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Kenya

Deputy President Ruto caught off-guard

After the courts throw out the constitutional reform plan, the political rivals resort to new tactics

The constitutional referendum may be off the agenda and Deputy President William Ruto's rivals may have been wrong-footed but the political battles are set to intensify. President Uhuru Kenyatta and his ally, erstwhile oppositionist Raila Odinga, are yet to reveal their alternative plans  – but they don't include the Deputy President.

The downgrading of Ruto's security detail in the week ending 28 August suggests there is little prospect of President Kenyatta and his estranged deputy reconciling ahead of next year's elections.

After the collapse of his Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a three-year constitutional reform project that was widely seen as a means to lock Ruto out of the race for the presidency in Odinga's favour, some believed that President Kenyatta would still climb down and endorse his deputy, with whom he founded the governing Jubilee Party (AC Vol 62 No 17, The bridge collapses).

Instead, Kenyatta has doubled down and has now withdrawn elite General Service Unit (GSU) security officers guarding Ruto's government and private residences. Days before that, in his first remarks since the BBI court ruling, he again expressed frustration at Ruto's criticisms of the government and urged him to quit if he is unhappy.

Ruto is still officially part of Jubilee but he has also been running his own United Democratic Alliance for the past year.

Ruto's office called the move: '…the latest instalment in a sustained and systematic effort to undermine the deputy president's personal security in pursuit of a political vendetta, and is consistent with a strategy to expose the deputy president of the republic to personal harm.'

The police have stated that the changes to Ruto's security detail were a 'normal re-assignment of duties' to 'enhance efficiency and effectiveness'.

Judges ruled the BBI unconstitutional on 20 August, confirming a previous ruling in May.

For now, this has boosted Ruto's campaign for the 2022 presidential elections next August. Amid growing media interest, he is putting together an economic programme as part of his 'Hustler Nation' campaign.



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