Kenya:Is Ruto the right man to succeed Kenyatta?

By Samuel Ouma

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto

Heated debate on who should succeed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta when his term expires has caused political jitters in the East African country.

Uhuru Kenyatta, the fourth president of Kenya and the son of the first president of the country, Jomo Kenyatta is expected to  hand over power to the next leader Kenyans will elect through ballot in 2022.  Kenyatta who is serving his second and last term came to power in 2013 and was declared a winner in the 2017 bungled presidential polls.

Though there have been proposals by a section of leaders to extend Kenyatta’s tenure given that he is still young, we are not sure if he will be in power after 2022. There are also rumours in the streets, media, and homes that he might be the third Kenyan Prime Minister in case the constitution amendment spearheaded by Building Bridges Initiatives (BBI), a task force formed as a result of handshake between him and his former political nemesis the opposition leader Raila Odinga sails through.

BBI report was officially released in November one year after a 14-team member moved across the country to collect Kenyan views on how to mitigate animosity and ethnic hatred that emerges especially during the period of elections.

Some of the radical proposed changes by the report are creation of the post of the Prime Minister whose occupant will be picked by the President from the Members of Parliament in the party with majority of elected leaders. The President will remain the head of state, head of government and Commander-in-chief of Defence Forces whereas the Premier will be the leader.

“The nominee of prime minister shall not assume office until his or her appointment is first confirmed by a resolution of the National Assembly supported by an absolute majority vote of MPs,” the report states.

The team also suggested the reintroduction of the office of the official opposition leader among many others. Should the 58-year-old Head of State vacate the office who is suit to replace him? Several leaders have expressed their interest in becoming Kenyan fifth president including Kenyatta’s deputy William Ruto. Others are Governor Alfred Mutua, Senator Moses Wetangula, former legislator and Minister Musalia Mudavadi among others.

However, it is purported the race will be between William Ruto and Raila Odinga should the latter vie. Ruto enjoys enough support in his backyard, Kenya’s Rift Valley while Odinga controls his home turf in Nyanza and major part of western Kenya. The duo are trying to outdo each other in controlling the rich vote Mount Kenya region. Since the political truce in 2018, the region is experiencing a sharp political division with a section throwing their weight behind the former premier and others have vehemently vowed to support Ruto’s candidature.

There is also a split among Kenyans on whether to support Ruto or not. A faction of Kenyans is pretty sure that Ruto’s presidency will be the good thing will ever happen to Kenya. They argue that the deputy president has good development record to revitalize Kenyan dying economy and now working as Kenyatta’s number two, his die-hards claim that he is best suited to fix challenges facing Kenyans.

On the other hand, his critics describe him as a tribal bigot who will further divide Kenyans along tribal lines. Alleged scandals facing Ruto have not remained unturned, they claim cases of corruption will sour should he become the president.

Currently, the deputy president has been touring the various parts of the country to woo support ahead of 2022.

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