Uhuru duped me on Raila, claims Ruto on his US tour

Deputy President William Ruto and US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Molly Mee during a meeting at the State Department Washington DC. 

Kenyans may never know the truth behind President Uhuru Kenyatta’s fallout with his deputy William Ruto, but the DP believes that his version, offered thousands of miles away from Kenya, offers the most accurate account.

In an interview with Voice of America (VOA) on Friday, Ruto opened up about his doubts on the president’s handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga and an alleged betrayal he saw coming, one that involved Uhuru’s succession.

According to the DP, Uhuru was never meant to endorse Raila. The handshake, Ruto claimed, was to chart the path to the former prime minister’s exit from active politics.

“…as President Kenyatta said, I was briefed… I was informed that Raila had agreed that he wanted to be facilitated to retire,” Ruto told VOA’s Esther Githui-Ewart.

In November last year, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi had given almost similar version in an interview: “Uhuru has told me that he was to retire with Raila next year (2022). That was the only condition of their handshake.”

Walking into the 2017 election, Ruto had no reasons to doubt the president. While on the campaign trail, Uhuru had promised to endorse him as his successor. But Ruto said he had his doubts. And hence Uhuru’s current endorsement of Raila, hardly surprised him.

“I remember asking, really? Do you expect (Raila to retire)? We know Raila Odinga and we know his games. And I was saying at that time that I don’t think Raila is going to retire. I think he will talk about changing the Constitution. Every fear I had, has come to be,” the DP said.

Ruto claimed he had never been opposed to the handshake, only that “it mutated into something else” to include things that he and the president “had not discussed”. In the process, the DP claimed, Jubilee “lost direction”, abandoning its intended programmes.

“We did not discuss, for example, that it was an exercise to kill the opposition and kill oversight,” Ruto went on.

During Jubilee’s first term in office, the opposition had been a pain in the administration’s neck. So much so that Uhuru and Ruto would accuse Raila and his allies of making too much noise instead of offering solutions.

For all intents and purposes, the pair seemed like they preferred that the opposition kept silent. Ruto had a change of heart when he increasingly found himself edged out of a government he helped form.

“We did not discuss that members of government would be jettisoned so that members of the opposition can occupy committees in Parliament,” Ruto added. “We did not agree that it was an exercise in changing the Constitution,” he told VOA.

A day earlier, Ruto had told another forum that the handshake had transformed Raila into a “government puppet” while converting Uhuru into “a refugee in opposition.”

Soon after the March 2018 handshake, Ruto and his allies protested that Raila’s true intentions were wrecking the ruling Jubilee Party to sneak himself into power. They have sustained such claims over the years, accusing their government and the opposition of being bedfellows.

For a while after the truce, Jubilee MPs, including those affiliated with Ruto, still toed the president’s line, passing State-sponsored legislation. That was despite the fact that a wedge between Uhuru and Ruto was emerging.

Irked that his deputy was “politicking” instead of “working”, the president called him out for loitering, hence the Tanga Tanga euphemism. The DP’s wing adopted the tag, which has been associated with them until their defection to United Democratic Alliance (UDA).

The turning point was the push to amend the Constitution through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI). The DP had voiced his opposition and his allies followed suit, a costly move that saw many knocked off critical positions in Parliament.

Ruto said his fallout with Uhuru came about as a result of an impending betrayal that he foresaw, the BBI constitutional amendment push, the opposition’s muzzling and the purge on his allies.

Uhuru’s version of events differs slightly. For starters, his decision to endorse Raila resulted from his deputy’s “reluctance to work”.

A week ago, Uhuru said he had invited Raila to help him extinguish fire because his house was burning. He suggested that the about-turn against his deputy was sudden and invoked by circumstances.

“I sought the help of my brother Raila only after MPs in my government opposed my agenda in Parliament and he offered to help with no conditions,” Uhuru said at ODM’s NDC.

It was clear from the president’s wording that he was talking of post-handshake period. The handshake may have, therefore, mutated into a political pact, facilitated by the rebellion from within.

“Raila has never asked me for anything. He has never asked to be endorsed,” Uhuru added at ODM’s National Delegates Convention (NDC) on February 26.

Before then, Uhuru has repeatedly said his handshake with Raila did not involve succession. On the BBI, his position has also remained that his intention was to end the “winner-takes-all” model of presidency that led to violence in the past and not 2022 politics. Raila echoed the same.

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