Kenya: Ruto-Raila War of Words Gets Nasty

Kenya: Ruto-Raila War of Words Gets Nasty

The war of words between Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga escalated yesterday, with the DP dismissing the ODM boss as visionless and Mr Odinga accusing the second-in-command of politicking instead of building the nation.

Dr Ruto, who is on a three-day tour of the coastal region, also mocked other party leaders who are eyeing the presidency, noting that they are waiting for an endorsement from President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Odinga, speaking in Lodwar, Turkana County, where he went to drum up support for the Building Bridges Initiative, blamed the DP for the unfulfilled pledges of the Jubilee administration, and even accused him of deserting President Uhuru Kenyatta then criss-crossing the country to blame the Handshake for the failures of his own government.

But in Mombasa and Kilifi, where he was accompanied by MPs Owen Baya (Kilifi North), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Aisha Jumwa (Malindi), Mohamed Ali (Nyali), Lydia Haika (Taita-Taveta Woman Representative), Benjamin Tayari (Kinango) and Lamu Senator Anwar Loitiptip, Dr Ruto said: “The problem is that they are rudderless. They are now called the Demolition Squad because they demolished their Nasa and came to Jubilee, which they also dismantled and now they have been left with no plan. I told them before and I am telling them now: it is clear that you do not have a candidate yet.”

He was referring to the now defunct Nasa coalition of Mr Odinga, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Mr Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress), Mr Moses Wetang’ula (Ford-Kenya), and Mr Isaac Ruto (Chama cha Mashinani), formed in the run-up to the last General Elections to oppose the Uhuru-Ruto candidature.

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Development scorecard

Dr Ruto said the Jubilee government has among other things constructed 7,000 kilometres of roads across the country, connected over five million people to the national electricity grid, and built more than 140 technical training institutes. Some of these claims have not been substantiated independently.

Turning his attention to the BBI, the DP said instead of changing the Constitution to “create positions for leaders”, the focus should be on empowering wananchi.

“They are telling us to change the Constitution to have positions. But we are telling them that is not the way. It should be about the people,” he said.

“I am the DP and I know what am saying. I am not insane or drunk, so I mean what I say. We will change this country,” he added.

He took issue with those who have been on his case because of issuing wheelbarrows to the youth, saying it is a serious and complex economic programme that has been deliberately distorted by his detractors.

But in Turkana, Mr Odinga asked Dr Ruto to stop hoodwinking the youth with the ‘Hustler Nation’ narrative, symbolised in rallies by wheelbarrows.

“Instead of giving youth capital for start-ups, he is telling the youth that he will give them wheelbarrows,” said Mr Odinga, accusing the DP of making grand but false promises in 2013 and 2017, including providing laptop computers to primary school learners and transforming the country’s economy into a digital one.

While drumming up support for the BBI, the former Prime Minister asked residents of Turkana to back the constitutional amendment proposals, arguing that they would increase resource allocations to counties and warning them against listening to leaders who are “pushing for selfish interests at the expense of development”.

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Mr Odinga defended his Handshake with President Kenyatta, saying that it is the path to the proverbial Canaan. His meeting was skipped by Governor Josphat Nanok, who is serving his second term on an ODM ticket but has in recent times been leaning towards Dr Ruto’s Tangatanga movement.

Charm offensive

Dr Ruto has been on a charm offensive in Kenya’s pastoralist counties, targeting Narok, Kajiado, Samburu, Turkana, West Pokot and Laikipia in his 2022 State House race that requires his consolidation of his Rift Valley backyard if he is to have any chance.

President Kenyatta won Narok and Samburu counties and retained Kajiado in 2017, but the margins were small. Now both Mr Odinga and Dr Ruto are pushing to get a pie of the region that was split down the middle between the two camps, but with the stronger foot in Mr Odinga’s camp.

Mr Odinga bagged Turkana County in 2017 with 71,063 votes against President Kenyatta’s 58,744, but the former Prime Minister has since lost ODM vice-chairman and Governor Nanok to Dr Ruto’s camp, which now has the support of the majority of the MPs in the county.

In Turkana yesterday, Mr Odinga’s ODM ally, Minority Whip and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed, defended President Kenyatta over the development promises of the Jubilee government but accused the DP and his Tangatanga brigade of trying to push the country into campaign mode too early instead of supporting his boss.