Kenya’s president Mwai Kibaki in an unusual but not surprising move has sacked Higher Education Minister, William Ruto. The decision to remove Ruto from the cabinet seems to have stemmed from the disparity between him and Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Ruto is deputy leader of Oding’a Orange party but hailing from a different tribe. Ruto is also currently facing corruption charges, and a constitutional Court ruling on a six-year-old corruption case accusing him of illegally selling land to a state corporation, may have been effected, and that has seen his removal from office.
William Ruto is the tentative leader of the Kalenjin community in the volatile Rift Valley region. He is also looked upon as a prospective presidential candidate for the 2012 elections. The rift between Ruto and Odinga seems to have emanated from differences between the two men over the handling of jailed youths from the Rift Valley who were implicated in the post-election violence. Ruto also opposed Odinga’s stand regarding encroachment of the Mau Forest Complex, the region’s biggest forest block, which had been invaded by members of Ruto’s Kalenjin community. Prime Minister had favoured their eviction but William Ruto had demanded that they should be compensated before they were moved out.
The relationship between Odinga and Ruto is now beyond salvation, especially after Ruto led the campaign against the passing of the new constitution, a stance that was seriously opposed by Odinga. In the process, Ruto was able to muster well over two million votes, which firmly established him as an independent political force. According to Ruto, if he could garner such a following in a such a short time, what would he be able to do between now and election time in 2012? William Ruto’s departure from the cabinet is seen by many as a confirmation that Raila Odinga has become a potent force working hard as an ally of Kibaki, something unthinkable just a few months back. A lot of people have also interpreted Odinga’s move as being partly motivated by the fact had Ruto had led a rebel faction composed mainly of Kalenjin MPs in opposing Odinga within the Orange party. Whether the corruption charges hanging over the head of Ruto wil stop him from solidifying his political base, only time will tell. But he is a force to be reckon with and might potentially ruin the chances of Odinga ever becoming president of Kenya, a dream the Prime Minister had held for a very long time.
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