Who is after William Ruto?

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By Oscar Obonyo

Agriculture Minister William Ruto survived a censure Motion last week, but he does not believe it was motivated by war against corruption. His supporters are also unsure if the abuse of office claims swirling around him would die out soon. They expect his ‘enemies’ to come up with a plan ‘B’ anytime. They are also convinced Ruto just won one battle in a bigger war with so many hidden vested interests. But behind Ruto’s ‘survival’ are several political bigwigs, including Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta.

Though he would not want to give names, he left no doubt the Motion was a political attack launched by Justice Minister Martha Karua and Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo. The motivation, he argues, is ‘dehorning’ him before the 2012 General Election to pick the fourth president.

“If allegations were made not on the basis of merit, what else could it be? This whole story was cooked up and engineered by a Cabinet minister. The plot was so well choreographed to tie in with corruption and another nebulous thing called political responsibility,” says Ruto.

ODM leaders Musalia Mudavadi, left, Raila Odinga, Henry Kosgey and William Ruto at a past function. Photos: File/Standard

He added: “She (Karua) is simply obsessed with 2012 and that sickens me. She sent emissaries to me, twice last year, inviting me to discuss the 2012 presidential election. Emerging from a bloody election, I flatly refused to be drawn into such a discussion. But even earlier, during the Serena talks, we clashed on several occasions over her rather unfriendly positions.”

Curiously, as the siege was spun around him, three unlikely faces, but who did not vote, rallied their troops behind him. They were Raila, Kalonzo and Uhuru. Their troops are among those that gave Ruto the awesome 119 votes against the 22 that wanted him to take responsibility for the maize crisis and relinquish his seat until cleared.

Within the Orange Democratic Movement the Motion was being viewed as an attack on the party, even an attempt to destroy it. The argument is that it was meant to cast the censure Motion as authored by sympathisers of Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, who is fighting out a silent war with Ruto as to who among them should come first in the party after Raila.

Still, there are those who believe Jirongo was exploiting Mudavadi’s place in ODM and Ruto’s encroachment. The strategy being that it would be ‘easy’ to push him over in the 2012 General Election. Jirongo, who voted against Ruto, is believed to be eyeing the presidency after Kibaki.

The fact that Ruto managed in the last party elections to be elevated to the same level as Mudavadi within ODM, fed this raging speculation the Eldoret North MP could be closing-in.

Former operative

The perception Ruto wants Mudavadi’s political scalp in ODM is fuelled by the fact that Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale, who moved the Motion, and Simiyu Eseli, the Kimilili MP who seconded, though they do not belong to ODM, are from Mudavadi’s Western Province turf. What is clear, however, is that Mudavadi stood by Ruto, so did Raila, their ‘captain’.

Ruto conceded in an interview: “This was not a party affair and I got support across the political divide. MPs wanted facts placed on the table and I did just that. I am sure this is what persuaded most of them into supporting me,” he said.

The Motion accorded Ruto the opportunity to identify his foes and equally critical is how he will relate with them. Ruto accuses Khalwale of attacking him at the behest of some senior politicians. He identifies one of them simply as a Cabinet colleague.

It is no secret, however, Karua and Ruto have lately been at loggerheads. Over the last month they have clashed publicly, with the Gichugu MP pressurising her Eldoret North counterpart to resign.

When interviewed Ruto said he has clashed with Karua over many issues, including Serena Peace Talks.

Ruto added a new twist to the rage, claiming: “A former political operative colleague” duped him into meeting Karua some time last year over dinner.

Opposition circus

“When I was invited by my friend, I had no idea she would be there. During the meeting she suggested we team up politically ahead of 2012 — a request I immediately turned down,” says Ruto. His allies claim Jirongo is the ‘operative’.

Karua has, however, dismissed this story as ‘rubbish’, claiming she cannot team up with a politician, who is heavily tainted as Ruto.

“Why would I bother to get on board somebody like him? He is a major political baggage.”

That Karua has vowed to lobby for Ruto’s exit from Government is not a secret. Whereas Jirongo sat in the defunct YK’92 lobby, the Lugari MP is said to be furious Ruto wants to hijack the proposed grand opposition.

Confesses a South Rift MP: “It is true Jirongo initially spent a lot of his money facilitating our operations and I completely pity him that he has lost out on this one.”

During a recent retreat of the oppositionists at Kilaguni Lodge, politicians allied to Ruto — MPs Julius Kones and Ababu Namwamba — were elected chairman and secretary of the opposition caucus.

Furthermore, some Rift Valley MPs fear former President Moi may be in the picture over what they consider “sustained pressure on our man”.

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