William Ruto calls himself a ‘hustler’, and he is. He is a self-made political leader who has effectively created the perception that he is the defender of all interests ‘Kalenjin’ by ‘owning’ the grievances committed against the Kalenjin community over the years.
He has then crafted himself into the custodian of the solutions to these grievances. The result is that he has become a tremendously powerful politician with a firm hold over a large section of the Kalenjin vote. He has leveraged this role quite efficiently to the extent that he is recognised as a national leader. He has also become the undisputed leading ‘king-maker’ for the forth-coming general election.
Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta on the other hand is anything, but a hustler. Unlike Ruto who is able to credibly refer to himself as a ‘hustler’ to identify with the average Kenyan struggling with economic aspirations, Hon Kenyatta represents what is most probably the largest land-owning family in Kenya. This makes him the direct opposite of a ‘hustler’.
While Ruto is a self-made politician, Uhuru would not be what he is if he was not a Kenyatta. His late father’s resources and networks have been instrumental in getting him to the pinnacle of his political career (which is not wrong in itself except for the fact that he then – dishonestly in my opinion – wants Kenyans to judge him as ‘his own man’. Finally unlike Ruto, he cannot claim to be the ‘owner’ of the Kikuyu community’s grievance, again because he has been the beneficiary of most of them.
However, Uhuru learns well from others and having watched how quickly the ‘tribal chieftain’ tag can catapult someone to national power, he has ‘copy pasted’ what he has seen Hon William Ruto do and say. He stated as much in Muranga when he explained that time had come for Kikuyus to learn from what Ruto has done with the Kalenjins, and accept to ‘toe the line’ under one community leader. He has moved extremely first to achieve this end.
Uhuru Kenyatta first established The National Alliance Party (TNA). This party then declared that any Kikuyu who wants to be in political office next year must leave any other party and join TNA under Uhuru.
With his resources, he has managed to do what it took Ruto over seven years in Rift Valley, in less than one year in Central. He even went to the extent of disinheriting President Mwai Kibaki while the president was in office, unlike Ruto who waited until Moi had retired.
Today the president finds himself without a party as he folds up his 10 years in State House. PNU has been dissolved into TNA and all the non-Kikuyu PNU leadership have had to find their political homes in other parties.
Now, Uhuru Kenyatta has an ‘offer’ for William Ruto. He wants to cut a ‘deal’ with the self-made politician so that Ruto’s ‘DNA becomes TNA’, and Ruto shelves his political ambitions so that Uhuru can become a strong presidential challenger to Hon Raila Odinga, and maybe even stop him from being President.
However for this ‘deal’ to work Uhuru must offer Ruto something that Ruto can take back to the Kalenjin community to convince them that Uhuru has the community’s best interests at heart.
This is where the rubber meets the road.
If you were to stop a Kalenjin primary school child in the street and ask her what the interests of the Kalenjin community are they would immediately tell you it is all about ‘Land’. This same child would also tell you that the Kalenjin land problem has Kikuyu finger-prints all over it, starting from Jomo Kenyatta’s era. She would then tell you, for free, that the only way William Ruto can convince the Kalenjin to vote for Uhuru Kenyatta is if Uhuru has an answer to the ‘Kikuyu Question’ in Rift Valley. These, unfortunately, are the facts.
Uhuru Kenyatta’s political stronghold in Mt. Kenya has land issues, but they are intra-ethnic, not with other communities. However in Ruto’s Rift-Valley strong-hold the land problem is between Kalenjins and close to one million Kikuyus who live there.
This basically means that the people falling over themselves in the Mt Kenya region to pledge allegiance to Uhuru will not be affected by whatever offer Uhuru gives Ruto. It is the 40 percent Kikuyus living outside the Mt Kenya, especially those in the Rift Valley, who are vulnerable to any such deal, especially if it touches on land.
They are also the ones who would ‘pay’ should Uhuru then default on whatever they agree, if he gets into statehouse.
For the sake of peace and long-term inter-ethnic cohesion, especially in the Rift Valley, could Uhuru Kenyatta make public whatever ‘offer’ he has given William Ruto in return for Kalenjin support? Could the Kikuyu leadership from Rift Valley also ensure they are involved in whatever talks are going on between Ruto and Uhuru to ensure that no one ends up ‘negotiating away’ their land-rights? Finally, could this openness apply to all ‘deals’ cut between all presidential candidates?
(Wambugu is the Founder and Director of the Change Associates Trust).