Deputy President William Ruto told off his critics over his wealth yesterday at the National Prayer Breakfast.
He boldly said he had painstakingly washed his hands to dine with royalty.
However, his suggestion that Kenya could “donate” Opposition chief Raila Odinga to the United Kingdom as Prime Minister has triggered a war with ODM troops.
In a message that appeared directed at Raila and his new soul mate President Uhuru Kenyatta, the DP stated that not all tycoons from humble beginnings should be construed to be thieves.
Ruto said that when Uhuru’s father – founding President Jomo Kenyatta — died in 1978, he was herding cattle barefoot in Kamagut village and thought Mzee’s demise was “the end of the world”.
However, 41 years later, he is dining with Kenyatta’s son, in a clear demonstration that he has earned his stripes to sit at the high table.
“In 1978, when our founding father passed on, I remember it very well because we were on school holiday. I was looking after my father’s cows, we had to take them home, we ran literally because, in my mind, I thought it was the end of the world.”
Ruto was narrating his story to an attentive audience at the event intended for prayer and reflection. He spoke for about 10 minutes.
He went on, “In 1980, when I was in Standard 7 preparing for CPE, I went to do exams barefoot because it was the nature of the village. My father bought me my first shoes in 1981 for Sh60 from a Mr Onyango on the street because he could not afford Bata shoes.
“Why am I saying this? Today, as you can see, the gentleman who did not have shoes is sitting at the high table with the son of the founding father.”
During the National Prayer Breakfast prayer attended by President Kenyatta and his South Sudan counterpart Salva Kiir, Ruto asked his critics to spare him the flak because of the millions he donates in church fundraisers.
The DP spoke just a day after Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji asked clerics to reject questionable contributions to the church.
Raila has been Ruto’s harshest critics and has accused some religious leaders of allowing their churches to be used for money laundering.
“We need to ask if someone’s salary is Sh1 million a month, where do they get Sh5 million each week or between Sh15 and Sh20 million a month to hold fundraisers in churches?” Raila asked.
But Ruto claimed he has a special relationship with the church because of where God has brought him.
“So the confession I want to make is this: when you see some of us go to church and pray, lift up our hands, sometimes shed tears, make this or that contribution. is because we cannot forget where God has brought us from. I beg you to understand. Some of us have more to thank God for than some of you. So I beg you to understand because sometimes you judge us harshly,” he stated.
In yet another political tackle, Ruto said the war against corruption should not be weaponised against hard-working Kenyans to kill their dreams.
The DP said the should create an enabling environment for all to thrive because Kenya does not belong to the elite alone.
“As we pursue this noble course [of ridding the country of corruption], we must remember to inspire the hawker to own a kiosk and kiosk owner to own a shop and shop owner to own a mini market,” he said.
Ruto also said the war against graft should be based on facts and not falsehoods to ‘fix’ individuals.
“Uhuru Kenyatta and I were once victims of false testimony. It took the hand of God and prayer and we don’t want any Kenyan to suffer such again,” he said, referring to their presence at the ICC for their alleged roles in the 2008-08 PEV. The cases collapsed.
In February, Ruto publicly rebutted DCI boss George Kinoti’s assertion that Sh21 billion had been lost in the Arror and Kimwarer dam projects in Elgeyo Market.
Ruto claimed that only the expenditure of Sh7 billion was in question but said not a shilling was lost.
He later assailed Kinoti and Haji, saying they were being used to fight certain individuals from certain communities for political reasons.
Addressing the congregation, President Uhuru asked political leaders not to preach water and drink wine in the war against graft and the country’s unity.
“For those in leadership, if only, just for a moment, we could all just stop talking a little bit and put into practice the things we have said today, Kenya will be a different country in less than five years,” he said.
The head of state said Kenyans expect leaders to deliver on their promises and urged them to do the people’s will.
“Nothing else. You can sing from the rooftops, but all people want is for us to do what we have said,” Uhuru said in his brief address.
However, Ruto’s joking remark that Kenya could donate Raila as the UK premier quickly degenerated into a political war.
Raila’s ODM party immediately fired back, accusing Ruto of dragging the country back to the politics of personalised attacks against the former prime minister.
In a statement signed by ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna, the party faulted Ruto for “sustaining a petty, juvenile and ill-informed political onslaught on Raila”.
“Even the solemn occasion of prayer for the nation’s many problems for him was but another platform to take another swipe at Odinga,” Sifuna told a press conference at Orange House.
He went on, “We wish to make it clear that we are not prepared for empty sloganeering and promises of unity that do not translate into tangible results among the people.”
A UK preacher at the forum, Michael Hastings, had suggested Kenya could donate to them a PM following the resignation of Theresa May.
But ODM leaders did not take kindly to Ruto’s response.
The party said while at last year’s National Prayer Breakfast, leaders crossed ranks and agreed to bury the hatchet, Ruto’s outbursts call into question his sincerity to promote nationwide peace and tranquillity.
“A year later, questions abound about the genuineness of this annual spectacle and the sincerity of our leaders — the smiles, hugs and the niceties —none other than Ruto has dragged us backward,” he said.
The ODM officials said that while this year’s National Prayer Breakfast was supposed to build on last year’s healing manifested by the handshake, ironically, the DP has been consistently trying to derail the country.
He said the country has a myriad of problems that require solutions including corruption, land-grabbing, political blackmail and constant threats of violence — and “in all of which the DP’s imprimatur is almost always present”.
“That the DP gets to speak in these Prayer Breakfasts turns the event into a spectacle of hypocrisy,” Sifuna said.
He added, “The DP should focus on salvaging his dwindling political fortunes as the country has read through his political blackmail and will no longer take his lies.”
He was accompanied by ODM executive director Oduor Ong’wen and Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi.
The party blasted the DP’s proposal in jest to get the UK Prime Minister’s post, terming the gesture laughable “as we know who has the capacity to find employment for the other”.
“Kenyans know that it is Raila Odinga who gave Ruto a job as a minister in the Grand Coalition government, a job from which he was sacked due to rampant corruption,” Atandi said.
He continued, “In fact given his enthusiasm for finding jobs for Raila Odinga, jobs Raila has neither asked for nor needs, Ruto shall soon be calling all the unemployed youth to bring their CVs. They can march to his office and dump them there so he can find them jobs, as that should be his focus.”