Deputy President William Ruto’s two-day visit to Uganda this week as President Yoweri Museveni’s guest, part of a camaraderie the two leaders have cemented in the last six years, has raised political eyebrows.

The visit, which saw the DP attend the unveiling of a vaccine manufacturing facility in Matuga-Wakiso district, was the fifth in the last six years.

Of these, the 2015 event in which Dr Ruto openly campaigned for Mr Museveni in Kapchorwa was the most conspicuous, drawing fury and protests from Kizza Besigye-led opposition politicians seeking to dethrone the Ugandan strongman.

University of Nairobi’s Herman Manyora said the DP’s most recent visit to Uganda was a significant score for him in the context of the 2022 presidential elections.

“If you are aspiring to be President, you always want to have an international reach. If that reach gets you to a neighbour like President Museveni, a strong leader in the region, then that is one invaluable asset,” he told the Nation yesterday.

“Museveni has his own footing and standing in Kenya, and a word from him, or being seen to have his support, is a plus.”

During the visit, Dr Ruto, as in all his previous visits, was full of praise for Mr Museveni.

He urged the Ugandan president to actualise his favourite topic of the East African Federation before the end of his current term.

“You owe us a debt. Before you retire and if possible in the next two or three years, we want to see the coming into fruition of the East Africa Federation,” Dr Ruto told Mr Museveni on Wednesday.

“We are here as leaders and citizens of East Africa to support you and other leaders in the region to eliminate barriers that impede trade, investment, movement of labour and people working together.”

Besides the unveiling of the vaccine plant, the DP had a private meeting with Mr Museveni in the company of Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi.

The DP also celebrated Mr Museveni’s Operation Wealth Creation initiative, which he compared to his own hustler campaigns.

Mr Museveni launched the programme in July 2013 with the objective of raising household incomes and facilitating wealth creation by turning subsistence farmers into commercial farmers.

For the DP, his relationship with Mr Museveni seems to be mirrored in the one Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga built with the late Tanzanian president John Magufuli.

“The way it is, Museveni appears to be becoming to Ruto what Magufuli was to Raila. Of the two, Ruto and Raila, Museveni appears to have chosen his candidate and it is Ruto,” University of the Witwatersrand’s political scientist Prof Gilbert Khadiagala argues.

Prof Khadiagala, who has studied Mr Museveni, argues that the Ruto-Museveni relationship is also beneficial to Dr Ruto’s 2022 State House run.

“Museveni has never hidden his disdain for Raila, and Ruto just seems to have jumped in the fray, and taking advantage of that. Two, Museveni is not going away anytime soon. He, therefore, needs a reliable partner in the region,” Prof Khadiagala said.

Mr Manyora also believes there is more in the Museveni-Ruto relationship.

“There is a Kalenjin-speaking and related groups in Uganda and it has been whispered before that those from Kenya will vote for Mr Museveni in Uganda, and vice versa. Being a pastoralist community allowed to move freely, that is not a far-fetched claim to make,” he said.

But the DP’s director of communication Emmanuel Talam said there was not much to read into the visit or the previous ones.

“The DP went to Uganda on the invite of President Museveni. He has been to Uganda several times before, mostly on the peace process among communities in both countries that live on the border,” he said.

“The visit by the DP was public. There are some leaders who just go to foreign countries and nobody knows what they go and do there.”

In December 2015, Dr Ruto visited Uganda and accompanied President Museveni to a campaign rally in Kapchorwa town in eastern Uganda.

At the rally, he told the crowd that President Museveni “is the best person to continue leading Uganda”.

Dr Ruto’s appearance at the event irked Ugandan opposition leaders, with Mr Besigye, a close friend of Mr Odinga, asking the DP to keep off that country’s politics.

“Ruto should be careful. He is hanging around a falling tree, it might fall on him,” Mr Besigye said of Mr Ruto’s activities in Uganda.

By Nation Africa