Grass to Grace: the meteoric rise of Dr William Samoei Ruto from chicken seller to President of the Republic of Kenya.

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In his effort to explain the rise of Okonkwo in the text Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe wrote, “looking at the king’s mouth one would think that he never sucked his mother’s breast”. This is a candid description of the Hustler, the chicken seller from Kamagut village. William Kipchirchir Samoei Ruto is a self-styled Hustler known for his sheer hard work and shrewd political strategy that has catapulted his presidency. 

In a period of three decades, Ruto has risen from an errand boy in the infamous or famous Youth for KANU in 1992 (YK92) to Kenya’s second in command and now the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and the President of the Republic of Kenya. He is the first-ever vice or deputy president to be elected as the president directly and the first Kenyan to win on the first attempt. Dr. Ruto created a yellow wave that swept away most seasoned politicians in Rift Valley and Mt Kenya. He also changed the political narrative from power manipulations to economic empowerment. “I was prayed into victory, it is God who has brought this victory,” Dr. Ruto said in his acceptance speech.

Education

William Ruto was born on 21 December 1966 at Sambut village, Kamagut in Uasin Gishu County to Daniel Cheruiyot and Sarah Cheruiyot. He attended Kerotet, a local Primary School for his Primary level education before joining Wareng Secondary School for his Ordinary Levels Education. Thereafter, he proceeded to Kapsabet Boys High School for his Advanced Levels Education.

Dr. Ruto earned himself a slot at the University of Nairobi where he defied all odds and graduated with a bachelor’s degree (first class honors) in Botany and Zoology in 1990. Determined, rejuvenated, and reenergized after many years in active and captive Kenyan politics, Ruto enrolled in a master’s degree course in Plant Ecology and graduated in 2011. A year later, despite rising political tides and tight schedules, Ruto enrolled in a Ph.D. course leading to his publication of the thesis titled: influence of human activities on land use changes on the environmental quality of riparian ecosystems. He graduated in December 2018 and earned himself the title of Doctor (Dr).

It is important to note that Ruto with unrivaled humility is an ardent and staunch believer in Christianity. While an undergraduate student at the University of Nairobi, he served as the Chairman of the Christian Union (CU).

Teaching career

Upon obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Dr. Ruto was employed as a teacher at Sirgoi and Kamagut schools before immersing himself in the political pool. A good number of students benefited from his kind and selfless dedication. According to his students, Ruto had a unique way of imparting knowledge. “He always wanted the best for us”, said one of his former students.

Political career

It is documented that Ruto at some point sold roasted maize on the Eldoret-Malaba road to supplement the income of his mother after the sudden demise of his father. Ruto found his way to national politics at the age of 28, through the YK92 which successfully campaigned for the then President Daniel arap Moi in the strongest forces of opposition during the hotly contested first multiparty election. 

President Moi won, yes, but the “Young Turks” did not get the expected portion of his government and therefore most of them, Ruto among them, went on nurturing their political careers. Five years later, Ruto had developed his own wings. He contested the Eldoret North Parliamentary seat and surprised many by flooring experienced politicians like the late Reuben Chesire and William Saina to bag the seat on a KANU ticket. Ruto held the position from 1997 to 2013.

In parliament, Ruto joined forces with Moi’s critics, the likes of Kipruto arap Kirwa and Cyrus Jirongo but later ironed out issues with Moi and that saw him rise to the rank of assistant minister for Provincial Administration prior to joining Cabinet in 2002.

Moi later deployed him in 2002 general election to drum up support for Uhuru Kenyatta. However, their endeavors fell flat when Mwai Kibaki won the election with a landslide. During Kibaki’s regime, Ruto joined forces with disappointed characters to defeat the 2005 constitutional referendum. One of the dissatisfied politicians was former Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga. It was after this victory that Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) was born. The referendum symbols were Orange and Banana, the Orange team won.

