Palace intrigue grips Kenya’s ruling Jubilee party, as President Uhuru Kenyatta continues to undermine Deputy President William Ruto. Key allies of Ruto’s—senate majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, majority whip Susan Kihika, and senate deputy speaker Kindiki Kithure—have been relieved of their positions along with agriculture cabinet secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.
Kiunjuri and Kithure had both been pegged as potential running mates for Ruto in the 2022 presidential election.
The past two years has seen a widening rift between the two.
Kenyatta’s about-face towards his deputy president would have been inconceivable a decade ago, when the two seemed to be in accord regarding governance of the country and while they both faced charges at the International Criminal Court for post-election violence in 2007. Yet the past two years has seen a widening rift between the two, who have frequently butted heads over major government projects such as the Building Bridges Initiative (Kenyatta’s effort to reform the national legislature) and management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A secret electoral pact made between Jubilee and the Kenya African National Union party, opposed by the Jubilee faction aligned with Ruto, along with Kenyatta’s reconciliation with his bitter presidential rival Raila Odinga solidified the split between the president and his deputy.
While the situation may look dire for Ruto’s political prospects, frustration among the Kikuyu in Kenya’s Rift Valley, a voting bloc critical for Kenyatta’s victory in the 2017 repeat election, may see this group vote for Ruto in 2022. The Kikuyu tend to vote for candidates from their ethnic group—Ruto belongs to the Kipsigis tribe of the Kalenjin people—but their dissatisfaction with Kenyatta’s performance may cause a political upset down the line.