Makau Mutua: William Ruto goes mano-a-mano with Uhuru Kenyatta

Makau Mutua: William Ruto goes mano-a-mano with Uhuru Kenyatta

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) with his deputy at State House, Nairobi.

Photo credit: File

The cat is finally out of the bag. After three years of denials and equivocation, DP William Ruto has openly bared his fangs at his boss – Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta. Mr Ruto has dared Mr Kenyatta to a duel. It’s high noon.

Do or die. In the past, Mr Ruto played coy. Whenever asked if he and Mr Kenyatta had irrevocably been divorced, the man from Sugoi would wear a pained grin and answer in the negative. Nunca mas – nyet. Mr Ruto had been content to have his attack dogs – especially defrocked Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen – savage Mr Kenyatta on his behalf. Mr Ruto is Mr Nice no more. He’s told Mr Kenyatta to go jump into Lake Victoria.

A couple of weeks ago, Mr Ruto did a blockbuster interview with Citizen TV’s Linus Kaikai. It was an impressive tour de force. Mr Ruto looked and sounded like a general in his prime. Or a caged animal that had been freed after many years in captivity. He barked, charged and sneered.

He was like boxer Mike Tyson at his deadliest. For a moment, I thought Mr Ruto had ingested mood-altering substances. Then I realised he was as sober as a judge. His was a deliberate act of insubordination. He came to tell the son of the Burning Spear he was now his own man – unafraid and unbowed. His message to Mr Kenyatta was clear: Do your worst!

In the Kaikai interview, Mr Ruto was the aggressor.  He had come to serve notice on Mr Kenyatta that he was going to eat his lunch, and there was nothing he could do about it. He openly bullied Mr Kenyatta on national television. He called Mr Kenyatta’s powerbroker, Jubilee’s David Murathe, a drunkard, a swipe at anyone who drinks with him.


Mr Ruto’s disdain for Mr Kenyatta is unheard of in modern democracies. A numero dos who has no respect for his boss is promptly dispatched through resignation, midnight firing, or impeachment. Mr Ruto knows all three options of decapitation are unavailable to Mr Kenyatta. He knows he can act with complete impunity because he’s hog-tied his boss.

I contrasted Mr Ruto’s interview with Mr Kaikai to a previous one he gave to Citizen TV’s Joe Ageyo.

In the latter, Mr Ageyo pulverised Mr Ruto. His blows rained all over Mr Ruto. Mr Ruto squirmed in his seat, stammered, shifted listlessly, and virtually begged for mercy from Mr Ageyo. He implausibly denied he and Mr Kenyatta had been put asunder. He exhibited servile fearfulness. I had never seen Mr Ruto look that small.

Erase painful memories

At the time, Mr Kenyatta was whacking his allies right and left from the perches of power. Methinks the Kakai interview was meant to erase those painful memories and his readiness for take-no-prisoners combat.

Mr Ruto accomplished several important things in the Kaikai interview, although he was less than candid.

To hear Mr Ruto tell it, you would think he’s a saint and his opponents, including Mr Kenyatta, irredeemable villains. He’s the one who’s always wronged because he’s never wronged anyone. He has all the answers to Kenya’s woes because no one else is smart enough. He works the hardest because all other leaders are laggards. He practically declared himself messiah and prophet.

He fancies himself the Second Coming. He called his official residence Hustler Mansion, a subtle poke in the ear to Mr Kenyatta’s Dynasty Mansion, also known as State House. He did everything but declare himself Lord the Saviour.

After telling off Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto took on his 2022 opponents. He declared with much bravado and braggadocio that his only credible competitor for Dynasty Mansion was ODM’s Raila Odinga. Wow! That was meant to slight and dismiss Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka, Amani’s Musalia Mudavadi and Kanu’s Gideon Moi – although you can throw in Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula and former UNCTAD boss Mukhisa Kituyi. This latter group is rumoured to be fronted by Mr Kenyatta.

Dangerous period

According to Mr Ruto, Mr Odinga is also a Kenyatta project. In other words, all roads from Mr Ruto lead back to Mr Kenyatta. Mr Ruto believes he must vanquish Mr Kenyatta and his many “projects”. His victory against Mr Kenyatta must be total.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. But power is good at striking back. We are entering a very dangerous period in Kenyan politics. No stone will be left unturned by those who seek power. The question is where Mr Ruto will go from here. We know no one has ever won an election in Kenya without state support unless there’s a tidal wave similar to 2002.

Although Mr Kenyatta is widely unpopular, Mr Ruto is incapable of creating a wave. He’s Mr Kenyatta’s Siamese twin even if they’ve fallen apart. He owns the state’s failures. Going mano-a-mano with Mr Kenyatta doesn’t absolve him of Jubilee’s misrule and gargantuan failures.