Tension between Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy
The President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has publicly asked his Deputy, William Ruto, to resign. According to reports, a division between the two has grown wider in recent weeks as Kenya heads towards general elections in August. The Kenyan general election will see voters elect a new President, members of the National Assembly and Senate, county governors, and members of the county assemblies.
The Presidential Election appears to be the source of problems between the two leaders. Deputy Ruto has ambitions to ascend to the highest political office in the land. He will do so as the leader of the United Democratic Alliance, which falls under the coalition of the Kenya Kwanza. Rather than show support for his deputy’s political ambitions, Kenyatta has shown favor towards Raila Odinga of the Azimio la Umoja coalition. Kenyatta and Ruto have been in an open war of words.
Ruto has openly criticized Kenyatta’s tenure as president, highlighting several supposed failures of Kenyatta’s presidency. Kenya has recently faced many economic issues under Kenyatta’s tenure. Inflation in Kenya has been on the rise, increasing the cost of living for all citizens. Ruto has criticized the President for not keeping electoral promises and using state machinery to suppress political opponents. He has also spoken out against debt taken from China.
Kenyatta responded to the critiques by telling Ruto to “step down”. He addressed workers at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi saying, “Instead of helping me end the situation, you are all over in the market places inciting people to ask me about the situation. And then you call yourself a big leader, I don’t know what big number, in this country. Why didn’t you then resign and leave me to search for a person who could help me?”
He was backed by his supporters, some of them accusing Ruto of being unfit to be deputy president for various reasons. “He’s showing Kenyans that he can easily respond to the President’s concerns yet that is his boss. He’s being cheeky. He has demonstrated the highest level of contempt against his boss, a behavior which does not befit a holder of such an office,” said Wambugu Ngunjiri, a member of Parliament and Kenyatta ally.
In a public display of tension between the two men, Kenyatta refused to shake Ruto’s hand at the funeral of former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki. Kenyatta cannot remove Ruto as deputy president. Ruto may only be removed by impeachment or self resignation. Ruto has campaigned for the presidency by appealing to the ordinary people of Kenya. According to reports, before he became involved in politics, Ruto was known as a “hustler” as he was a businessman who sold chicken.
Ruto has spoken of an eagerness to get away from the political culture set in Kenya that places the elite at the forefront. The best examples are Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga. The two men are the children of the first president and deputy president of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta and Oginga Odinga. Their families have been involved in the politics of the country since Kenya’s independence in 1963.
On Thursday, May 26th, Deputy Ruto admitted in a Prayer breakfast in Nairobi that he had a falling out with the head of state. He stated that the falling out had made it difficult for the government to fulfill its duties and deliver promises to the Kenyan people. The Deputy President then publicly apologized to President Kenyatta and asked for his forgiveness.