UDA, Uganda, and Ruto’s dilemma

When they emerged from their Parliamentary Group meeting, MPs supporting Deputy President William Ruto came out with a bold statement. 

They declared: “The governing Jubilee Party has collapsed. The opposition NASA coalition has disintegrated. The Hustler Nation has found a new home in the United Democratic Alliance.” 

All three statements are true. The Jubilee Party is following in the tradition of special purpose vehicles created for a General Election by failing to make it to the next elections as a strong party. The National Super Alliance effectively collapsed the day its principal, Raila Odinga, did The Handshake with President Kenyatta. It has also become quite obvious that Dr Ruto will use UDA as his political vehicle for the election. That Jubilee Party is dead was evident in its inability to put together a rebuttal to the assertion by the yellow-themed UDA that it is dead and misled by NASA, its vision lost.  

While the UDA statement came out triumphant and optimistic about itself and accusatory at what it views as an unholy alliance between NASA and Jubilee Party, reports from inside the meeting suggested there was more. 

The issue that bothers the pro-Ruto group is dual: whether to stay in Government, where he is embarrassed every other day, or storm out and cement his position as the opposition to his boss. 

The latest installment of embarrassment was the refusal by Immigration officials to allow him to get on a flight to Uganda. The block at Wilson Airport has led to several revelations: that he has been working to get a Turkish investor in Uganda, that he has been meeting Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni privately and that he aspires to model his party along the National Resistance Movement. 

While he is not the only Kenyan politician with business interests in neighbouring countries, Dr Ruto’s assistance to a foreigner to work in another country is likely to be seen as undermining his narrative as the patron of the Hustler Nation. An organized opponent would find much fodder, but that is where the issue lies; there is as yet no evidence of an opponent with the financial muscle and organizational power that the Deputy President has to become a worthy competitor. 

For those that have embarrassed him and gone after his supporters, the concern would also extend to what action he is likely to take if he ascends to the presidency in 2022. It is reasonable to expect that such action would mostly extend to their commercial interests and that it would be as ruthless as that the pro-Ruto politicians and supporters claim they have come up against.