The Kenyan DP is loved and hated in equal measure but his charisma, smartness aggressive nature and political calculations have steered him to be among the creme DE la creme of Kenyan politics. He is better known for his hard-work and aggressive nature thereby becoming one of the most feared and revered opponents in the political battlefield.
His ‘hustler narrative’ of peddling groundnuts to selling chicken to being at the top of Kenyan politics is somehow miraculous and inspiring in equal measure. The narrative is therefore a strong political weapon that gives him ‘acceptance’ to the masses. The percentage of low income (hustlers) earners in Kenya is above 60%.
Ruto has been known to the Kenyan public and Kenyan media from as early as the ‘90s when he was a staunch KANU member and aggressively campaigned for the then Presidential candidate Daniel T. Arap Moi in 1992. He was one of the founders of Youth for KANU ‘92 and the team was a youthful group that was largely accepted by the youthful population. The group however was haunted by unendless speculations of distributing corrupt money and especially bribing the voters.
The team started rebelling against President Moi and opted to test the murky waters of deep politics. In 5 years’ time, Ruto learned the game and decided to run for the Eldoret North Parliamentary seat against Moi’s preferred candidate and surprisingly won. It was a double win for him because he knocked out experienced politicians like the late Reuben Chesire.
In 2002 a political storm was forming and several political heavyweights were turning against Moi and against KANU. Ruto was interested in his Eldoret North Parliamentary seat and planned to defend it on a KANU ticket. He however allegedly received instructions from Moi to campaign for Uhuru Kenyatta who is the son of Kenya’s’ founding father Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Moi wanted Uhuru to succeed him and become the third president of Kenya. ‘Project Uhuru’ fell short and Mwai Kibaki had a resounding victory and captured the top seat.
Ruto being the ever-ambitious person we know, decided that he will take a shot at the presidency in 2002. This angered the KANU camp as they had a different plan in mind. The former President and the KANU executives condemned and denounced Ruto publicly and Ruto quit the Party.
He joined the Orange Democratic Movement, which was born after ‘the orange-banana’ referendum. Being the ‘control freak’ he is, he decided to contest for the Party’s Presidential ticket against PM Raila Odinga and Former VP Musalia Mudavadi and he came out third.
Ruto had already made one enemy in President Moi after he openly went against his wishes and counsel.
In 2007 General Election, Ruto who was then a member of ‘The Pentagon’ including Raila Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi, Joseph Nyaga and Najib Balala, showed his political strength and took Rift Valley by storm, claiming all the seats for ODM. He delivered as he promised, but the Post election violence and chaos delegitimized the victory which the ODM party strongly claimed.
He was later appointed as the Minister for Agriculture and later Minister for Higher Education. He would later be accused of corruption and stripped off his position as Minister in 2010.
William Ruto formed his own party, URP (United Republican Party) after breaking away from ODM in 2011. He then indicated that he would run for Presidency in his new party.
Apart from the rise and successes in his political career, the former Christian Union Chairman at The University of Nairobi has been accused of many wrongdoings. Apart from the many corruption cases and land grabbing cases, he was indicted by the ICC to face criminal charges against humanity during 2007-2008 post-election violence.
His case at the ICC was terminated by the Trial Chamber for lack of enough evidence.
Ruto has struggled to clear his name from the mega corruption cases, the maize scandal, land grabbing including the Langata Road Primary school where the Children held a peaceful demonstration and were teargassed.
William Ruto’s URP formed an alliance with Uhuru Kenyatta’s TNA party and controversially won the 2013 election. They had succeeded in riding with the ICC sympathy narrative. The Election was disputed and an appeal was taken to the Supreme court. CJ Mutunga’s ruling legitimized the elected duo amid protests from Kenyans.
In 2017 the duo again controversially won through the Jubilee party. NASA Coalition headed by Raila Odinga headed to the supreme court and CJ Maraga delivered a unanimous that the election was null and void. A repeat election was ordered in 60 days and NASA did not participate because their demands for repeat elections were not met.
Jubilee party participated in the repeat elections without their main opponent and ‘won’ the repeat election, but there were many challenges because many Kenyans did not recognize their election.
Raila Odinga organized a swearing-in ceremony and was sworn in as ‘The People’s President’. It did not stop there, Raila led Kenyans into an economic boycott and this forced President Kenyatta to call Raila and they had the symbolic ‘handshake’ and agreed to work together in bringing Kenyans together.
DP William Ruto was opposed to the handshake terming it as a succession plan by Raila. He then led his ‘generals’ and supporters in opposing the handshake and the Building Bridges Initiative. This was done in churches, funerals, and any public forum they went to. He then started ‘early campaigns’ for 2022 and camped at the President’s backyard.
This did not go well with the President and he took action by sacking and punishing his allies. Both the president and his deputy have guns pointing at each other while working behind the scenes.
William Ruto has huge baggage on his back. He also has an approval from some Kenyans and the succession politics will be an epic battle. Kenyans will have their say and MAYBE their way.