Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has been elected as the country’s next President, the electoral commission announced Monday.
Ruto won with 50.49% of the vote, closely defeating veteran opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who was contesting his fifth election.
This makes him Kenya’s fifth President since independence, winning the seat on his first attempt. Ruto’s party, the Kenya First coalition, has won a majority of seats in Kenya’s senate, the currently the second highest in the National Assembly.
But who is William Samoei Arap Ruto, the “hustler-in-chief”?
Born 21 December, 1966 in Sambut village, Kamagut, Uasin Gishu County, Ruto was elected the Deputy President alongside President Uhuru Kenyatta under the Jubilee Alliance ticket.
Prior to that Ruto was a Member of Parliament (MP) from 1998 to 2013.
He served as Minister for Home Affairs in the Daniel Arap Moi administration from August to December 2002. He later served in the Mwai Kibaki administration as Minister of Agriculture from 2008 to 2010 and as Minister for Higher Education from April to October 2010.
He attended Kerotet Primary School for his primary school education. He was enrolled in Wareng Secondary School for his Ordinary Levels education before proceeding to Kapsabet Boys High School in Nandi County for his Advanced Levels. He then went on to receive a BSc in Botany and Zoology from the University of Nairobi, graduating in 1990 before enrolling for a MSc in Plant ecology, graduating in 2011.
Ruto later enrolled for a Ph.D. which he completed and was awarded a Ph.D. from the University of Nairobi, graduating on 21 December 2018.
He joined Politics at a rather early age while he was still at campus and he rubbed shoulders with then Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi in 1992. Ruto began his political career when he became the treasurer of the YK’92 campaign group that was lobbying for the re-election of President Moi in 1992.
After the 1992 elections, President Moi disbanded YK’92 and Ruto attempted to vie for various KANU (then Kenya’s ruling party) branch party positions but did not succeed.
Ruto ran for a parliamentary seat at the 1997 Kenyan general election. He surprisingly beat the incumbent, Reuben Chesire, Moi’s preferred candidate, as well as the Uasin Gishu KANU branch chairman and assistant minister. After this, he would later gain favor with Moi and be appointed KANU Director of Elections.
His strong support in 2002 for Moi’s preferred successor Uhuru Kenyatta saw him get a place as assistant minister in the Home Affairs (Interior) ministry docket. Later in that election, as some government ministers resigned to join the opposition, he would be promoted to be the full Cabinet Minister in the ministry.
In 2007 Ruto sought the nomination of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as its presidential candidate, but on 1 September 2007, he placed third with 368 votes. The winner was Raila Odinga with 2,656 votes and the runner-up was Musalia Mudavadi with 391.
Ruto expressed his support for Odinga after the vote.
As KANU under Uhuru Kenyatta moved to support Kibaki, he resigned from his post as KANU secretary general on 6 October 2007.
Because of the results of the 2007 elections, Ruto was among the list of people who were indicted to stand trial at the ICC for their involvement in Kenya’s 2007/2008 political violence. However, the ICC case was faced with challenges, especially concerning the withdrawal of key prosecution witnesses. In April 2016, the Court dropped charges against Ruto.
On 6 October 2014, Ruto was appointed acting president of Kenya by President Uhuru Kenyatta following his summons to appear before the ICC.
In the August 2017 General Elections, Uhuru and Ruto were declared victors after garnering 54% of the total votes cast. However, the Supreme Court of Kenya nullified the election, and a fresh election was held in October 2017. The opposition boycotted the fresh election and Uhuru and Ruto were re-elected with 98% of the total votes cast. The Supreme Court upheld the results of this second election.
On December 2020 Ruto announced his alliance with the newly formed United Democratic Alliance party. He is also the only 2022 presidential candidate who attended the 2022 presidential debate.
It be remembered that William Ruto was once a chicken hawker on the Nairobi-Eldoret highway which inspired him to start his own chicken farm in his home village of Sugoi. His life has not always been a glossy one as his name has been mired in very many corruption and land grabbing cases in Kenya.
It’s during the campaigns that Ruto described himself as the “hustler-in-chief,” citing his humble beginnings as a chicken seller who fought his way up to the top of Kenyan politics.
We wish the new President a glorious term.