Dr Ruto, officially crossed to ODM and sought nomination for a presidential ticket but he emerged third in the hotly contested primaries where Raila emerged as the winner followed by Musalia Mudavadi. It is during this time that his friendship with Raila blossomed. He stretched and spread his political wings and delivered almost 80% of the Rift Valley votes to the ODM party in 2007 general elections that later turned bloody. The elections were ensued by vicious violence rocking the whole country but fiercest in the Rift Valley Region. Ultimately, due to interventions of the international community and mediated negotiations by Kofi Annan, the grand coalition government, famously known as Nusu Mkate between Raila and Kibaki was formed.  Although the coalition was faced with rocky and murky challenges, it survived to the next election in 2013.

During the period, Ruto became the Minister for Agriculture and later Higher Education in 2010 only to be stripped off his ministerial flag following his discomfort when people were being evicted from the Mau Forest. This catalyzed the steaming rift between him and the then Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

After his dismissal in early 2011, Ruto joined hands with the like-minded MPs from Rift Valley and Coastal Region and revived the United Democratic Movement (UDM). As fate would have it, power wrangles steamed up and that saw him move away with other close leaders from the region including Isaac Ruto and Zakayo Cheruiyot to form the United Republican Party (URP) and popularized it as its presidential candidate until October 2012 when he teamed up with Uhuru Kenyatta to form Jubilee Alliance which won 2013 elections. The coalition was also known as UhuRuto.

On March 4th, 2013, Ruto became the first Deputy President of Kenya. The UhuRuto duo was re-elected in 2017 although the marriage collapsed immediately in 2018 upon the contentious handshake between Raila Odinga and William Ruto. Odinga literally replaced Ruto in all government business. This gave Ruto more time to campaign for four consecutive years culminating in the 2022 grand win.

Ruto was among the list of six who were indicted to stand trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for their alleged involvement in the 2007-2008 post-election violence. However, the ICC case flopped following the massive withdrawal of key witnesses. In April 2016, the ICC dropped the charges against him. Earlier, the case of Uhuru Kenyatta, the President had also been dropped.

In the August 2017 general election, Uhuru and Ruto were declared winners after getting 54% of the casted votes. However, the Supreme Court of Kenya nullified the election and a fresh election was held in October 2017. The opposition boycotted the repeat election and thus Uhuru and Ruto carried the day with 98% of the casted votes.

Trials and tribulations  

One might mistake Ruto for having a smooth political life, laced with discipline and famed monumental capacity for the hard slog of politics. Since he ascended to national politics, he has been faced with various corruption allegations and land grabbing cases.

His erstwhile ally, ODM leader Raila Odinga has persistently questioned the source of his wealth, particularly the money he dishes out at fundraisers on regular basis. Ruto has been accused for having an insatiable appetite for land and other public property. Some of them include the Langata Primary School land in Nairobi and another one meant for sewerage system in Ruai, Nairobi. Ruto debunked the accusations saying that they are all politically engineered.

Ruto was a front-runner in the 2022 presidential race albeit this rubbed his boss Uhuru Kenyatta the wrong way. To fight his way up the ladder, he fashioned a dynasty versus hustler narrative that won him the hearts of many ordinary Kenyans and widened the gap between himself and the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, and Gideon Moi. The trio is perceived to be a member of the dynasty club. Uhuru Kenyatta wholeheartedly campaigned for Raila Odinga but he did not manage to garner enough votes since Mt Kenya stood with William Ruto.

Dr William Ruto and his Mother Mama Sarah Cheruiyot
The First Lady of Kenya, Mama Rachael Ruto
Dr William Ruto and his wife Racheal Ruto in the early 1990s

Religious beliefs and family

Ruto is a responsible husband and a father of seven. He is married to First Lady Rachel Chebet Ruto. The two are blessed with four children, two boys, and two girls. The family has adopted two other children including one from his ex-college lover Prisca Bett. Rachael and Ruto indulged in a serious relationship back at the University of Nairobi and eventually got married in 1991. The former evangelist professes and possesses Christianity and this is evidenced by his unrivaled mastery of the Bible verses and selflessness when it comes to church matters. He has largely supported the construction of churches across the country.

Children of HE Dr William Ruto and Mama Rachael Ruto

4 thoughts on “Grass to Grace: the meteoric rise of Dr William Samoei Ruto from chicken seller to President of the Republic of Kenya.

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