They both started out in the same political party. They were both mentored by the same man: Daniel arap Moi, Kenya’s second president. They are regarded as the youthful vanguard of Kenya’s politics and who will chart a new course when the old autocrats leave the scene.
The two parted ways in the months leading to the 2007 General Election, with one supporting his baptismal godfather. The other supported the arch-enemy of his political godfather.
Now, Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta and William Samoei Ruto find themselves on the same boat once again. They will soon find themselves facing war crime prosecution at the International Criminal Court in the Dutch city called The Hague.
Uhuru and Ruto will share the dubious distinction of being the first Kenyans subjected to an international judicial process. At The Hague, they will be joining the likes of Charles Taylor, Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic and Jean Pierre Bemba.
Interesting how fate turns out. Uhuru and Ruto are victims of a geriatric political system that seeks to use and dump the youth and thereby frustrate the rise of fresh leaders.
There is no doubt that Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto are capable leaders in their own right. Though coming from opposing backgrounds – Uhuru the son of a former president, Ruto comes from a rural family – they seemingly found common ground in Moi’s KANU party.
With Moi’s guidance and bulldozer tactics, the two rose up the ranks of KANU to become presidential contenders within a very short time. In 2002, Moi settled on Uhuru as his successor, much to the chagrin of the KANU old guard. Ruto bought into Moi’s plan and backed Uhuru to the hilt. Had Uhuru beaten Kibaki in the 2002 elections, Ruto would obviously have become a major player in his administration.
Back in 1992, faced with an opposition onslaught in Kenya’s first multiparty elections since the 1960s, Moi made Ruto the deputy leader of Youth for KANU 92. YK 92 was a campaign outfit that had access to unlimited funds and had only one goal: Moi’s victory at any cost. YK 92 corrupted the Kenyan political system in ways that had never before been seen. The opposition was too broke to compete and Moi won the election.
The face of YK 92 was its leader, Cyrus Jirongo, assisted by Ruto. After the polls, public outrage and diplomatic pressure forced Moi to disband YK 92. Of course, Jirongo and Ruto took the flak while Moi pretended to be unaware of what had taken place.
A similar scenario replayed itself in the controversial 2007 polls, only this time, the stakes and the body count was much higher.
What are the charges against Ruto and Uhuru?
William Ruto joined Raila Odinga’s faction of the ODM Party, where he mobilized his Kalenjin ethnic compatriots to vote for Raila. In this, he came into sharp conflict with his political mentor, Daniel arap Moi, who wanted the Kalenjin to vote for President Kibaki.
Thanks to Moi’s machinations in the years 1992 – 2002, the Kalenjin had developed a heightened sense of ethnic nationalism, especially against the Kikuyu ethnic group. With the Kikuyu supporting President Kibaki, it was just a matter of time before an ethnic conflagration erupted. Ruto, apparently, did not sense this and played into the hands of Kalenjin ethnic purists from the old Moi administration.
In December 2007, violence began in the Rift Valley between the Kalenjin and pro-Kibaki ethnic groups, notably the Kikuyu. Though Moi was now supporting Kibaki, the old purist networks he had established among the Kalenjin re-emerged on the side of Ruto and played a leading role in the clashes. A leading light of Kalenjin nationalism is one Jackson Kibor.
In January 2008, Kibor openly told BBC Radio of his involvement in the ethnic cleansing of Kalenjin land. The recording is widely available on the internet and forms part of the key evidence against Ruto.
During his 2007 presidential bid, Raila visited the Rift Valley on numerous occasions and promised to enact ethnic federalism, or Majimbo, if elected. This is the same rallying call that the Moi networks had used when ethnic clashes first erupted in 1992. Raila could not have been that naïve.
After post elections violence in 2008, Raila went back to the Rift Valley and told the Kalenjin that he did not support the return of ethnic groups evicted during the violence. Raila’s ally, James Orengo, specifically said that migrant communities evicted during post election violence should seek land elsewhere, and not among the Kalenjin.
Was Raila aware that he was playing with fire by courting Kalenjin ethnic purists? Of course he was! But he now pleads ignorance, leaving Ruto to become the scapegoat. Ruto has been left holding the short end of the stick. He will face war crime and genocide charges for the deaths of hundreds of Kikuyu, especially in his hometown of Eldoret.
Ruto is currently grappling with a corruption scandal in his Agriculture ministry. He is accused of allocating his close allies government maize, which they sold for a huge profit while millions of Kenyans starve. Among the names that keep coming up is that of … hold your breathe … Jackson Kibor.
The case against Uhuru Kenyatta is not so clear-cut. Uhuru is accused of financing and planning Kikuyu revenge attacks against the Kalenjin, Luhya and Luo tribes.
In late January 2008, after a month of ethnic victimization, the Kikuyu armed themselves and launched retaliatory attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru. It is said that Uhuru held a meeting at State House with leading Kikuyu personalities to plot the attacks. It is, however, not clear whether President Kibaki (himself a Kikuyu) attended the meeting or if he was aware of the plans.
Unlike Ruto’s case, there are very few witnesses to testify on Uhuru’s involvement in ethnic clashes. If established that Uhuru is guilty, he can plead self defence and provocation. By the end of January, state authority had collapsed in Kenya and the Kikuyu were being attacked from all directions. It was under those circumstances that Kikuyu leaders decided to take matters into their own hands.
The revenge attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru drew the attention of the international community of impending civil war in Kenya. Within days, intervention by regional and world leaders brought to an end most of the violence. The coalition agreement between Kibaki and Raila was signed a month later.
Like Ruto, Uhuru is both a beneficiary and victim of Moi’s political tricks. In 2002, Moi was due for retirement and was determined to prevent KANU leaders including Raila and George Saitoti from assuming the presidency. Moi had spent 5 years wooing Raila into the party with the promise of handing power to him but, in reality, had no intention of doing so.
As it turned out, Moi’s Vice President in the 1980s happened to be opposition leader in 2002. Moi felt he could be comfortable as a retired president with Mwai Kibaki at the helm. What better way of doing this than by destroying KANU’s chances of winning? And what better way of ensuring KANU’s loss than by introducing an unknown, untested candidate with no prospects of winning? This is how Project Uhuru came to be.
Kenya’s youthful leaders cannot take over the mantle of leadership if they continue playing to the tune of the old guards. It is obvious that the likes of Moi, Kibaki and the Odingas have a monopoly over power that they do not wish to relinquish. They will continue to use and dump young politicians in the same old power games of ethnicity and exclusionary politics.
It is time that the young turks rose up and defined their own rules in the power game. Emerging leaders should learn from the experiences of Uhuru and Ruto and never allow themselves to be seduced by money and high office. Of what use is all the wealth in Kenya when you are an international criminal?
As for Uhuru and Ruto, their fates are sealed. To The Hague they must go.
Filed under: Analysis, Politics | Tagged: daniel arap moi, Eldoret, ethnic clashes, international criminal court, jackson kibor, James Orengo, kalenjin, KANU, kenya, kikuyu, koffi annan, luhya, luo, majimbo, mwai kibaki, nairobi, naivasha, nakuru, ODM, PNU, raila odina, Rift Valley, Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto |