In Kenya's Ruto, Museveni has found the perfect EAC partner

East Africa

On August, 15, Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declared former Deputy President William Ruto as the winner of the highly contested presidential election.

He subsequently became the country’s fifth president, succeeding his boss Uhuru Kenyatta with whom he fell out.

The election that passed on as a very peaceful one developed glitches at the level of announcing the winner, with four commissioners of the IEBC withdrawing from the bench citing opaqueness in the system while the commission chairman, Wafula Chebukati had to withstand pressure and flashes of violence, to announce Ruto as winner.

On the sideshows however, Ruto’s main competitor and five time aspirant Raila Odinga was a no show, grumbling to the media that the election was null and void as it did not not reflect the choice of Kenyans.

The bigger question is: How did Ruto manage to uproot a deep state system that had been designed to fail him?

Key to note is that Ruto was congratulated by counterparts across East Africa including Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, who had been a huge subject in the campaigns.

In a tweet on August 16, Museveni revealed that he had telephoned Ruto to congratulate him upon the victory.

Ruto and Museveni’s friendship dates back many years. Besides Uhuru Kenyatta, Ruto is the Kenyan leader who has visited President Museveni the most times and held talks behind closed doors.

The other Kenyan politicians who have courted Museveni regularly are Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka.

Odinga recent meeting with Museveni took place three months before the election in Kenya.

Prior to the May visit, Odinga had accompanied Museveni to campaign in Iganga District in December 2010.

When given the microphone to speak to the people in Iganga, Odinga said he was happy to have visited his “old friend and comrade”.

"I am here to visit my old friend and comrade. This is my home because I have had good relationship with people here. This is also where I have been given safe passage whenever I have needed it," he said.

Museveni, Ruto a better match

Irrespective of Raila’s side friendship with Museveni, the latter fancies Ruto according to sources, because he understands the business and economic perspectives of both Uganda and Kenya.

Ruto has studied Museveni’s interests perfectly and he knows how to speak his way into the Ugandan leader’s heart.

Indeed in August last year, Raila’s handler Junet Muhammed lambasted Ruto for being a strong admirer of Museveni adding that he (Ruto) "will also not relinquish power if he captures it in Kenya."

But why Ruto?

Museveni wants to continue as the kingpin of East Africa, a position, some say would have put him at odds with Kenya had Odinga become president.

With Ruto, who respects and appreciates Museveni, and with the Kenyan impact on Uganda’s economy, it would be easier for Museveni to deal with Ruto than any other candidates presented in the Kenyan race.

This is because the two have already been dealing together, from business to other aspects of life, with President Museveni in 2018 pledging $100,000 towards the construction of the ‘William Ruto Institute of African Studies that is to be erected at Makerere University.

This is an indicator of the good relations between the two leaders and this in turn benefits Uganda at large.

With Kenya being the biggest gateway for Uganda to the sea, such close relations between the leaders of the two countries are of much importance.

With the mended relations with Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, South Sudan’s Salva Kiir, Burundi’s Évariste Ndayishimiye, Samia Suluhu(Tanzania), Felix Tshisekedi(DRC) and now Ruto, Museveni's wish of having a united East Africa will be realised.

East African Community

Whereas Uhuru Kenyatta also championed the East African Community just like President Museveni does, the new Kenyan leader is also a good choice for Uganda as far as regional integration is concerned.

For many years, Ruto has been singing praises for President Museveni over integration of the East African region.

For example in 2015, during the 2016 presidential campaigns, at a rally in Kapchorwa, Ruto struck a lifetime partnership with Museveni as he rallied support for him as a way of uniting both countries.

He told the locals that both countries are engaged in joint development projects like the road from Kapchorwa- Bukwo-Swam in Uganda to Katale in Kenya as one of the ways to foster togetherness as the East African community and said this would enhance development..

To Museveni, these words were music to his ears and getting someone with almost a similar thinking, especially towards the integration of the East African region will ensure they walk a similar path.

The NRM director for communication, Emmanuel Ddombo told Kenya’s Daily Nation "Ruto is a very good friend of President Museveni, Uganda and the NRM as a party. That is why he came and campaigned for our presidential candidate one time. This is the brotherhood of the African people."

Trade

Uhuru Kenyatta’s term has seen the trade relations between Uganda and Kenya be frost with the banning of Ugandan milk products, chicken and eggs from entering the Kenyan market.

The same happened for Ugandans maize that was banned from entering the Kenyan market after claims of having aflatoxins but those who in the know of things insist this was a protectionism tactic by the Nairobi establishment.

Whereas efforts by both governments to sit and resolve the matter have been undertaken, there has not been a headway as Kenya continues to behave in “a funny” way towards Ugandan agricultural products.

Many have questioned the rationale behind Kenya banning Ugandan chicken products like eggs and maize from entering their market but on the other side, Ugandan farmers buy chicks from their country.

However, many believe that the election of Ruto will ease the tensions over trade because he is a close ally to Museveni.

Additional reporting by Crispus Mugisha.

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