Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What does 2011 portend for William Ruto?

A key plank of William Ruto's defense is that the ICC prosecutor relied on the reports prepared by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights and the Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence which, he claims, relied on false witnesses and that the ICC prosecutor should be compelled to conduct 'fresh' investigations in order to be in a position to issue credible summonses or warrants against him. However, his vitriol seems to have been reserved for the Florence Jaoko-headed KNHCR, especially Commissioner Omar Hassan Omar. This correspondent will be the first to acknowledge that Commissioner Omar is a faintly comical and deeply annoying individual, wearing his sanctimoniousness as a suit of armour and pontificating on anything and everything that is in the public domain. What is still in doubt, despite his refusal to sit down with officers from the Criminal Investigations Department of the Kenya Police, is that he is solely responsible for the coaching and bribing of witnesses to finger William Ruto, implicating him in the PEV.

Mr. Ruto and his acolytes, including Isaac Ruto, Charles Keter and Joshua Kutuny, have been heavy with the innuendo but scant with the evidence of Commissioner Omar's connivance in the framing of William Ruto. Uhuru Kenyatta went to the High Court to have his name expunged from the KNHCR report on the PEV and failed. Mr. Ruto must have realised that such a move on his part would have met with similar failure and he chose a public-relations assault on the edifice of the KNHCR, with mixed results.
It was not until the Head of the Civil Service was named in the ICC prosecutors application to the Pre-Trial Chamber II that he found support in the erstwhile Central Province. In other words, the likes of Kareke Mbiuki, Silas Ruteere Muriuki, Ephraim Maina and Jeremiah Kioni are what could be charitably described as fair-weather friends; they only joined the anti-ICC bandwagon when one of theirs was named. They are not in the fight to save Mr. Ruto's hide from the visceral attentions of the ICC prosecutor, but they are in it because one of their own is in the hot seat. If the good ambassador is indicted, tried and convicted by the ICC, it may, perhaps, bring unwanted attention into the activities of his staunchest defenders in the run-up to, and during and after the disputed 2007 general election. If indeed this is their primary motivation, if for whatever reason the ICC prosecutor fails to make his case to the Pre-trial Chamber II regarding Amb. Muthaura, Mr. Ruto may well find himself fighting a rear-guard action on his own. He will have no one to blame but himself.

It is increasingly apparent that the ODM only decided to defend Mr. Ruto as it would have been unseemly for them to defend Mr Kosgei, the party chairman, without defending an erstwhile strong pillar of the ODM house. The same rationale applies with regards to chairman Kosgei: if the ICC fails to make its case against him, Mr. Ruto will find himself on his own and phrases like "let him carry his own cross" will flow once more.

In 2007, ODM engaged in a series of primaries to determine who would be its presidential flag-bearer. Raila Odinga, by virtue of his wealth, his history and his personal popularity won the contest hands down and his former challengers offered him their staunch support in his contest with Mwai Kibaki. It is a truism that Mr. Ruto rallied the Rift Valley in favour of Mr. Odinga, bringing out the vote in the populous Kalenjin community. He was extremely vocal in the aftermath of the elections, taking hard-line positions when it became apparent that Mr. Kibaki's men were hell-bent in fiddling with the election results. In fact, Mr. Ruto will be hard-pressed to explain away his echoing of the 'mass-action' calls that his acolytes want to hang around the PM's neck. In the negotiations that led to the National Accord, Mr. Odinga relied on Mr. Ruto to arrange the most favourable deal for the ODM. In return for his services, Mr. Ruto was appointed the Minister for Agriculture. It is at this point that things went sideways.

Even during the electioneering period, it was apparent that Kenya was in the midst of a severe famine and that millions of Kenyans were in desperate need of food aid. As Minister, Mr. Ruto was responsible for the effort to provide relief food to the stricken Kenyans. But as is common in Kenya, politicians and civil servants never let a catastrophe slow them down in profiteering. Allegations were levelled against the government that individuals linked to the powers-that-be were benefitting unfairly from the sale of maize stocks from the granaries of the National Cereals and Produce Board. Mr. Ruto was accused of complicity; he challenged his accusers, managing to survive a Motion of No Confidence in the National Assembly. At this point, he started seeing himself as the equal of the Prime Minister and that it was the Prime Minister who was his greatest stumbling block in his road to State House. His relationship with his party's senior-most leader took a turn for the worse from which it has never recovered.

All the while, the CIPEV was holding hearings and the KNHCR was preparing its damning report. Mr. Justice Philip Waki is no stranger to the way the government, and politicians by extension, operate. He had just survived Aaron Ringera's radical surgery and he was in no mood to see his Commission's hard work ignored, or worse still shelved. It is only after he gave Kofi Annan his famous envelope with names of 20 persons the Commission recommended further investigations on that Mr. Ruto realised that his ambitions may have taken a serious knock. From then on, even after the publication of the KNHCR report, Mr. Ruto embarked on a low level insurgency against the Prime Minister, roping in supporters where he could find them. When he and his allies were outflanked by the Prime Minister during the PSC retreat in Naivasha, he joined the NO side in earnest, unsheathing his sword against the Prime Minister in public. Needless to say he has been one step behind the wily Raila Odinga every step of the way. Now he is in an untenable position. He has been suspended from the Cabinet, he is under investigation by the ICC and if the New Year is as bad as the old, he will be summoned to explain himself before the ICC Trial Chamber.

Mr. Ruto must survive the ICC process if his ambition to be president is to be realised. He will need his allies to keep the faith even if they have no reason to do so. He has the backing of the Vice President, but given his previous betrayal of the Orange Movement, the V-P's support may be a two-edged sword. Mr. Musyoka may gamble that it costs him nothing to support Mr. Ruto if in the end he is still indicted. So Mr. Ruto must muddy the waters as much as he can if he is to survive. He must cast doubt on the CIPEV report, the KNHCR report and on the good name of the ICC prosecutor. If the Pre-Trial Chamber accepts his arguments, then he may live to fight another day. If it does not and he is indeed indicted, then his career will enter uncharted waters so treacherous he may find himself sailing them alone.

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