Boxed into a corner in Jubilee Party, Deputy President William Ruto has adopted a series of moves that indicates he is willing to severe ties and build his new political base.
Ruto has been increasingly moving out of the Jubilee orbit and on Thursday, he announced his meeting with an independent candidate for the Msambweni Constituency by-election, despite his party declaring that it would not field a contestant for the seat.
This is the first time the DP has openly defied his own political party, and by extension, party leader, President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The move came hot on the heels of political meetings in Western, Nyanza, Coast, Mt Kenya, Rift Valley and Nairobi regions, a sign that the DP is activating his networks ahead of 2022 elections.
His allies have also become more militant in recent days, showing that he could finally have given up on the party that brought him and the president to power in 2013 and in the subsequent General Election.
The DP has also been seeking to extend his influence beyond the national politics, meeting ambassadors and other foreign dignitaries several times in the last six months.
On Thursday evening, the DP was hosted by 13 European Union (EU) ambassadors at the residence of Simon Mordue, EU Ambassador to Kenya.
“Delighted to have hosted Deputy President @WilliamsRuto at a meeting today of EU Ambassadors. Enjoyed the lively and open exchange of views on the Big4Agenda, and Kenya’s development and political future,” tweeted Ambassador Mordue.
The meeting with the foreign envoys is the fourth this year, including one with the US ambassador to Kenya Kyle McCarter.
“It is true the DP is increasingly charting his own path and the reality is that he and the president have parted ways. The relationship has broken down and the couple is sleeping in different rooms,” said political scientist Amukowa Anangwe.
“They are going their separate ways and Jubilee will die…for Ruto, the machinery is not for him. He is a DP without any impact in government decisions. However, his success will largely depend on the emerging scenarios going forward.” The DP’s hand has been forced by the fact that politicians coalescing around the president have openly declared that they will not hand him the Jubilee ticket, in effect pitting him against a juggernaut comprising politicians supporting the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
“Jubilee has decided they don’t want him, so it is a matter of when not if, but leave Jubilee he must. What Ruto has done is different from other vice presidents around the world. He has chosen to fight his way,” said political analyst Herman Manyora.
On Thursday, Ruto met Feisal Bader who is seeking to replace the late Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori as an independent candidate.
On the same day, he continued his defiance of the president’s call for cessation of political activity when he led about 40 Jubilee MPs to the Olngesher Lool Ilmerishie ceremony of the Matapato clan in Maparasha Olchoro Oibor, Kajiado Central.
These activities have led his critics to view the DP as a man with unbridled ambition and keen to overshadow his boss, more than two years before the next elections.
“Had he been patient, President Kenyatta would have led his campaigns in 2022, now his restlessness has spoiled for him, we started seeing him from afar and noted that he did not have any patience,” said Jubilee Vice Chairman David Murathe.
“His clout is for selfish interest, it is not beneficial to the ruling party,” said Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.
Ruto’s allies, however, appear confident the DP’s moves could bear political fruit in 2022 as he seeks to succeed Uhuru.
In a tweet, Soy MP Caleb Kositany appeared to acknowledge that the DP is swimming in turbulent waters, but he has a strategy to calm the waves.
“Team William Ruto fasten your seat belts, we are approaching heavy turbulence for a short while, then it will be calm and we land at our destination. Say a prayer for WSR, we know the enemy and the direction he is coming from. If GOD IS FOR US WHO CAN BE AGAINST US?” Kositany tweeted.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech however claimed that far from jumping ship, the DP is keen to see Jubilee work, starting with a demand that the party hold elections.
He referred to Ruto’s visit to the Jubilee headquarters on Wednesday as an indication that he still has hopes of getting the party under his grip.
“You are going to see him more often at the headquarters and interacting with Jubilee Party leaders across the country. He is the party’s deputy leader remember, he plans to revitalise the party,” said Koech.
A number of Ruto’s allies said that the DP could be planning a takeover of the party, failure to which he would jump ship at the appropriate time.