Ruto vs Kalonzo: A tale of betrayal, quest for revenge and big dreams

When Kalonzo Musyoka sits in his gazebo in the middle of his four-acre property in Nairobi’s plush Karen suburb, one of the bitter memories that come to his mind is that night five years ago when William Ruto convinced Uhuru Kenyatta that Kalonzo had no business being on the Jubilee ticket.

“We had agreed with Ruto that I would be on the presidential ticket, with Uhuru as my running mate or vice versa. Ruto was to be the majority leader,” Kalonzo records in his book Against All Odds.

Then that night, Uhuru and Ruto, in the company of city businessman Jimi Wanjigi (who is now said to be one of the major financiers of the opposition campaign) visited Kalonzo in his home at Hardy Estate in Karen.

Ruto was silent. Uhuru spoke.

“Stephen, we have decided that you should pick some other position, but not the presidency or the deputy presidency,” Uhuru told Kalonzo. Kalonzo recalls that the tension in the air was so pregnant, that after delivering the news, the President walked off to smoke a cigarette. When he came back to the gazebo, he simply told Kalonzo they’d be taking Charity Ngilu with them on a foreign trip to Burundi.

It is one of those poignant moments that Kalonzo saw it fit to record in his book, he actually calls it “the night I felt betrayed… the night our alliance died”.

Having been dumped with the people he defended all over the world in the so-called “shuttle diplomacy against the cases filed against Uhuru and Ruto at the International Criminal Court (ICC)”, Kalonzo had no option but to join Raila Odinga.

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What Kalonzo reveals in that recollection is that Uhuru and Ruto had looked at the numbers and realised that Kalonzo brought very few votes to the electoral basket. They discerned this because of the near-homogenous ethnic voting, and having looked at Kalonzo’s stronghold in Ukambani, and compared it with Ruto’s Rift Valley (especially the Kalenjin vote bloc), Uhuru chose Ruto.

But then again, it was Kalonzo who denied Raila the Presidency in 2007 when he decided to go it alone. Former President Mwai Kibaki was declared winner in that controversial contest.

National outlook

Fast-forward to today, Kalonzo is the running mate of Raila Odinga, again, and Ruto, is Kenyatta’s number two. Kalonzo’s contribution to the National Super Alliance (NASA) is the perception of national outlook. He also has international connections, with current and former leaders such as his tight friendship with Jakaya Kikwete, the former President of Tanzania, a friendship arising from Kalonzo’s days as a Foreign minister.

Kalonzo also brings with him the Kamba vote estimated to be 1.2 million, and with Ngilu now in his camp, and the Kamba leaders having said that he is their man in NASA, it looks like he will deliver the lion’s share of the Ukambani votes to the opposition.

Kalonzo is also a schemer, patient, and calm. Put with Raila, who is fearless and straight-shooting, the two complement each other at the helm of the opposition coalition.

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Raila has said he will be running for just one term. Therefore, in 2022, it will be Kalonzo’s turn to ascend to the presidential ticket, a place he last was in 2007 when he emerged third, and quickly forged an alliance with Mwai Kibaki after he was given the vice presidential slot following a violently disputed election.

Joe Khamisi, a former confidant of Kalonzo, said in his book, The Politics of Betrayal, that the vice presidency had been negotiated well in advance with Kibaki at the Mombasa State House.

It is with that political survival instinct with shades of self-preservation that make Kalonzo such a potent force within the opposition coalition and a man with a will to do everything to get to the top.

On the other hand, William Ruto’s value to the Jubilee team is his energy and zeal on the campaign trail. He is a master orator and when he speaks, whatever he says, he puts on a straight face. It helps that he is smart and grasps facts quickly, because, even in television and radio interviews, he puts his point across.

“If they couldn’t defeat us when they (Raila and Kalonzo) were Prime Minister and Vice President respectively, and we were in the cold fighting ICC cases, what makes them think they can now defeat us when Uhuru is President and I am his deputy?” he poses.

Delivered in Kiswahili, with a smirk and a touch of insolence, that statement stings but it is music to the ears of the diehard Jubilee supporters.

Tight stranglehold

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Ruto has a tight stranglehold on the Kalenjin voting bloc. The Deputy President is no doubt on top of Rift politics with a voting bloc of in excess of two million voters.

His value to the Jubilee basket, aside from his vast wealth, his mobilisation skills, energy and relative youth, is his loyalty to Uhuru. A lot of that is because of their personal chemistry.

The Deputy President is liked and loathed in equal measure, a fact he recognises and openly even discusses in public.

“Yes, just vote for Uhuru. I am not on the ticket. My turn will come in 2022,” Ruto reminds those who dislike him and his politics.

Whatever the outcome, Ruto and Kalonzo will surely have another duel on their hands, but perhaps, they can join hands in 2022. Only God knows.

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