In just seven days, Deputy President William Ruto has skipped four key state functions raising questions.
Last week, the DP was absent as President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the celebration of 100 days in office by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, and later during the closure of a training of officers who will oversee the countrywide rollout of Kazi Mtaani initiative.
On Monday, July 6, he was nowhere to be seen as the president addressed the nation on the easing of COVID-19 restrictions from Harambee House flanked by Cabinet secretaries, principal secretaries and other leaders.
He was also missing on Tuesday, July 7, during a virtual meeting bringing together all CSs, PSs, and Chief administrative secretaries where Uhuru outlined his government’s development priorities for the new financial year that began on July 1.
The DP was ironically hosting a delegation of church leaders from Nyeri county at his Karen office as the head of state was re-energising his team for the tough task of consolidating his legacy.
Word has it that during Monday’s address, Ruto was holed up in his Harambee Annex office that is a stone-throw away from Harambee House.
It is during the virtual meeting on Tuesday that the DP’s isolation and diminishing role in government became even clearer.
The president was full of praise for Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and PS Karanja Kibicho saying the two had proved “their effectiveness in overseeing government development programmes.
Matiang’i chairs the powerful National Development Implementation and Communication Cabinet Committee while Kibicho heads the National Development Implementation Technical Committee.
The two also chair weekly meetings involving CSs and PSs pursuant to Executive Order No. 1 of 2019 that elevated the Ministry of Interior to be the coordinator for all flagship state programmes and projects in the country.
Their elevation was widely seen as eating into the powers of the DP, who hitherto spearheaded the inspection and launching of projects countrywide.
Ruto was, however, accused of abusing his position and derailing the president’s agenda by obstinately using ‘development tours’ to drum up support for his 2022 presidential bid.
He also found himself in the eye of a storm over the endless launching of new projects, a majority of which are reported to have stalled because they were commissioned before they were budgeted for, or before the contracts were completed.
The DP has since the introduction of the Executive order been marginally involved in the pushing the government’s development agenda.
Uhuru appeared to emphasise the need for status quo to remain during this week’s virtual meeting, ordering CSs out of their posh offices in Nairobi to inspect development plans while once again declaring that not a single new project should be launched without his express authority.
The declaration dealt yet another blow to Ruto after a visibly angry president earlier this year vowed to oversee development projects himself, stating he no longer trusted anyone with them.
“Those I used to send to represent me to ensure that development projects are on the right track started behaving like hyenas and doing their own things to enrich themselves.
“Let no one cheat you, from today, I’m not sending anyone to help me. I’ll do it on my own,” he said while addressing Nyandarua residents in February.
In recent weeks, there had been a flurry of activities as the president deployed his trusted Cabinet secretaries and other officials across the country to supervise the accelerated completion of development projects.
With just over two years to go to the end of his term, he is literally in a fight against time to cement his legacy.
He underscored this reality by telling senior public servants that focus during the current fiscal year will be on completion of ongoing priority projects and programmes that he said must be strictly executed within set timelines and budgets.
As had been the case with Ruto, the president was reported to have read the riot act to politicking CSs, CASs and PSs who have silently launched their campaigns for various positions ahead of 2022.
He said collective responsibility should be demonstrated by enhanced presence and visibility of government on the ground.
The remarks came in the wake of a looming reshuffle that could see Ruto’s allies kicked out of the Cabinet where they were seen as impediments.