A decade ago, an unlikely but successful alliance between two Kenyan politicians – Uhuru Kenyatta, from the government side, and William Ruto, from the opposition side – happened. The two ended up forming the Kenyan government, headed by the former.
The two had been entangled in ongoing criminal cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The criminal case had resulted from the results of a contested election in which they supported opposing sides.
The two had borne the brunt of the contested election’s aftermath that left over one thousand dead and hundreds of thousands internally displaced in the East African Nation that is bordered by Somalia to the east.
The main thrust of the violence was a ‘stolen’ election. William Ruto’s supporters were part of the opposition that claimed election foul play. They literally took the law into their arms and initiated a mass eviction of government supporters who had homes in their strongholds.
One lingering image of the opposition mayhem – that sticks to William Ruto’s image like a tick and which his detractors use as a political weapon – was the killing of alleged government supporters who had sought refuge in a church.
The victims, comprising women and children, were torched inside the church, after being surrounded to prevent them from escaping.
The government supporters would retaliate by organizing tribal militias, accused of, among other atrocities, forcing the circumcision of opposition male supporters.
The two politicians ended up enduring most of the responsibility. William Ruto ICC indictment was based on his alleged support of opposition chaos. Uhuru Kenyatta’s ICC indictment was based on alleged support for the retaliatory attacks.
The eventual international-community-led arbitration led by the late United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, painstakingly managed to call a truce between the opposing camps. William Ruto played a key role, some would say ‘hard line’ one, as part of the opposition negotiators.
The resulting coalition government incorporated the opposition. Notable among the beneficiaries were Uhuru Kenyatta, who became the Deputy Prime Minister, and William Ruto, who was allocated a major government department as a minister.
It is notable that none of the politicians ever apologized to the mourning families or the hundreds of thousands of the internally displaced.
As unlikely as it would have initially appeared, the coming together of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto a decade ago has defined the Kenyan political, social, and economic trajectory.
William Ruto’s supporters believed or were made to believe that by supporting Uhuru Kenyatta’s candidature, the other camp would reciprocate after the expiry of the latter’s constitutional term.
Halfway through Uhuru Kenyatta’s constitutionally possible 10-year-term and the cracks began to appear within the alliance. It all began with a successful, albeit contested re-election campaign.
As if history was repeating itself, Uhuru Kenyatta embraced the opposition chief and, amidst William Ruto’s protests, developed a working arrangement (a.k.a. the handshake) with the hitherto political rival, Raila Amolo Odinga.
The original reciprocity expectations by William Ruto’s supporters evaporated, with Uhuru Kenyatta covertly and overtly indicating a lack of faith in his deputy.
One would be forgiven for saying that both of their current words and actions leave no doubt that their alliance was solely for their own political expediency.
The two are now leading rival political camps, and boy, none of them seems to have any good words or deeds for the other. Is there something – besides their obvious and covert political rhetoric – they are hiding from everyone?