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Everything goes wrong for Ruto in US trip

Everything goes wrong for Ruto in US trip

By Justus Karanja

As Deputy President William Ruto winds up his United States trip and heads to UK and then Qatar, one thing is clear in his mind: The US trip did not achieve much to boost his presidential bid in the August 9 General Election.

From a gala dinner snubbed by Kenyans, to addressing nearly empty halls with majority of the attendees being his delegation from Kenya, to failing to get recognition from Washington DC bureaucrats and think tanks, Ruto leaves the US a wounded man and matters have not been helped by his playing of the victim card to win sympathy from Kenyans and American leaders.  

Ruto’s woes worsened after Kenyans residing in America and US leaders snubbed a dinner that had been organised in his honour.

A website he had hired, Diaspora Ke, to sell the dinner tickets priced at Ksh25,000, Ksh30,000 and Ksh100,000 had by the close of February 24 sold only three tickets.

The website sold a Ksh25,000 ticket and two others at a price of Ksh100,000 each.

The Ksh25,000 dinner tickets were under the Silver category while the Ksh100,000 were for the Diamond category and the Ksh50,000 were listed as Gold.

Ruto was scheduled to have dinner with the Kenyan Diaspora at 5120 Whitfield Chapel Rd, Lanham, MD 20706, in Prince George's County of Maryland State.

"You are invited to Dinner in Honor of His Excellency Deputy President of Kenya, Dr William Samoei Arap Ruto,  EGH, who is visiting currently with us in the United States of America. 

"The dinner will be held at 5120 Whitfield Chapel Rd, Lanham, MD 20706. From 8pm -11pm 4th March 2022. Book your table. The tickets are going for USD250, USD500 and USD1,000. Don’t Wait," the invite read.

Matters were made worse when Ruto’s communication team opted to spin a story to the effect Kenya’s second in command had been hosted at the White House, the official residence of the United States President Joe Biden.

There was even a photo showing the Deputy President being hosted by President Biden. The photo turned out to be fake.

Nevertheless, Ruto’s communication team in a statement said he had held discussions at the White House that centred around Kenya's relationship with the US.

Additionally, they also revolved around the state of Kenya's democratic space ahead of the August 9 polls. 

"Kenya’s Deputy President Dr William Ruto and former Vice President Musalia Mudavadi led a delegation that was hosted at the White House in Washington DC today.

"In a closed-door meeting, they discussed issues of strategic partnership between USA and Kenya, including sustaining Kenya’s trajectory as a Constitutional democracy," read the statement by Hussein Mohammed, Ruto’s Presidential Campaign communications director.

The statement said Ruto was accompanied by Kenya Kwanza co-principal Musalia Mudavadi, Head of International Relations in his presidential campaign secretariat, Ababu Namwamba, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, and Kandara MP Alice Wahome.

But Hussein's post met with opposition after certain quarters cast doubts on the fact that the Ruto-led delegation met officials of the Joe Biden government in the White House.

Renowned pro-government blogger, Pauline Njoroge rubbished Hussein's post, stating the presidential hopeful actually met the U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mary Catherine Molly Phee, at a building adjacent to the White House.

"He did not enter the White House. He entered the adjacent building, the Eisenhower Building. Ruto did not see the inside of the White House," she tweeted.

Ruto met Mary Catherine "Molly" Phee. Born in 1963, Phee is an American diplomat who has served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs since September 2021.

She previously served as the U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan from 2015 to 2017 and is believed to have met the Deputy President while she was working in the war-torn country.

The matters further took another ugly twist after it emerged Ruto had been invited to the United States as a private citizen by CEIP Africa program director Zee Usman and Georgetown university's Prof Ken Opalo, the latter a Kenyan.

In his itinerary, there was no slot for him to meet top US government officials, leave along visit the White House.

The only person who would have made it possible for Ruto to hold talks, either bilateral or otherwise, with top US government officials was President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Apart from Phee, the only other notable figure Ruto met in US was Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts.

Ricketts was elected on Republican party ticket, meaning that he is an opposition leader with no sway in the Biden administration.

The meeting with the Nebraska governor was equivalent to Uganda’s Vice President being hosted by Machakos governor Alfred Mutua.

Ruto met the Governor in the company of his wife Racheal Ruto, Amani National Congress (ANC) Party leader Musalia Mudavadi, Turkana Governor Josephat Nanok, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, Kandara MP Esther Wahome and economist David Ndii.

Curiously, Kenya’s envoy to United States, Robinson Githae was missing in the delegation, a pointer it was of no value to Kenya.

And now all eyes are in London where Ruto is scheduled to meet senior UK Government officials, visit the National Counter-Terrorism Center and speak at both the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Royal Institute of International Affairs.

In UK, he will also engage the Kenyan Diaspora in the UK and pay a courtesy call on the Archbishop of Canterbury, His Grace Justin Welby.

Analysts say the Deputy President may again opt to play the victim card by loudly claiming the elections will be rigged to gain sympathy.

Also haunting him are the damning allegations being made at the International Criminal Court in the case against Kenyan lawyer Paul Gicheru.

Prosecution witnesses have been vocal that Ruto was part of the gang that was targeting them to destroy evidence in the case that faced him and radio journalist Joshua Sang. Britain and US are the biggest funders of ICC, and hence top government officials shiver at the thought of hosting a warlord likely to be summoned by the court. 

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