Analysis: Tricky Affair for William Ruto as He Tries to Shed Tribalist Tag ahead of 2022 Polls


Deputy President William Ruto has been working hard to rebrand himself as a national leader who believes in inclusivity.

But he has been accused of preaching water while drinking wine, as his words and actions don’t match. The self-proclaimed Kalenjin kingpin and has been viciously fighting rivals laying claim to the title.

Analysis: Tricky Affair for William Ruto as He Tries to Shed Tribalist Tag ahead of 2022 Polls

He has been courting tribal leaders to back his presidential bid but condemning his rivals when they do the same.

But analysts and other keen observers say that this won’t be easy, as his words and actions simply don’t match.

Even worse, they feel his negative track record with regard to perpetuating tribalism and ethnicity sticks out like a sore thumb and erasing the same from the minds of Kenyans will not be a walk in the park.

While Ruto has been busy dismissing pre-2022 alliances in rival camps as ethnic and tribal groupings, this is seen as a classic example of the pot calling the kettle black, if not the case of a man seeing the speck in his brother’s eye but not ignoring the log in his own eye.

Rift Valley Kingpin

In his Rift Valley backyard, Ruto has fashioned himself as the Kalenjin kingpin and has been viciously, if not desperately, fighting KANU chairman Gideon Moi for the control of the community.

In June 2020, the DP underwent a ritual coronation by the Talai elders, purportedly to install him as the de facto leader of the community

When Gideon organised a similar ceremony, goons reportedly hired by Ruto’s barricaded the road and threatened to pelt the Senator’s convoy with stones, forcing him to retreat and reschedule the ceremony.
At a personal level, Ruto has been constantly preaching water while drinking wine. The Man from Sugoi has been bluntly taking a swipe at certain political leaders and their communities. He hardly respects national leaders and often paints them as “tribal chiefs representing village parties”.

Attacking other communities

He has also been directly attacking communities. He has in the past accused ‘a certain community’ of being good at throwing stones and tampering with the railway whenever their leader loses an election. This was a veiled reference to the Luo community, from where his Raila Odinga hails.

Recently, the second in command threw jibes at the Luhya community, accusing it of taking his generosity for granted.

He said the community had developed a bad habit of looking for him whenever it has problems and abandoning him when his hour of need comes. He openly begrudged the Mulembe nation for voting for Raila at the expense of his generosity.

“I want to ask you people; Jameni, mnanitumia vibaya (You are misusing me). When you want a church built, a road constructed or a school bus, you look for Ruto. However, when it is election time, you start following Raila. No, no, you people should stop that,” he said.

When President Uhuru Kenyatta recently said that time was ripe for Kenya to be led by another community other than the Kikuyu and Kalenjin, who have been in power since independence, Ruto, like a wounded lion, assembled his troops and unleashed them against the head of state.

They castigated Uhuru for what they termed as an attempt to dictate to the country who and from which community his successor should come.

The henchmen claimed Ruto was a national leader who had outgrown tribal politics and should not be reduced to a Kalenjin kingpin by anyone who wants to stop his presidential bid. Ruto reduced the president’s well-thought-out idea to end tribalism to a game of rotary, saying it had no place in a modern democracy.

In the run-up to 2022, Ruto has also been courting other so-called tribal chiefs to join his camp and back his presidential bid.

He has been silently trying to lure ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula to support his course. He has been hosting other tribal leaders, opinion leaders, regional businessmen and community representatives for similar discussions, only to accuse the same leaders of engaging in tribal politics when they hold similar meetings with his political rivals.

In almost every region and community across the country, Ruto has handpicked a team of vocal politicians who perpetually promote tribalism through their utterances. They talk about “our community” every time they get hold of a mic.

Embraced foot soldiers

In Mt Kenya, he enjoys the backing of Moses Kuria, Rigathi Gachagua, Ndindi Nyoro and other politicians who thrive in tribal politics. Nyoro and Kuria are on record making disgraceful utterances demeaning the Luo community.

In the Rift Valley, politicians such as Oscar Sudi, Johanna Ng’eno and Samson Cherargei have been openly using expletives to warn “certain communities” against “playing with the DP”, at times in his presence.
Ruto has never condemned such sentiments, not even after Mama Ngina Kenyatta was subjected to public opprobrium.

The DP has himself been quoted speaking ill of other communities in his local dialect while in his Rift Valley backyard.

Not so long ago, the deputy president hosted them for a tribal meeting concealed as a framework of engagements for modelling an economic plan for the Mt Kenya region, which Ruto’s government would execute.
The same ‘nationalist’ Ruto has been fighting with Gideon Moi over control of the Kalenjin community. In June 2020, the deputy president reduced himself from a national leader to a tribal kingpin when he underwent a ritual coronation by the Talai elders, purportedly to instal him as the de facto leader of the community.

When Gideon organised a similar ceremony, Ruto’s allies hired goons to stop the Baringo senator from meeting the elders. The charged youths barricaded the road and threatened to pelt the lawmaker’s convoy with stones, forcing him to retreat and reschedule the ceremony.

It is not lost on Kenyans that during the formation of the Jubilee government in 2013, Uhuru shared equal ministerial slots with Ruto.

While Uhuru ensured his appointments reflected the face of Kenya, Ruto dished out almost all the slots to his tribesmen. He used the same tribal formula to share parastatal positions handed to him by the president.

Shockingly, most of the ministries and parastatals that were taken over by his allies were later hit by mega scandals in which taxpayers lost billions of shillings. The scandalous ministries included the Ministry of Agriculture, The National Treasury, Water, and Energy while affected parastatals included Kenya Pipeline, Kenya Power, and the National Cereals and Produce Board.

At his office in Karen, questions about the ethnic composition of his staff have been raised. Apart from a few known officials who portray the image of inclusivity, a host of employees who call shots are from his Rift Valley backyard.

According to political analyst Mark Bichachi, Ruto is still deeply involved in ethnic-based politics while branding his strategy as something else.

“Shakespeare once said that a rose by another name would still smell as sweet. Ruto is doing ethnic mobilisation but branding it as something else,” he argues, noting that the regional leaders Ruto has been meeting come in as tribal leaders, reducing the meetings to tribal gatherings.

He points to Ruto’s opposition against the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), which seeks to boost inclusivity in Kenyan politics, as proof that the DP is still deeply immersed in tribal-based politics.


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