Odinga wants to bring back ‘imperial presidency’, says Ruto

The presidential candidate launched a thinly-veiled swipe at President Uhuru Kenyatta’s endorsement of long-term rival Raila Odinga, who will face Ruto on 9 August.



Kenyan presidential candidate and Deputy President William Ruto has labelled the political system a ‘mongrel’ after President Uhuru Kenyatta endorsed long-term rival Raila Odinga for president.

Speaking at Chatham House in London, Ruto, who has served as Kenyatta’s deputy president since 2013, argued that there must be “clear demarcation” between opposition and government and said that the government is “blurring the lines” following Kenyatta’s Odinga endorsement.

“The result you see today in Kenya is there is no government and no opposition, you have a mongrel of a governance system… The leader of the opposition [Odinga] is a project of the system and the deep state of government… the leader of what is supposed to be the ruling party [Kenyatta] is actually a supporter or refugee in the opposition party,” he said.

Ruto will lead his United Democratic Alliance into the polls on 9 August after Kenyatta publicly endorsed long-time rival Raila Odinga on 23 February after years of tension with his deputy. In a sideswipe at the endorsement, Ruto dismissed suggestions that he needs Kenyatta’s support to win the election. 

‘’The question I am often asked is how will you succeed in your presidential campaign unless you have the support of Uhuru Kenyatta or the next guy, oblivious of that fact we have built the largest political party.”

Ruto said that he had been frozen out of decision making during Kenyatta’s second term, claiming that he helped push through important projects in the first term such as the Standard Gauge Railway and the expansion of the road network. He said that SME support, agricultural reform and “democratising the economy” would be at the heart of his offering to voters. 

‘Imperial presidency’

Ruto said that if elected his priority would be to complete the implementation of the “progressive” 2010 constitution, which he said would bring checks and balances to the governing system. Ruto was the lead spokesman for the ‘No’ side in the 2010 referendum on implementing the constitution, but has since come to support it. 

“On the other side we have our competitors who have doubts about our 2010 constitution and have proposed in the region of 72 different amendments in the BBI process [Building Bridges Initiative, a dialogue between Kenyatta and Odinga].

“They want to bring back an imperial presidency, they want more power given to the president, they want the president to have power over the judiciary, they want an entity called an ombudsman to supervise and superintend the judiciary.

“They want the president to go back to appointing ministers from Parliament, which in our opinion undermines the oversight responsibility of Parliament,” he claimed.

Memories of previous presidential contests have raised fears of a disputed result or the possibility of violence in August. In 2017, the Supreme Court ordered a re-run after Odinga contested Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga ultimately boycotted the rerun, handing Kenyatta a landslide victory.

Ruto pledged that the upcoming election would be free and fair, provided that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is “properly resourced.” He insisted he would accept the outcome of the election “whichever way it goes”

“A lot has been said about that election, I want to commit on this platform that we will work and deploy every resource within our ability to make sure the election is free, fair and peaceful. We have confidence in the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that they can deliver a credible election if they are properly resourced, supported both by government and our development partners and friends, as has been the tradition of support to IEBC.”

Ruto strongly opposed the Political Parties Amendment Bill, which was signed into law in January and is widely seen as favouring Odinga’s chances in the August contest.

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