Opinion: How DP Ruto’s Foreign Visit Has Severely Hurt His Political/Leadership Image
Deputy President William Ruto’s hurriedly-organized tour to the USA appears to have done more harm than good to his reputation, which he has been desperately working hard to rebuild in recent months.
DP William Ruto with US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Molly Phee at the State Department, Washington DC. Photo: William Ruto Facebook
The trip, which was supposed to elevate his stature, miscarried at every turn and exposed him and his delegation as clout chasers who are desperately seeking recognition ahead of the August 9 elections.
It all started with a low-key reception when they landed in the USA on Monday, February 28, followed by a series of embarrassments that involved stage-managing ‘high profile’ visits and meetings in what has come out as a desperate bid to prove a point.
Ruto’s director of communication Hussein Mohamed released a communique that the DP would visit the White House on Thursday, March 3, for a meeting with the US National Security Council.
But Ruto and his entourage, which included ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and former Foreign Affairs CAS Ababu Namwamba, were left with egg on their faces after the visit to the White House was proved to be imaginary.
A video shared by Hussein to show the said White House visit was widely fact-checked and rated false in a matter of minutes.
Ruto had visited the Eisenhower building, which is adjacent to the White House. It is like someone visiting and meeting junior staff at Harambee House or Harambee House Annex in Kenya and then claiming he was at State House.
The lie was so cheap and easy to tell that anyone with eyes could see the desperation in Hussein and his boss.
To add to the obloquy, Ruto’s convoy was blocked from going beyond the Washington Monument. He was forced to park outside and walk through the security check to his destination, just like an ordinary citizen.
Visiting high-level government leaders such as President Uhuru Kenyatta are driven inside the White House by vehicles manned by Secret Service officers.
The White House could be clearly seen across the road as Ruto walked towards Eisenhower building.
Secondly, there was no photo or video showing the DP at the White House or being received by the occupants of the office, who are President Joe Biden and his vice Kamala Harris. Thirdly, there was no official statement that was released by the White House regarding Ruto’s visit as is the norm.
Further, neither Biden nor Harris communicated in their personal capacities about Ruto’s visit to the White House. His name featured nowhere on the White House program and visitors’ log for the day. Outrageously, Ruto’s team even circulated a photoshopped image of the DP meeting Biden at the White House, much to the delight of Tanga Tanga supporters back in Kenya.
To make matters worse, the amorphous statement released by Hussein never mentioned the leaders who received the deputy president but instead went on to tell a bigger lie about the DP meeting the US Security Council.
In what capacity was Ruto meeting the US Security Council?
How could the council hold a private meeting with a visiting DP, and without the blessings or knowledge of the presidents of the two countries involved?
Security councils in countries around the world are sensitive entities that do not meet without cause and visiting presidents don’t have to meet the entire council when they can easily hold one-on-one discussions with the respective council’s chairperson, the host president.
More fundamentally, can the US Security Council seat in a boardroom meeting with a man who was banned from vising the country back in 2007?
This was fantasy at work, a lie poorly executed. Hussein found himself defenceless as he was cornered by well-informed Kenyans. He could not share a single photo from the said high-profile visit and meetings while he had been busy posting photos of meetings with some little-known officials the day before.
His goose was cooked in an instant and he was wise not to engage those who exposed the lie as he would only have made a bad situation worse
For Namwamba, a distinguished diplomat who was recently appointed for tasks like these given his experience in the Foreign Affairs docket, the ‘White House” gimmick boomeranged right on his face.
He is expected to rebuild Ruto’s image internationally but failed terribly on his first major assignment.
Ruto’s desperation in the US did not end there. His team was determined to make a mountain out of a molehill.
After meeting Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee, they choreographed it to appear as though Ruto met the head of the powerful office.
Their desperation also led them to meet a little-known Nebraska governor to discuss maize, sorghum and vegetables.
The attempt to amplify this visit was shot down by a single tweet from City lawyer Donald Kipkorir who equated Nebraska to Vihiga County in terms of Agriculture.
“Nebraska is an agricultural state growing maize, wheat, sorghum and soybeans. It’s 37th in US States wealth index. In Kenya, Vihiga County is 37th in Kenya Counties Wealth Index. It is no coincidence, that both Nebraska and Vihiga are near the bottom in respective counties,” he tweeted.
Efforts by the DP to salvage his image through an interview with Voice of America (VOA) did even more damage to his reputation.
Kenyan-born US-based journalist, Esther Githui, confronted Ruto with tough questions about cancerous corruption and integrity issues “back at home” that left him perplexed, stammering and defeated.
It was a bad day in the office for Hussein and Namwamba, who were the masterminds of the theatrics that happened in the US.
Namwamba started on a wrong note by subjecting his boss to embarrassment and humiliation in a foreign land.
Hussein no doubt lost the credibility that he had earned working as a professional journalist over the years.
The blunders they made were so elementary that any nation worth its salt wouldn’t take Ruto seriously in future.
But was all this drama necessary? Definitely not. It showed the whole world that Ruto is desperate.
The writer is Tom Juma, a regular commentator on social, economic and political affairs.