In Summary
  • From 2022 to 2032, Deputy President William Ruto believed, he would be president, taking over from Uhuru Kenyatta.
  • That promise to Ruto appears to be hanging by a thread at the moment.
  • It is not only Ruto who is finding it hard to springboard from the deputy presidency to the big seat.

He was promised 10 years in power after his boss leaves.

From 2022 to 2032, Deputy President William Ruto believed, he would be president, taking over from his current boss Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Wangoje miaka kumi, Uhuru amalize kazi yake; halafu wangoje miaka zingine kumi, Ruto amalize kazi yake, halafu sasa wakitaka, watakuja waunde yao,” Mr Kenyatta once said as he threw a jibe at the ever-critical opposition led by ODM leader Raila Odinga during his first term in office.

PROMISE

It translates to: “Let them wait for 10 years for Uhuru to finish his work. Then they should wait for another 10 years for Ruto to finish his; then they can come and make their own government.”

That promise to Ruto appears to be hanging by a thread at the moment.

What looked certain to Ruto three years ago — when  he agreed to dissolve his United Republican Party to merge with The National Alliance and other small parties to form the Jubilee Party — now has a “nothing is assured” stamp all over it.

Interestingly, it is not only Ruto who is finding it hard to springboard from the deputy presidency to the big seat.

It has been a more or less similar script with Kenya’s vice-presidents, including:

  • Jaramogi Oginga Odinga

The fist vice-president of independent Kenya was the second-in-command for just two years, between 1964 and 1966.

The camaraderie and nationalist spirit between him and founding President Jomo Kenyatta in the early days of Kenya as a self-ruling entity did not last long, especially with the Cold War undercurrents that were sweeping across the world.

Jaramogi was leaning to the socialist side led by China and Russia while Mr Kenyatta favoured the capitalist bloc led by the US.

The friction eventually led to the resignation of Jaramogi, who effectively quit the independence party, Kanu, to form the Kenya People’s Union.

He henceforth became the leader of opposition against Mr Kenyatta, but his attempts to rise to the presidency were checkmated by the government of Mr Daniel Moi, Mr Kenyatta’s successor, who, for the better part of his reign, imposed a one-party rule.

He finished fourth in the 1992 General Election that Mr Moi won.

He died two years later.

  • Joseph Murumbi

He succeeded Jaramogi but held the vice-president’s office for just nine months — from May to November 1966.

Historians describe Mr Murumbi as a man who had a purist approach to governance and was thus perturbed by the massive land grabbing and authoritarianism of the Jomo Kenyatta administration.

He resigned and kept off politics until his death in 1990.

  • Daniel arap Moi

He is so far the only vice-president in Kenya’s history to have assumed the presidency after the demise of the boss.

But it never came on a silver platter.

He came into office five months after Mr Murumbi left and, given his not-so-conventional path to the top, Mr Moi was often a target of the inner circle of Kenya’s first president.

It did not help matters that for most of the time that Mr Moi was vice-president, Jomo was ailing and weakening, which triggered a vicious succession war.

The war took tribal lines and the confidantes of Jomo wanted a Kikuyu to succeed the founding president.

There was even a push to amend the Constitution to do away with the automatic assumption of office by the vice-president if the president dies.

It took Jomo’s resoluteness to ward off such attempts and, when he died in August 1978, Mr Moi took over as the acting president.

The Constitution required an election to be held after 90 days and, thanks to the political support Mr Moi had marshalled, he was elected unopposed.

He would go ahead to rule for 24 years, during which he played the political chess with the vice- president’s role in ways not seen before.

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