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Deputy President Ruto courts Museveni's support

As electoral rivalries get ever more complex in Nairobi, a leading presidential contender seeks backing in Kampala

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni says that his meeting with Kenya's Deputy President William Ruto last week was simply a gathering of neighbouring leaders. But to State House watchers in Nairobi it's all about a rival candidate on manoeuvres ahead of next year's elections.

Despite a lack of independent evidence, the Deputy President's team briefed journalists that Museveni favours a Ruto presidency over Raila Odinga, and that an endorsement is on the way. Museveni's officials were scrupulously diplomatic, insisting that there was little political significance to the meeting. Many of Ruto's business interests, including large farming operations, are in Uganda, although the source of his wealth has never been explained.

Ruto mooted the prospect of Museveni leading an East African Federation. It is unclear how such as organisation would be different to the current six-nation East African Community. Yet Museveni is on record that he would like such a job before he retires to 'go back to my cows' (AC Vol 62 No 13, A slightly bigger tent).

Ruto's rivals in Nairobi are stuck in court as they try to rescue their Building Bridges Initiative. As another sign of the Deputy President's confidence, his aides told journalists that their man had asked Museveni to intervene as a regional elder statesman to heal Ruto's rift with President Uhuru Kenyatta (AC Vol 62 No 14, Why the dynasties fear Ruto).

That would be an important test. Relations between Kenyatta and Museveni have been warm for much of the last decade (AC Vol 56 No 18, Warming up the Kenyatta-Museveni axis).

Ruto's bid points to some of the diplomatic manoeuvres within the region that the presidential contenders will make ahead of next August's elections. Unlike Odinga, Musalia Mudavadi and Kalonzo Musyoka, Ruto has little diplomatic support or international reputation. Tanzanian support could also be in play following the death of President John Magufuli, a close ally of Odinga.

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