Kenya’s New President Took On Powerful Political Dynasties

William Samoei Ruto, 55, has declare the winner of Kenya’s President election. He is the leader of the United Democratic Alliance party under the Kenya Kwanza (Kenya First) coalition. Ruto defeated his main rival in the election Raila Odinga, 77, who was running under the rival Azimio la Umoja (Unity Declaration) coalition.

He becomes Kenya’s first sitting deputy president to succeed the incumbent following competitive elections and first candidate to win the presidency at first attempt.

The declaration of the results was temporarily disrupt amid chaotic scenes by the losing candidate’s supporters alleging irregularities. The situation was thrown into further disarray when four commissioners broke ranks, held a separate press conference and denounce the results as opaque.

Ruto won the polls in spite of a sustained pushback by the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta, his former ally who chose instead to back his former archrival and longtime opposition leader Raila Odinga.

Campaigned For Kenyatta President

Ruto campaigned for Kenyatta during his first presidential attempt in 2002, which he lost. Both were indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the suspected masterminds of the mass atrocities that followed the disputed 2007 elections. They then teamed up to contest in 2013. They prevailed in 2017 as well, but not before the Supreme Court annulled the first round.

After their falling out, however, Ruto characterised Kenyatta and Odinga as the embodiments of dynastic politics and entitlement. The two are sons of Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga, Kenya’s first president and first vice president respectively. In a way, Ruto prevailed against the state, powerful elites, a biased media, the intelligentsia, civil society and jaundiced polling firms. His victory is historic and phenomenal.

As an outlier in Kenya’s political power matrix, which is dominated by a tiny clique related by familial and economic ties and adept at manipulating tribalism to capture the state, Ruto was elbowed out by the establishment. But he has somersaulted back by appealing directly to the masses, his original constituency.

Ruto Versus Status Quo President

For almost six decades, political and economic power has been confine within a group around Kenya’s first two presidents Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi. Raila Odinga joined this group in the sunset years of Moi’s tenure and counted on it to propel him to power in the just concluded elections. The group has leverage over state agencies and the security apparatus. It exploits state power to advance commercial interests spread across the entire gamut of Kenya’s economy.

Kenyatta’s family, for instance, has vast business interests. The Mois are also fabulously wealthy . Ruto has accused these families of state capture exploiting their control of the state to enrich themselves primitively.

Ruto is also certainly a man of means. According to his opponents in the government he too has extensive business interests. It’s for this reason that Ruto has been accuse of hypocrisy for championing the downtrodden, or ordinary Kenyans whom he refers to as hustlers.

Pivotal to Ruto’s campaign was his bottom-up economic model. Its pillars are the dispersal of economic and political opportunities, and dignifying the poor. It invokes equity, inclusivity, social justice and fair play.

Hustler Nation President

His hustler nation movement was buoyed by mass unemployment, poverty, inequalities and state excesses such as extrajudicial executions and runaway corruption.

Ruto successfully reinvented himself as the agent of class consciousness hitherto absent in Kenya’s political discourse and competition. By rebranding himself as the antithesis of the status quo and personification of the hopes of the poor, his messaging resonated with a cross spectrum of the marginalised.

As the victor, his work is cut out for him. He will have to overhaul Kenya’s socioeconomic and political edifice to assuage the restless and disenchanted populace. He has to provide leadership that will disabuse the Kenyan society of tribal consciousness, embed civic values and national identity. If he does not, he risks becoming a casualty of his success.

The Making Of A Winner

Following disputed elections in 2017, Kenyatta and his close allies embarked on a campaign of vilification against Ruto. He was soon edge out of the government and remain as Kenyatta’s principal assistant in law only. Kenyatta transferred his official responsibilities as deputy president to a loyal cabinet minister in an attempt to whittle down the office and clip Ruto’s political wings.

The aim was to delegitimise and frustrate him into resigning, thus knocking him out of the succession race. Ruto exhibited resilience despite the frustrations.

In Kenya’s media, including social media, Ruto was the villain; the bogeyman. Through newspaper headlines, hashtags, prime time news and talk shows, he was cynically depict as the skunk of Kenya’s politics solely associate with vices such as corruption, land grabs, impunity, unbridle ambition, insolence, warlord politics, and ethnic cleansing. He exploited this sense victimhood to his advantage.

These vices, however, pervade Kenya’s political landscape and the depiction was more information by partisanship than moral rectitude. His accusers are no better.

Ruto cut his political teeth under the mentorship of the long-serving autocrat Daniel arap Moi in the early 1990s. Facing presidential opponents for the first time in 1992, Moi mobilised the youth vote with the help of young politicians, under an outfit known as Youth for KANU ‘92. Ruto was one of the youthful politicians who crafted the successful but equally infamous re-election strategy in 1992. This involved Moi sanctioning the printing of money used to bribe voters, among other things.

Defiance Of His Mentor

Ruto’s entry into parliament in 1997 was in defiance of his mentor. A fellow Kalenjin from the Rift Valley, had tried to prevail on Ruto not to run. Moi exited in 2002 and Ruto astutely won over the Kalenjin voting. Bloc and used it as a launching pad into national politics. Moi had wanted to bequeath it to his son, Gideon. Hence the fallout between Moi and Ruto.

The Kenyatta-Moi-Odinga axis, which Ruto has propped up in the past, turned against him. Fearful that he would end their economic and political stranglehold. They perceived Ruto relatively young, astute, ambitious, prescient and gallant as a threat to their dubious privileges. Now that Ruto, has won the presidency, time will tell whether their fears were exaggerate.

In 2010, Ruto stood out from this coterie and mobilized against the passage of the current constitution. He later defended his stand on the grounds that he did not approve. Some parts of the constitution but embraced it once it was pass.

He faulted Kenyatta for violating the same constitution through blatant defiance of numerous court orders. And weaponizing oversight bodies and state agencies against Ruto and his allies. Ruto also accused Kenyatta and Odinga of a conspiracy to illegally amend the constitution to consolidate. Their power, and entrench ethnicity through the Building Bridges Initiative. The attempt was quash as unconstitutional by the high court, appeals court and finally the supreme court.