Kenya’s President-elect: Who is William Samoei Ruto?

Kenya's Deputy President, William Ruto, delivers a speech during the memorial service for former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on April 29, 2022. (Photo by TONY KARUMBA )
Kenya’s Deputy President, William Ruto, delivers a speech during the memorial service for former Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki.   /CFP

Barring a petition filed lodged to contest the results of Kenya’s recently completed presidential election campaign, William Samoei Ruto will be sworn into office as Kenya’s fifth president on August 30, taking over from Uhuru Kenyatta who has completed his constitutionally allowed two 5-year terms.

The petition must be filed within seven days.

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto’s supporters hold posters of him as they gather while waiting for results of Kenya’s general election in Eldoret on August 15, 2022. Kenya was moving closer on August 15, 2022 to learning the outcome of its closely-fought presidential election after days of anxious waiting. /CFP

Early Life and Education

William Samoei Ruto was born in Sugoi, Uasin Gishu County in 1966, three years after the East African country gained its independence from Britain.

He attended Kamagut Primary, Wareng Secondary School and Kapsabet Boys High School –where he sat for his A levels.

He later joined the University of Nairobi where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology in 1990.

Years later, he enrolled for a Master of Science degree in plant ecology, graduating in 2011.

In 2012, he enrolled for a Ph.D. at the same institution and graduated in 2018.

 

Politics

Ruto’s political career can be traced back to his days as a Christian leader while he was still in university.

His church leadership activities at the University of Nairobi earned him the attention of Kenya’s second President Daniel Arap Moi, who would introduce him to Kenya politics at later date.

After his graduation with a BSc in 1990, Ruto was employed as a teacher in the North Rift region of Kenya, where he was also the leader of the local African Inland Church (AIC) Choir.

In this role, he honed much of his mobilization prowess that would serve him years later as he sought to capture a seat in Parliament.

His first experience in active politics came ahead of the 1992 elections. At the time, he was part of the Youth for Kanu ‘92 (YK92) campaign group that lobbied to give President Moi another term in office.

His influence grew during that period, and he was appointed the treasurer of YK92.

Moi went on to win re-election with 36 percent of the vote, with the ruling KANU party winning 100 of the 188 seats in the National Assembly.

And now, armed with experience, political connections and ambition, Ruto threw his name into the hat for election in 1997, as a Member of Parliament for Eldoret North.

He surprisingly beat KANU stalwart Reuben Chesire, who has served in the position since 1988.

In this file photo taken on July 30, 2022 Kenya’s deputy President and Presidential candidate for Kenya Kwanza alliance (Kenya first) William Ruto speaks to supporters atop a car during his rally in Machakos, Kenya, ahead of Kenya’s August 2022 general election. / AFP

With this feat, Ruto gained favour with President Moi and was appointed KANU Director of Elections.

In 2002, as President Moi’s presidency was coming to an end, he appointed Uhuru Kenyatta – the son of Kenya’s first President Jomo Kenyatta – as his preferred successor. Many big-name politicians, including within KANU, opposed this. Ruto however threw his weight behind Uhuru, and this earned him a place within Moi’s government as assistant minister in the Home Affairs (Interior) ministry docket.

As dissent continued in KANU, some government ministers resigned to join the opposition. This opened a chance for Ruto to take over as the Minister in the ministry.

KANU lost the election to a newly-formed opposition alliance, but Ruto retained his parliamentary seat.

In 2005, he took over as KANU Secretary General with Uhuru getting elected as Chairman.

In that same year, Kenya held a constitutional referendum which KANU opposed. KANu was joined by some disgruntled politicians within the government.

The referendum failed to sail through, but a new party was formed, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), which picked Ruto as one of its top brass.

In 2006, Ruto expressed intentions to run for the presidency in the 2007 elections. He however lost in the party primaries and he backed winner Raila Odinga.

His days in ODM further rose his profile in his Rift Valley backyard and nationally as well.

Odinga lost the highly controversial 2007 election, which sparked violence after allegations of vote rigging by President Mwai Kibaki.

Odinga and Kibaki agreed on a power-sharing agreement to end the chaos, and Ruto was appointed Minister of Agriculture.

Ruto was however indicted in the International Criminal Court alongside Uhuru Kenyatta and Joshua Sang, Francis Muthaura, Henry Kosgei and Mohammed Hussein Ali.

This indictment would serve Ruto and Uhuru years later, as they joined forces to vie in the 2013 elections.

Uhuru won the August 2013 election with Ruto as his deputy, beating Odinga.

Since 2013, Ruto has served as Kenya’s Deputy President under Uhuru Kenyatta.

The two however seemed to have a falling after they won re-election in 2017, and this would play a big part in Ruto’s push for the presidency.

Ruto used his fallout with Uhuru to solidify his support bases, tapping onto his Rift Valley backyard and Uhuru’s Mount Kenya region.

Ruto came up against Odinga, George Wajackoyah and David Mwaur for the country’s top seat.

Ruto’s campaign slogan was ‘Bottom-Up’, which he said his government would implement once elected. This, he claimed would change Kenya’s economic policy, putting more emphasis on the low-income earners.

Ruto would become Kenya’s first president to be born after the country gained independence.

He takes office with Rigathi Gachagua as his deputy.