Who Is William Ruto?
Ruto appeared in the national political scene as Organising Secretary and later Treasurer of Youth for Kanu ’92 (YK92), a group that was specifically formed to drum up support for then President Daniel arap Moi in the 1992 election. From essentially an unemployed and penniless UON graduate who was at times allegedly seen loitering near the Hilton with other unemployed youth, Ruto made it big financially and quick simply by his close association with Moi. Ruto’s rapid accumulation of wealth at a relatively young age is attributed by many to graft and he has only passively denied this.
The attribution of Ruto’s wealth to graft is supported by a number of reasons. For example, in 2006, Ruto was charged with defrauding the Kenya Pipeline Company of huge amounts of money through dubious land deals and not surprisingly, that case still remains pending. Ruto, however, goes about his business and political affairs as if the case does not exist and not even his court appearance betrays any sense of concern he might have about this case which could land him in jail.
That the Constitutional Court ruled in late 2010 that Ruto should face the charges, which cleared the way for the case to finally go forward and having Ruto suspended as Minister of Agriculture is more so the reason he should be concerned but clearly he is not.
Ruto has been implicated in other scandals as well, including the Maize Scandal. In early 2009 following a parliamentary inquiry, Ruto was accused by the Public Accounts Committee of Kenya’s Parliament of illegally selling maize from the Kenya National Cereals and Produce Board over which he had ministerial and administrative control. Mr Ruto on his part attributed the maize scandal allegations and claims of his involvement in corruption to the work of his “political enemies,” which was about the only thing he could say, given there were official documents linking him to the scandal.
When Ruto has not been busy amassing questionable wealth, he has been a seasoned political schemer. He opposed the constitutional reform all Kenyans were clamoring for during Moi’s term as president simply because he though this will interfere with Moi rule for “100 years” that ostensibly would assure him and others similarly situated of a lifetime of access to power and other things. Ruto also opposed a “yes” vote on the the referendum on Kenya’s new Constitution, which overwhelmingly passed and giving birth to the much longed for new law of the land.
During the waning years of the Moi presidency, Ruto displayed an unmatchable height of close-mindedness and obtuseness as he defended Moi and his pet project otherwise known as the Uhuru Project, which was Moi’s poorly conceived and executed plan to succeed him—unless he knew something nobody else knew. Be as it were, the public breathed a sigh of relief when Moi and his project were resoundingly defeated in 2002 with Kibaki sailing into State House courtesy of Raila with his “Kibaki tosha” declaration which essentially put the last nail in the Uhuru Project coffin and ensured Kibaki victory at the polls.
The good opportunist and schemer he is, Ruto beat this mindless Moi follower path until early 2006 when he abandoned Moi and declared his intention to run for president in 2007 on the KANU ticket notwithstanding the great odds stacked against him to getting nominated, let alone winning the presidency. Having no chance of getting nominated by KANU, Ruto sought the nomination of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as its presidential candidate, but in the party’s vote on September 1, 2007, Ruto placed a distant third with 368 votes, behind the winner, Raila Odinga (with 2,656 votes) and Musalia Mudavadi (with 391).
Following this trouncing at the hands of Raila for the ODM nomination, Ruto quickly recalculated, resigned from his post as KANU Secretary and declared his support for Raila on his quest for the presidency. Although Ruto enthusiastically joined ODM and was strategically made one of the five “Pentagon” members, many including this writer believed Ruto had one foot in the ODM bandwagon and the other outside ready to jump the moment he noticed the wagon was not heading where he needed to be. This was true even though it was at the time fully expected by all that ODM will sweep the country with Raila emerging at the top, which he did but never saw the inside of State House as President for reasons well known.
For anyone who is not aware, the sum of it is, the presidential election of December 2007 in Kenya ended in the electoral commission declaring Kibaki the winner while exit polls had clearly placed Raila Odinga ahead by far. Despite this corrupted declaration of Kibaki as the winner, Raila and ODM claimed victory but their declaration was in vein as Mwai Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in as president, an act which caused mayhem and bloodbath that no one could have predicted or foresaw coming other than perhaps the accused planners of the violence.
The post-election violence of 2007 abated only after Kibaki and Raila entered into serious negotiations and ultimately agreed to form a coalition government in February 2008. In the grand coalition Cabinet named on April 13, 2008 and sworn on April 17 2008, Ruto was appointed as Minister for Agriculture. Almost from the day he was appointed, Ruto started complaining against Raila for, among other things, not getting a “fair” share of ministerial appointments for Ruto’s tribesmen from Rift Valley when Raila had in fact done just that, given his half of the cake he had, so to speak. If it is true as Ruto later told the Wako Commission that the Kalenjins voted en mass against Kibaki for oppressing them more than because they liked Raila, why was Ruto then demanding that the Kalenjins get more seats in the cabinet ostensibly as payback for his “delivering” them to Raila? The answer is Ruto is just a good opportunistic schemer: he will say or do anything to meet the political needs of the moment and deal with the consequences later if there is a conflict, often with some level of success.
From this point on, the relationship between Raila and Ruto deteriorated to the point Ruto was openly defying Raila and opposing him and the party at every turn on anything and everything, including major issues such as the Mau forest debate, passage of a new Constitution and more recently nomination of constitutional office holders. Ruto has, however, thus far not been successful in any of his battles with Raila on these major issues but many believe as mismatched the two are man to man, the bigger battle lies ahead in next presidential elections to succeed Kibaki in which all indications are Raila will be on one side and Ruto the other albeit the former as presidential candidate and the latter as Vice-Presidential candidate. The winner in that battle will have the last laugh. The loser will surely come to know the true meaning of that word
Before the big battles ahead on the Kibaki succession, however, Ruto has a major battle to contend with and that is, his being named one of the ICC suspects for his role in the post-election violence of 2007.
(Part Two Will Examine the ICC Case Against Ruto)