William Ruto's rise from chicken seller to Kenya's president-elect

William Ruto

William Ruto - who has been declared the winner of Kenya's heavily disputed presidential election - had a childhood that epitomises the lives of many poor Kenyans.

He went to primary school barefoot, wearing his first pair of shoes at the age of 15. He also sold chicken and groundnuts by the roadside in rural areas of the Rift Valley.

So it came as no surprise that he portrayed himself as the champion of the poor as he vied for the presidency in the 9 August election.

Ruto contested it under the banner of Kenya Kwanza, Swahili for Kenya First, with a promise to grow the economy.

The official rate of unemployment among those aged between 18 and 34 years is nearly 40%, and the economy is not creating enough jobs to absorb the 800,000 young people joining the workforce every year.

He therefore coined the phrase "Hustler nation" to refer to the young people struggling to make ends meet.

Mr Ruto joined politics in 1992, having been mentored, he says, by then-President Daniel arap Moi.

Mr Ruto was part of the youth wing of Mr Moi's once-dominant Kanu party, and was among the activists tasked with mobilising voters for the country's first multi-party elections held in the same year.

He has the reputation of being a powerful orator who drew huge crowds at rallies and put up a strong performance in media interviews.

He often starts speaking by saying "My friend", which helps him strike a rapport with voters and disarm critics.

Shifting alliances

After holding various ministerial posts - including education and agriculture - he rose to the deputy presidency after the 2013 election.

Mr Ruto contested that election as the running mate of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta, shocking many Kenyans as they had been on opposite sides of the political spectrum in the previous election.

It was an alliance of expediency, as both had been charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC) with crimes against humanity after being accused of fuelling violence in the aftermath of the heavily disputed 2007 election, in which about 1,200 people were killed.

In that poll, Mr Ruto had backed opposition candidate Raila Odinga - who has lost to him this time round - while Mr Kenyatta backed then-President Mwai Kibaki in his re-election bid.

Their alliance, dubbed a bromance, paid off as the two men swept to power, putting them in a strong position to stave off the threat posed to them both by the ICC - something they achieved when the prosecution dropped charges against President Kenyatta in 2014 and judges threw out the case against Mr Ruto in 2016.

Big landowner and keen farmer

Ethnic loyalties play a huge role in Kenyan politics and Mr Ruto comes from the third biggest ethnic group, the Kalenjin, which has produced only one other president, the late Mr Moi, who was Kenya's longest-serving ruler. He is now, without a doubt, the political kingpin of the community.

Ruto is married to Rachael, who he first met at church youth meetings.

They have six children. Their eldest son, Nick, was once blessed by Kalenjin elders, fuelling speculation that he was being groomed for a political role, while their daughter, June, works in the foreign affairs ministry.

Mr Ruto has given out wheelbarrows to youths to promote his image as a "hustler"

Mr Ruto has a passion for agriculture, which has seen him venture into maize, dairy and poultry farming.

He owns huge parcels of land in western and coastal Kenya and has also invested in the hospitality industry.

Mr Ruto has been linked to corruption scandals in government and the source of his wealth is a subject of much speculation.

In June 2013, the High Court ordered him to surrender a 100-acre (40-hectare) farm, and compensate a farmer who had accused him of grabbing the land during the 2007 post-election violence.

He denies any wrongdoing, and appealed to voters with a promise to give them opportunities to improve their lives, just as he did.

Source:
BBC

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