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War of words between Kenyatta and Ruto intensifies on the last days of campaigns

Campaigning last weekend in his home turf in the Rift Valley, a visibly angry Ruto took aim at his boss. “Leave me alone, don’t kill my children,” Ruto told his supporters, who cheered him. “Stop talking about me, talk about your candidate,” he added.

Ruto has had an uneasy relationship with Kenyatta since 2018, after Kenyatta embraced opposition leader Raila Odinga. Ruto has lashed at President Kenyatta, asking him to lay off  his campaign affairs and to stop threatening him.

Counter-claims

However, Kenyatta has come out to dismiss Ruto’s claims that he plans to harm him. Kenyatta told him to leave him alone as he finishes his work ahead of retirement after a new leader is sworn in.

“You have abused me for three years. I haven’t touched you. Focus on your campaigns. Leave me alone,” Kenyatta responded.

Ruto’s remarks came after Kenyatta attended campaign rallies to drum up support for Odinga, describing Ruto as a liar who keeps on giving empty promises to the electorate.

On the campaign trail

“I can’t stand a liar. He [Ruto] is promising empty promises every time,” Kenyatta said to cheering supporters.

Campaigning for Odinga in Naivasha and Nakuru, Kenyatta said he wishes that Kenya, get a genuine leader. “Please vote for this old man [Raila Odinga] in the 9 August presidential election,” Kenyatta said.

Kenyatta also asked Ruto why he did not implement what he is promising, as he was his deputy for 10 years.

Odinga in the ring

Ruto’s main competitor, Raila Odinga, is supporting Kenyatta and telling Ruto to stop attacking his boss and instead deal with Odinga directly.

“Ruto has sensed defeat, that is why is attacking the President,” Odinga told supporters in Kiambu, Kenyatta’s home area on Monday.

“Face me and Martha [Karua], on the ballot,” he added.

Odinga supporters and allies argues that Ruto’s claims are aimed at seeking sympathy from voters.

Worrying sentiments

The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops wants the two leaders to desist from making such utterances in public, fearing that it can cause anxiety among supporters and cause violence as voting day nears.

Nyeri Diocese Archbishop Anthony Muheria said politicians should learn from the past violence during such times and instead lead the country to peaceful elections.

“We can change the direction of this country through our vote. We pray for peace,” he said.

Suba Churchill, executive director of the Kenya National Civil Society Centre, a local observer group for next Tuesday’s poll, tells The Africa Report that it’s unfortunate that Ruto and Kenyatta are engaging in a war of words at the tail end of the campaign period.

Churchill said he thinks Ruto is bitter because Kenyatta did not support his candidacy.

“Uhuru and Ruto should stop these exchanges; they are inciting supporters, and that can cause violence,” he warned.

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