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William Ruto, the “resourceful” billionaire

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Coming from a modest family, who became one of the richest men in Kenya, William Ruto presents himself as the candidate of the poor, facing the alliance of the “dynasties” of Kenyan political life, embodied by the duo Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta. At 55, the outgoing vice-president, with a sulphurous past, is seeking the presidential chair for the first time.

From our correspondent in Nairobi,

He attended school barefoot, wore his first pair of shoes at 15 and sold eggs and chickens on the side of the Rift Valley roads: William Ruto came from a modest family and loved remind him.

Starting from nothing, having become a successful businessman – one of the richest in his country – the 50-year-old presents himself as the herald of ” Hustler Nation », the nation of the « resourceful ». He makes his journey and his meteoric rise a campaign argument, a slogan, almost a brand. And the posture is a hit in a country hit by galloping inflation, where three out of ten Kenyans live on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank. And where, according to Oxfam, the wealth of the two richest Kenyans exceeds the combined income of 30% of the population, or 16.5 million people.

But the vice-president’s journey is less smooth than this legend would like. A graduate in science, briefly a teacher, William Ruto studied politics in the 1990s with Daniel Arap Moi – the only Kalenjin president Kenya has known. He engages, precisely, within the sulphurous youths of Kanu, the party of the autocrat, sadly famous for having pursued the members of the Kikuyu ethnic group in the Rift Valley during these years.

His first attempt to be elected, in 1997, was successful. He became MP for the constituency of Eldoret North and quickly established himself as an influential personality within the party. At 36, he is propelled minister. He held various portfolios, including those of Education, and the Interior, then achieved a tour de force: becoming vice-president in 2013, presenting himself as the running mate ofUhuru Kenyatta, candidate of the previously rival Kikuyu ethnic group. This masterful reversal of alliance, of which Kenya is customary, shocks public opinion. And for good reason: five years earlier, the two men clashed through interposed communities during a post-election crisis which caused more than 1,000 deaths and which then earned them both to be charged by the International Penal Court (CPI), accused of having played a leading role in orchestrating the violence.

Their alliance, dubbed the “coalition of the accused”, aims to join forces to bury these lawsuits. And it works. As soon as the duo was elected, a vast campaign of intimidation and disappearance of witnesses began, which forced the ICC to drop the charges against the two men. lack of evidence “. The trial of Paul Gicherua Kenyan lawyer accused of having bribed and intimidated witnesses to the point of making it impossible to continue the proceedings against William Ruto, however opened on February 15 in The Hague.

The also provides that Uhuru Kenyatta will support the candidacy of his vice-president for his succession in 2022. The future seems all mapped out for William Ruto. But on this point, their alliance breaks. In 2018, Uhuru Kenyatta made a new about-face by bringing this time closer to Raila Odingauntil then his eternal opponent, whom he now supports for the presidential candidacy.

As a fine strategist, Willam Ruto, the vice-president who is now a candidate, remains in office, while working to build his status as an opponent. And does not hesitate – after having nevertheless spent more than 10 years at the heart of the state apparatus – to pose as a challenger to the establishment, faced with the alliance of dynasties embodied by Odinga and Kenyatta.

William Ruto go on campaign very early. Travels the country in a cap and polo shirt, multiplies the projections against the balance sheet of Uhuru Kenyatta to better dissociate himself from it. He castigates Raila Odinga as “the puppet” of the outgoing president. Christian ” born again Claimed and father of six children, he promises above all to “get out of the despair of millions of people” by developing a bottom-up economy. In several recent interviews, he even prides himself on replacing ethnic divisions – a regular source of competition in Kenyan politics – with a social division.

Is this enough to make us forget his sulphurous past and the long series of scandals and accusations of corruption with which his name is associated and which the candidate has always carefully swept aside? The extent of his fortune and the plots of land he acquired in the west and on the Kenyan coast are the subject of much suspicion. This is also a point he shares in common with the deputy Righathi Gachagua, whom he chose as his running mate (see box).

Regarding the August 9 election, since the start of the campaign, William Ruto has continued to blow hot and cold. He promises that he will accept the result of the election, whatever it is, and says he trusts the electoral commission to organize an election ” credible “. But that does not prevent him at the same time from multiplying outings intended to discredit the electoral roll, or from accusing officials of putting pressure on civil servants and holding night meetings intended to plot with the aim of prevent you from winning the election.

Righati Gachagua, a running mate accused of corruption

At 57, Righati Gachagua likes to present himself as the son of a family of fighters for the independence of Kenya, 8th of a family of 9 children. A graduate in political science, he started in the civil service under Daniel Arap Moi, then in 2001 became the personal assistant of Uhuru Kenyatta, minister at the time. The two men walk together for 5 years and then get angry. Once elected deputy in 2017, Rigathi Gachagua became one of the fiercest opponents of the outgoing president. He hails from Nyeri County, the richest in voters within Mount Kenya, the country’s main reservoir of votes. This is one of the reasons why he was preferred as a running mate to the favorite Senator Kithure Kindiki. The other explanation is probably due to the extent of his immense fortune, and the resulting capacity for mobilization.

15 days before the vote, justice has also caught up with him on this subject. An anti-corruption judge ordered him to return to the state the equivalent of 1.7 million euros, acquired illegally. According to the country’s Asset Recovery Agency, ARA, Rigathi Gachagua is involved in a complex money laundering scheme involving several companies that received funds from ministries before the money was transferred to his personal accounts. But the deputy appealed. And this court decision seems to have had a measured echo in public opinion “He is the living example of a true resourcefulness who rose from the aftermath of our struggle for freedom to the summit of professional, commercial and political success. “, boasted William Ruto when announcing having chosen him as a running mate.


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