Ever since former President Uhuru Kenyatta formally handed over power to his deputy-turned-political foe, Dr William Samoei Ruto, there have been signs of a “Cold War” that may not end soon even. In fact, the former President is still giving an impression of not yielding the floor any time soon in his battle with his successor.
Mr Kenyatta paints a picture of being disillusioned and wounded but not defeated. He remains patronising in the affairs of Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, as its chairman. This is the new Opposition, with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga having recently lost in an election. He still is sending mixed signals over Ruto’s presidency!
Even after the Supreme Court ruled that Dr Ruto won, Mr Kenyatta went ahead to co-chair an opposition meeting with Mr Odinga and made negative pronouncements about the winner: “I will hand over power smiling because it is my constitutional duty but my leader is Baba (read Odinga)....”
There was speculation that Mr Kenyatta might not attend President-elect Ruto’s inauguration. He did, nonetheless, on September 13, 2022. Unsurprisingly, as the former President sat amid foreign dignitaries, newly minted Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua told him off using unkind language, which was widely seen as a personal attack.
In a recent interview with a Kikuyu media station, Mr Kenyatta brazenly said that he was going nowhere but only “changing the home address”. He said: “I have left the job and I’m going to start another one.” Analysts believe he will still sponsor an opponent of the Ruto administration. In a brief speech after Supreme Court verdict, Mr Kenyatta stressed that “the war is not over; I am going to start another one”, suggesting that he would continue fighting his successor. His body language showed it.
After the electoral commission declared Ruto the election winner, Mr Kenyatta didn’t congratulate him or even mention his name—until their State House meeting on the eve of Ruto’s inauguration.
On the contrary, President Ruto avoided exchanging words with his former boss. He instead promised to respect the former Head of State and that no political “retaliation” or “punishment” whatsoever would be meted out on him. But Ruto allies seem to continue with revenge politics—a situation that is deepening rivalry instead of reconciliation.
When former Presidents Daniel arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki went into retirement, they took a back seat from active politics. Besides sidelining Ruto and rallying behind his archrival Odinga in the elections, he humiliated his deputy and even deployed state resources against his campaign—yet Ruto somehow triumphed.
I see Mr Kenyatta not retiring during his ‘retirement’. I see the onslaught against Ruto continuing, with Mr Kenyatta’s blessing. Didn’t he vow to “keep the fight on”? But will he succeed in his endeavours?