“Mapenzi ya upande mmoja.” That’s the phrase my Fasihi teacher used to describe characters whose love interests never reciprocated theirs. A comparable scenario has characterized the relationship between Deputy President William Ruto and his “boss” Uhuru Kenyatta for the better part of the duo’s second term. At first, both sides of the Jubilee Party tiptoed around the fact that there was trouble in paradise. Raphael Tuju, the party’s secretary general often downplayed division between Kenyatta’s and Ruto’s supporters. Ruto worked extra hard to convince the nation that the cessation of uniformity between him and the son of Jomo, formerly characterized by no less than matching clothing, indicated no bad blood between the two.
However, even during the early days of their second term, there were signs that the Ruto and the Kenyatta camps were at loggerheads with each other. Things went south very quickly for the duo with Kenyatta’s kingly coronation through the infamous handshake leaving nothing to the imagination: The president and his old as well as newfound allies no longer mask their insouciance and even what seems like outright disdain for the self-nicknamed hustler. He who once delegated the crucial task of running the nation wholly to his deputy as he sought to answer Moreno Ocampo’s summons at the ICC watched as his interior cabinet secretary became blatantly insubordinate to the DP! The continued onslaught on the second-in-command and his allies has seen the dismissal of Susan Kihika as Senate Majority Chief Whip, the ouster of Kipchumba Murkomen as Senate Majority Leader, and the removal of Kithure Kindiki as Deputy Speaker in the senate. As if that is not enough, there is a promise for further “disciplinary action” for MPs and Senators whose actions and words indicate a sense of camaraderie with Ruto.
Like one uses a rug and tosses it away when done, or similar to someone who chews a piece of sugarcane and throws into the garbage the juiceless leftovers, Kenyatta used Ruto and discarded him without second thought once he thought he had sucked from him all he could offer.
Is the infamous handshake to blame for the upheaval in the ruling party though? Contrary to popular opinion, the answer is NO! The Jubilee Party symbol is itself a handshake and if you were ever keen, you might have noticed that every time Uhuru and Ruto shook hands JP style, Ruto seemed to be in a subordinate position. He would be looking up and reaching up to Kenyatta, who (perhaps inadvertently) would raise his arm high, making the much shorter DP almost stand on his toes to keep up. Kenyatta mostly looked at the crowd while Ruto mostly looked at him either suspiciously or admiringly.
Maybe this was significant in that it symbolized the unequal power between a president and his deputy (which could arguably be alright). But maybe it symbolized inequality in power between the two major political parties (TNA & URP) that formed JP (which should not be alright). A third reading could be that of “hustlers” (Ruto) trying to reach up to the countries’ wealthy and powerful dynasties. In the case of this third reading, a question arises; if “the hustler” clinches the top seat when time comes, will he be a breaker of the dynasty trend or will he be interested in creating yet another one? I would say time will tell but I know better…
In any case, the Jubilee story is rife with the common and permanent “frenemity” that characterizes Kenyan politics. Like one uses a rag and tosses it away when done, or similar to someone who chews a piece of sugarcane and throws into the garbage the juiceless leftovers, Kenyatta used Ruto and discarded him without second thought once he thought he had sucked from him all he could offer.