By Samuel Ouma
A prominent example of friends turned fierce enemies in Kenya’s political history is former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and current Deputy President William Ruto, who were previously close friends but have since become bitter adversaries not only in Kenya .
Between 2005 and 2007, Ruto served as Odinga’s junior political partner in the Odinga-led Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) political party. The two worked together during the 2005 referendum campaigns to defeat revisions suggested in the flawed draft constitution by the administration of then-President Mwai Kibaki.
The day was carried out by the duo’s camp, known as the orange camp, which resulted in the formation of the ODM, with Ruto as the deputy party leader. During the 2007 presidential campaign of Raila Odinga, Ruto led the ODM Pentagon team, which included the current Tourism Cabinet Secretary, Najib Balala, Governor Charity Ngilu, ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi, and the late MP Joe Nyagah, to solicit support for Odinga’s presidential ambition.
They campaigned with the fervor of those who were possessed. In addition, the leader of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) rallied the Kalenjin community to support Odinga.
Ruto and his colleagues were equally outspoken when the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) under the leadership of Samuel Kivuitu messed up the presidential election results. He accused the late Kivuitu of rigging the election results in favor of their opponent, President Kibaki, and asked that Odinga be certified the winner of the poll.
It’s so amusing that once-close buddies no longer read from the same script together anymore. In the presidential election of 2022, there will be a fight between the two candidates because both have declared an interest in succeeding President Uhuru Kenyatta, whose tenure expires in August of next year.
The duo is well-known for engaging in public spats that have resulted in insults being hurled at one another. While Ruto has referred to the African Union ambassador as “the lord of poverty,” Odinga has often referred to the deputy president as “a robber,” according to the Kenyan leader.
“You are opposed to any development in our nation because you believe that this country should be poor so that people can continue to support you. I am telling you that we will work night and day to eliminate poverty in this nation so that your kingdom of poverty has no place in Kenya,” Ruto said of Odinga on July 3, 2019, according to the Kenyan Daily Nation.
Raila said in an assault on Ruto on July 5, 2021, “What is the source of the millions of shillings that they take around and donate to churches?” Raila was referring to Ruto. You can see them coming here dressed as though they were lambs. They are travelling from place to place donating money that has been taken.
The rift between the two leaders began shortly after the signing of the peace agreement in February 2008, as a result of a mishandled presidential election and the next two-month period of conflict. More than 1300 individuals were killed and more than 500000 people were internally displaced as a result of the unrest.
The disagreement started from Ruto’s Kalenjin group’s invasion of the Mau Forest Complex, which is the largest forest block in East Africa. Members of Ruto’s Kalenjin community were responsible for the invasion. The former Prime Minister called for the allocation of billions of shillings in compensation by the government in order to bring the Mau Forest deadlock to a successful conclusion.
According to a story published on September 26, 2019 by the Daily Nation, several members of the coalition government led by Ruto were opposed to the evictions, even if they were compensated, on the grounds that Odinga would gain political mileage as a result.
The second in charge gathered leaders from across the Rift Valley and told the ODM leader that his project was a waste of time. He was accused by the Kalenjin of planning to eliminate the community. Ruto expressed regret for mobilizing his supporters to vote for Odinga in 2007.
“Everything that I hear you whining about is entirely our own responsibility. But the next time, we’ll sit down and have a long conversation,” Ruto was quoted as saying by one of the local daily in 2009, following a demonstration attended by Kalenjin leaders.
Following Ruto’s involvement in the maize controversy while serving as Prime Minister of the grand coalition government, Odinga removed suspended him as Agriculture Minister in February. Despite being fired, President Kibaki later rehabilitated him and assigned him to the position of Minister of Higher Education.
The Minister’s tenure in the Cabinet was short-lived, as he was finally fired in 2011 following corruption allegations leveled against him. He was accused of defrauding the government by fraudulently selling land to a state-owned firm.
Ruto later abandoned the ODM and joined the United Democratic Movement (UDM), before ending up in the United Republican Party (URP), which formed a coalition with the then-governing The National Alliance (TNA) and won the 2013 general elections, allowing him to be te Deputy President and Kenyatta as President.
The two became estranged in 2018 following a political truce between his boss and Odinga, which came as a result of the instability that rocked the 2017 presidential elections, which resulted in the Supreme Court rejecting the election results. Ruto was a vocal opponent of the historic March 2018 Handshake between the two leaders, which resulted in a rift with Kenyatta.
With the handshake came the emergence of the Building Bridges Initiative, which attempted to modify the constitution in order to bring the country together, a move that Ruto was adamant about opposing. He characterized proponents of BBI as self-centered leaders eager to secure lucrative jobs with large pay for themselves.
The Bill was found illegal by the Court of Appeal in August, and Ruto rushed to social media to express his delight at the decision.
“God, our heavenly Father, has intervened on Kenya’s behalf and prevented the coalition of the known, the mighty, and the powerful from shredding our constitution,” he said in a tweet.
According to the former minister, it was Odinga who brought down the ruling party, Jubilee, by putting his own selfish political ambitions into the mix.
“The Jubilee Party was on the right track until he made his way in, when he devoured and scattered our plans. His selfish ambition drove him to launch a process to amend the constitution, not for the benefit of the population, but for his own personal gain,” Ruto declared during a campaign rally held in Kirinyaga, central Kenya, on November 28, 2021, according to the Associated Press.
He further says that Odinga sabotaged the government’s Big Four development strategy, which included manufacturing, universal health care, food security, and affordable housing, among other initiatives.
Ruto resigned from the Jubilee party and created the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), which he intends to utilize as his political vehicle in 2022. He asserted that there are elements within the State House who are working relentlessly to prevent him from becoming the country’s fifth Head of State and Government.
His continuous criticism of the government does not go over well with his superiors. President Kenyatta had requested him to resign if he was dissatisfied with his job.
According to Kenyatta, “if you are not satisfied with it, you should step aside and allow those who wish to move on do so, so that your agenda may be taken to the people.”
“You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” says the author. At the same time, you cannot say, “I’m not going,” while also stating, “I’m not agreeing.”
The recent support of Odinga as the best candidate to succeed Kenyatta by Mt. Kenya tycoons and a group of Cabinet Secretaries has further strained relations between the two leaders. Mr. Ruto has referred to the longest-serving opposition leader as “the government’s project,” promising to defeat him in the upcoming polls by a wide margin.