police and local administrators to keep of the Deputy President’s events. Kibicho has refuted the accusations but asked the Deputy President to alert his ministry of his travels in good time for planning purposes.
Besides, there have been reports of MPs aligned to the Deputy President lining up every Friday to collect handouts to enable them attend Ruto’s rallies. Like with budget appropriations by the presidency and some institutions like the National Intelligence Service (NIS), the police and the military, audit reports of such expenses are generalised and the Auditor General often relies on very little to nil evidence of expenditure, which means that there has been no official accounting of Ruto’s travel costs.
A source at the Deputy President’s Harambee Annex office termed the costs “humongous.”
“The public is literally bankrolling his campaign. The trouble is everyone is focused on just the millions he donates every week to various groups but not the strain his travels is having on his office’s budget and even his staff,” the official, whose identity we cannot disclose for his own security and that of his job, told this magazine.
With the 2022 getting ever close by each day, the cost of sustaining the ‘Tangatanga’ tours can only get bigger.(