OPINION: Ruto isolation: The workings of Deep State, unconventional politics and betrayal

Deputy President William Ruto’s political trajectory displays the character of an individual keen on climbing up the ladder at the next available opportunity.

Without doubt, his fast rise to the second in command portrays a screwed and ambitious political schemer since his days as a youth winger in KANU during the heated 1992 General Election.

His involvement in power politic under government cover certainly activated his desire to join the high table of decision-makers in Kenya, getting to higher levels than his colleagues and seniors then, among them former Lugari MP Cyrus Jirongo, who was the chairman,  Gerald Bomett (vice-chairman) and the group’s treasurer Sam Nyamweya.

In the following 1997 polls, he fought and won against Reuben Chesire, a veteran KANU politician to clinch the Eldoret North parliamentary seat. Since then, Ruto has scaled the system to occupy positions of Assistant Minister, Cabinet Minister and now Deputy President.

While he has faced his set of political travails, the highly strategic politician rarely derails his ambitions. However, his current occupation at the Presidency displays visible signs of disrepute with the powers to be in an office he worked so hard to occupy. The repeated actions of isolation, humiliation by his juniors and exclusion from key government decisions point to political maneuvers by the ‘Deep State’, conventional politics at play and  betrayal, as has been the case before.


The Deep State is a “hidden or covert network of power operating independently of a state’s political leadership, in pursuit of their own agenda and goals”. In Kenya’s case, it makes reference to high ranking members of the public service, a cabal of overly aggressive business operatives and a cohort of ruthless power brokers who must have their say in whoever occupies the highest office in the land.

Every other political jurisdiction breeds such a lethal political population leading to outcomes that tend to shock their citizens. In sparse occasions, tables turn against the ‘Deep State’ and hitherto political underdogs carry the day. In Kenya, the Jomo Kenyatta reign had a network of Kikuyu elites — the Kiambu Mafia — who profiled themselves as the absolute decision makers insofar ax Kenyatta’s succession was concerned.

The then Vice President, Daniel Toroitich arap Moi faced so much of humiliation that accessing state facilities was a nightmare. A number of recorded details indicate that power brokers such as the then Molo MP Kihika Kimani swore to physically assault the Vice President. In fact, British author Andrew Morton in his biography on Moi notes that senior Rift Valley police commandant James Mungai twice assaulted him during the Kenyatta era.

Daniel Moi and Charles Njonjo. [File, Standard]

Moi would, however and with the help of Charles Njonjo, out-maneuver the deep state and make his way to State House.

In the post-Moi’s era, President Mwai Kibaki had his own version of the ‘Deep State’. Despite his ‘hands-off’ approach in politics, a number of Cabinet ministers, permanent secretaries and the ‘Muthaiga Club’, a group of wealthy individuals, still held substantial influence on his decisions. The group sacking of the entire ‘Orange’ brigade in the 2005 referendum was, of course, a collective decision of the deep state.

His succession plans after a highly disputed 2007 reelection focused on identifying a compromise candidate away from the ever-unpredictable Raila Odinga.

One probable candidate was Musalia Mudavadi. However, aggressive galvanisation of campaign machinery and ethnic numbers by Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto overrun the deep state proposal.


The Deputy President, after satisfying the University of Nairobi’s Senate and attaining a Doctor of Philosophy in Plant Ecology, has a new addition and is Dr Ruto.

While that piece of information is no news, his rise to that position brings the traits of an aggressive, ambitious and resilient politician. It’s also recurrent evidence of his belief in the maxim ‘The end justifies the means’.

He, alongside Uhuru Kenyatta, faced crimes against humanity charges at The Hague. Despite that, they teamed up with Kenyatta to form the Jubilee Coalition that won the 2013 General Election against the CORD coalition led by the then Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.

Ruto had a smooth first term as Uhuru’s principal assistant with many observers noting that it’s him who welded state power. This has, however, changed and the former Eldoret North MP is increasingly being isolated, especially after the March 9 handshake between Uhuru and Raila.

His wing in Jubilee — Team Tangatanga — has emerged as the opposition, always attacking the government in which he is the second in command.

This is despite Ruto ally and Jubilee Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen saying Jubilee is still united.

“We shall not allow ourselves to be divided. UHURUTO are Conjoined twins currently facing the challenge of managing a captured opposition with us the members of Jubilee having divergent opinion about it. But make no mistake we shall COMPLETE the journey together. No shortcut.”

The latest humiliation is his reported blocking from his official residence in Mombasa.

The Digital Duo of 2013 is longer there and each is blowing his own whistle. The 2022 line-up seems to have formed itself. It is the Deep State Vs William Samoei Ruto. Who will have the last laugh? Only time will tell.


Dennis Mwangi comments on social and political issues

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