The Only Option Left For Ruto to Tame Raila Odinga

President William Ruto faces herculean task in dealing with the opposition amid a surging wave of Azimio street protests.

Azimio has reinvigorated the anti-government pushback with last Friday’s Saba Saba protests happening across the country in a clear change of tack in their escalated war against the regime.

Previously docile civil society have also joined the opposition in the mass action that added to the government’s headache.

Raila launched a collection of 10 million signatures on his battlefront to delegitimise and “topple” Ruto from power.

The opposition has announced another “mega” countrywide protest on Wednesday.

Political pundits say the president has at least three options to counter the opposition and quell the protests that risk thwarting his core agenda of economic transformation.

“There are many ways Ruto can counter Raila, but the first one is by delivering on promises to ensure he (Raila) has nothing to cling on to,” political observer Javas Bigambo said.

Ruto, who is the UDA leader and Kenya Kwanza Alliance chief, has the option to reach out to opposition chief Raila Odinga for a political ceasefire.

However, the Head of State can also opt to ignore the opposition and their demands and unleash the police on them to scuttle the street protests.

Still, Ruto may decide to employ the divide-and-rule policy—divide and weaken the opposition to an extent that its pushback may not be felt.

Streets protests have proved to be the killer sword for Raila and the opposition brigade in their war against Ruto.

Besides alleging that the regime is brutal and insensitive to human rights in the eye of the public, previous protests pushed the government to succumb to dialogue but the talks have since collapsed.

Sources in the political arena have intimated that the state had unleashed emissaries to persuade the opposition to cease the demos but the move has hit a snag.

“There were serious rumours that Ruto had reached out, and that was why around the time (Mukami) Kimathi was buried, they appeared to be close but faded and what we saw was intensified demos,” political commentator Martin Andati said.

However, Ruto has previously maintained that he would only engage the opposition through a parliamentary process—bipartisan talks and the same limited to reforming the electoral agency, IEBC.

Ruto’s predecessor Uhuru Kenyatta was forced to reach out to Raila through the Handshake to end the deadly protests that the opposition had sustained against his regime.

Last Friday, Raila led the chaotic demos in Nairobi as other opposition leaders led similar exercises in their backyards – spreading the protests across the country.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka led the demos in his Machakos backyard while former Azimio presidential running mate Martha Karua was at her Kirinyaga home turf.

ODM deputy party leader Wycliffe Oparanya, DAP-Kenya boss Eugene Wamalwa and his Roots Party counterpart George Wajackoya were in Western.

ODM leaders led by Senator Mohamed Faki led the protests in Mombasa.

“They had to think the approach before initially the demos were only staged in Nairobi and that strategy seemed not to have been working. But the Friday one was seen as a success,” Andati said.

Despite the intense protests, some pundits and Ruto’s allies believe the President can decide to ignore the opposition boss and unleash the police to tame him.

“Unleashing the police, the police is an option but it will create the impression of Kenya becoming a police state, and that will give Raila more air in his political lungs,” Bigambo said.

UDA secretary general Cleophas Malala has warned that the police would arrest the opposition chief if he makes good his threat to lead the demos on Wednesday.

“We are putting up with you (Raila), but we are almost fed up. If you continue to destroy people’s property, chasing away investors and misusing youths…you are not above the law, we will arrest you and take you to court,” Malala said on Saturday.

“We shall start by arresting Raila Odinga.”

Malala urged the Interior CS Kithure Kindiki “not to entertain Raila again.”

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said, “If Raila is arrested today what’s the worst that can happen? Will Kenya stop? No. Will the world come to an end? No. Will the cost of living come down? Yes! Will Kenyans be happy? Yes!”

The president also has the option to break up the opposition’s rank, weaken and neutralise its pushback activities.

Already, the Head of State has lured at least seven MPs from Raila’s Luo Nyanza backyard to his fold in an unprecedented scenario. He has also persuaded more than 28 Jubilee legislators to his wing.

Ruto has also secured the backing of a number of MPs and political formations that were initially leaning towards Azimio.

“Ruto knows that Azimio will not go to the 2027 elections intact. So, he’s keen to ensure that the leadership (of Azimio) splits, but he has to start with the low-lying fruits – MPs,” Bigambo said.