I am on record praising William Samoei Ruto for his diligence at work whether at the Higher Education Ministry or the Agriculture one. Even though this opinion has not changed – and is not about to – I expect him to be honourable enough and step aside as the courts determine whether he is innocent or guilty in his Sh96 million fraud case.
The situation he’s facing hinges on integrity and public confidence, which are essential for any leader.
I am disappointed that Ruto has chosen to read politics in the circumstances he finds himself. For the record, he is not in court alone over the alleged fraud. It is a fact that he was charged jointly with others. But even if he was charged alone as he claims, lawyers (including his own) will tell that being in the dock alone for a crime committed by many can never be a defence for his innocence.
I understand this case could have big ramifications on his political career and stepping aside is quite humbling. But in my modest opinion, this remains the most sensible thing to do for now.
First of all, it is the Minister’s undoing that the matter has dragged in court for this long. If he had allowed the case to continue when he was charged (instead of blocking it at the Constitutional court on the grounds of political sabotage) it probably would have been decided by now and his perceived innocence would have been laid bare for all to see.
I was peeved when I heard him invoke the far-fetched theory of political mischief in the saga. I thought we had graduated from such blinkered political maneuvers by now.
Anyway, the options the Minister has are limited. He either willingly resigns or waits for the appointing authority (the one he referred to when he was suspended by the PM when he was mentioned in the maize saga) to suspend him. I would advise him to go for the former and admirably step aside.
Let me remind him of precedents that has been set on matters of corruption as relates to Cabinet Ministers like him.
In August 2008, the then Finance Minister Amos Kimunya stepped aside after being implicated in the sale of the Grand Regency Hotel. The fact that he had just delivered some of Kenya\’s best Budgets that did not matter at that time.
Public trust and welfare prevailed and the then considered President’s blue-eyed boy had to vacate office. The accountant who had oversaw Kenya record growth of 7 percent could not stand in the way of public good. He has since made his way back to the Cabinet.
In 2006 the infamous Anglo leasing scam claimed three of President Kibaki’s closest lieutenants Ministers Kiraitu Murungi, David Mwiraria and Chris Murungaru. As we all remember, the first two were later reinstated into the Cabinet after no charges were preferred against them.
On 13 February 2006, President Mwai Kibaki allowed his hardworking Education Minister George Saitoti to step aside to allow investigations into the all familiar two-decade Goldenberg scandal. To remind you, Mr Saitoti had pioneered President Kibaki’s dream of free primary education in 2002 and its success was being talked about globally. But once again when the question of integrity and financial accountability came to the fore the professor of mathematics had to give way. He was later cleared by the court and was back at his office at Jogoo house.
Just this year, Wilfred Machage was asked to vacate office at the Transport Ministry after he was charged with hate speech.
Mr Ruto may be the hardworking Minister we all admire but he needs to understand that performance without accountability equals to loss of public confidence. In my own understanding stepping aside does not mean accepting responsibility. It is rather an act of responsible leadership that says “as a public servant am ready to be tried and justified by the law.”
By claiming his innocence while refusing to be vindicated by rule of law, it is clear that the man from Nandi hills wants to have his cake and eat it!