Deputy President William Ruto has styled himself as a brilliant, self-made politician who rose quickly to the top tier of Kenya’s political establishment to become one of the country’s most formidable politician.
The self-styled ‘hustler’ is known for his aggressive political nature is loved and laothed in equal measure.
He rose topmost echelons of power when President Uhuru Kenyatta won the 2013 General Election with Ruto as his deputy in a political marriage marked by a strong political bond but has ended in turmoil towards the tail end of their ten years’ rule.
Ruto will be the first sitting second-in-command to launch a presidential campaign to succeed his boss as well as the first non-native politician to appear to have captured the imagination of residents of the populous Mount Kenya region.
Besides his budding political career, Ruto is also fighting to shed the corruption tag that his opponents capitalise on at every opportunity.
He began his political career by running for various KANU (Kenya’s ruling party at the time) branch party positions.
He met his future mentor, President Daniel Arap Moi, through church activities and assisted in the formation of a lobbying group called Youth for Kanu ’92.
Ruto worked as Kanu’s treasurer, where he learned the ins and outs of Kenyan politics. During this time, he is also said to have amassed some wealth.
President Moi disbanded YK’92 following the 1992 elections.
The DP would go on to run for a parliamentary seat in Kenya in the 1997 general election.
His strong support for Moi’s preferred successor, Kenyatta, earned him a position as an assistant minister on the Home Affairs (Interior) ministry docket in 2002.
Later in the election, as some government ministers resigned to join the opposition, he was promoted to full Cabinet Minister.
KANU did not win the election, but he did keep his parliamentary seat. In 2005, Ruto was elected Secretary General of KANU, and Kenyatta was elected Chairman.
Kenya held a constitutional referendum in 2005, which KANU opposed.
Some members of the ruling NARC coalition government, primarily former KANU ministers who had joined the opposition coalition under the LDP banner in 2002 and were dissatisfied with President Kibaki for failing to honor a pre-election MoU on power-sharing and the creation of a Prime Minister post, joined KANU to oppose the proposed constitution.
Because the symbol of the “No” vote was an orange, this new movement was dubbed the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Ruto was a member of the Pentagon’s top brass. He consolidated his support in the Rift Valley. The election was won by the ODM.
Ruto announced publicly in January 2006 that he would run for president in Kenya’s next general election, scheduled for 2007.
Some of his KANU colleagues, notably former president Moi, chastised him for making the statement.
ODM had become a political party by this point. Ruto ran for the ODM presidential candidacy, but came in third place with 368 votes on September 1, 2007.
Raila Odinga took first place with 2,656 votes, while Musalia Mudavadi came in second with 391.
Following the election, Ruto voiced his support for Odinga.
On October 6, 2007, he resigned as KANU Secretary General as Kenyatta’s government moved to endorse Kibaki.
The presidential election of December 2007 ended in an impasse. Kenya’s electoral commission declared Kibaki the winner, but Raila and ODM claimed the victory. Mwai Kibaki was hurriedly sworn in as the president of the December 2007 presidential election.
Following the election and the dispute over the result, Kenya was engulfed by a violent political crisis.
Kibaki and Odinga agreed to form a power-sharing government. In the grand coalition Cabinet named on 13 April 2008 and sworn in on 17 April, Ruto was appointed as Minister for Agriculture. Ruto also became the Eldoret North Member of Parliament from 2008 to 4 March 2013.
Ruto was transferred from the Agriculture Ministry to the Higher Education Ministry on April 21, 2010, swapping places with Sally Kosgei.
Ruto was removed from his ministerial duties on August 24, 2011, but remained a member of parliament. For the 2013 presidential election, he formed the Jubilee Alliance alongside Uhuru Kenyatta.
Following Kenyatta’s summons to appear before the International Criminal Court (ICC), Ruto was appointed acting president of Kenya on October 6, 2014.
Ruto declared his cooperation with the newly founded United Democratic Alliance party in December 2020.
Over the time he has become an influential and super campaigner, whose “hustler nation” mantra has gripped all corners of the country.