President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto seem to have hit a point of no return in the worst political divorce in the country.
Blocking the DP and his entourage from traveling to Uganda on Monday was the culmination of the tension simmering between the Jubilee dynamic duo since early 2018.
Political pundits observe that the clash between the two has hit a crescendo and can only get ‘worse, more personal and cause worry’ about the transition in the country’s political leadership.
“The point of no return was passed a long time ago,” political commentator Mark Bichache said, adding that the relationship between the two leaders is at rock bottom.
UhuRuto, as they were known on the political platform, were the best of buddies during their first term, with the two publicly displaying their camaraderie.
The pair wore matching shirts and neckties and often addressed the public together in a show of unity as they jointly attacked the opposition at the slightest criticism.
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However, their relationship took a nasty turn in second term with the duo constantly engaging in attacks, albeit in a subdued manner, before eventually boiling over.
“Initially, it was just official [disagreement] but when it comes to humiliating him to the extent of not allowing him to travel, it becomes personal. It boils down to the personal character of the DP and his boss,” analyst and High Court advocate Elias Mutuma said.
The analysts said UhuRuto’s rapidly widening fissure is a wedge is dangerous as its cast doubt on a smooth transition and the country’s stability should the DP win the presidential vote,
“When the President has made it clear he won’t hand over power to people with a certain character, then there is a reason to worry about the smooth transition next year,” Mutuma said.
Governance expert Javas Bigambo agreed.
“The bad blood between the President and his deputy is threatening the prospects of an amicable and smooth transition. It begs the question: Will we see a shameful spectacle like the Moi-Kibaki transition?” he asked.
In 2002, the handover was chaotic and the crowd humiliated the former President Daniel Moi as Mwai Kibaki was sworn in.
The law provides that the President should hand over the instruments of power – a sword and the Constitution – to the President-elect.
Ruto has been edged out of the ruling Jubilee party – and is since building UDA as his 2022 vehicle.
He no longer oversees and supervises the government’s projects and his key allies have been kicked out of influential leadership positions in parliament in what he and his lieutenants believe is a plot to cut him down to size.
Uhuru is rallying the opposition to unite, promising to back one of them to defeat his deputy in next year’s polls.
Bichache said the association between the two took a turn the moment the DP appeared to develop cold feet on the President’s handshake with opposition chief Raila Odinga and his obvious opposition to the BBI.
“The moment the DP made his disdain for BBI so obvious and his constant claims that the Jubilee agenda has failed and by extension, the president marked the point of no return,” Bichache said.
On Monday, Ruto endured what his allies termed as frustrations in the hands of immigration officials at Wilson Airport that ended in the cancellation of his trip to Uganda.
The authorities cited a lack of approval from his boss to travel out of the country – a condition for all government officials –, an argument the DP and his allies trashed.
Ruto said he does not need any approval to travel abroad and termed the drama-like treatment as the continuation of a well-orchestrated plan to humiliate and reduce him to no one.
“There are many MPs who have been dewhipped from key parliamentary committees. I have also been sidelined. What happened is to belittle me so that I’m seen as worthless,” the DP said during an interview on Kikuyu station Inooro FM on Wednesday.
However, the observers suggest that state machinery could be falling into Ruto’s trap as he seems to be playing sympathy cards to win over the hearts and souls of voters – akin to the ICC case which they exploited to win over the hearts and souls of the voters in 2013.
“It is not about embarrassing the DP. Embarrassing the DP is what he wants people to think it is,” Bichache said.
Ruto has openly criticised the March 9 handshake between the President and Raila, attributing it to the alleged government failures in Jubilee’s second term.
The DP claimed that the handshake – which was dear to his boss – diverted the Jubilee’s development agenda.
“We must also say the truth. Our plan to create millions of jobs in the second term after laying the ground in the first term was put aside and the priority became the BBI,” the DP said in February.
However, the President has said he has achieved much working with Raila and the opposition leaders in his second term, unlike in the first term which he asserted was riddled with heavy graft.
During a BBI event at the Bomas of Kenya on October 26, 2020, the President appeared to expose his deputy when he publicly said that he was well aware of the handshake and BBI and helped appoint members to the task force.
“I kept him abreast of what was going on he was part and parcel of it all. Ask him,” Uhuru said moments after the DP used the platform to poke holes on the BBI proposals.
In January 2019, Uhuru appointed Interior CS Fred Matiangi the chairperson of the National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet committee.
The position placed Matiangi at the heart of overseeing government projects, a role previously performed by the DP. On Wednesday, the Ruto claimed that the Matiangi team has failed in their mandate.
The Constitution provides that Deputy President shall be the principal assistant of the President and shall deputise for the President in the execution of the President’s functions.
The law says that the DP shall perform the functions conferred by the Constitution and any other functions of the President as the President may assign.
In February this year, the President said he would not hand over power to a thief.
“I intend to ensure that those who will take over power will not exploit and steal from Kenyans,” he said.
The sentiments had come just a day after the head of state side-stepped his deputy delegated Agriculture CS to read his official speech at a funeral in Mt. Kenya.
In October last year, Ruto was forced to call off his ‘empowerment’ visit to Nyamira after police barricaded the venue of the event and teargassed his supporters, saying that the gathering was not authorised.
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