Once again President Yoweri Museveni has become a subject of a controversial diplomatic quarrel amongst Kenyan leaders, who accuse the Ugandan leader of interfering in their “internal matters.”
Kenyan politicians, allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta, accuse Mr Museveni of backing Kenyan deputy President William Ruto for presidency against Uhuru Kenyatta’s yet to be named preferred choice for heir in the forthcoming Kenya presidential polls.
This follows Ruto’s frequent private visits to Uganda. And in all occasions the two hold private discussions.
In his latest visit to Uganda on July 6, 2021 Ruto laid a foundation stone for the multibillion Biological Drugs and mRNA Vaccine Manufacturing Facility at Matuga-Wakiso District together with his host, President Museveni.
On the side-lines of this highly publicized event, Mr Museveni reportedly held private meetings with the Kenyan deputy president. It is these private meetings thereafter that became a matter of concern to Kenyan senior government officials.
Therefore, when Ruto arranged another private trip from Kenya to Uganda, the second time in a month, he was stopped by the immigration officers at the airport on Monday August 2.
Kenyan media claims Ruto wants to hire President Museveni’s chief political advisers as he prepares his State House bid in the 2022 polls.
In the aborted meeting, the Kenyan leader planned to hold talks with President Museveni as his associates held separate discussions with officials of Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Kenyatta’s allies believe Ruto has been frequenting Uganda to solicit for Museveni’s political backing and resources to snatch Kenya’s presidency in the 2022 presidential polls.
The Kenyan deputy President has made three private visits to Kampala this year alone and Monday’s planned three-day trip to the neighbouring country would have been the seventh in six years and his second within a month for the DP.
As a result the Kenyatta government has banned Ruto from ever visiting Uganda in his capacity as deputy President.
Kenya’s news wave on Monday evening was dominated by the fact that the government had barred Ruto, whose relation with the current President Uhuru Kenyatta has turned sour.
The duo was considered close allies when they won Kenya’s election both in 2013 and 2017 with Ruto depicting utmost solid support to Kenyatta hoping to be backed up in the forthcoming national election.
Kenyatta who is ineligible to stand is alleged to be backing former prime minister and veteran opposition leader Raila Odinga, against an old understanding with his deputy.
Ruto has linked the recent move to bar him from hobnobbing with Mr Museveni in Uganda to political humiliation terming it cowardice of his foes.
After he arrived at Nairobi’s Wilson airport for his flight, Ruto was told to seek clearance from the head of public service.
He was then made to wait five hours before his flight was cancelled. Kenyan media reported that immigration officials insisted that Ruto had to get clearance from the head of state, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Ruto was traveling alongside three members of parliament who were first denied clearance but were later allowed to fly.
After he was stopped from leaving the country, Ruto said in a cryptic tweet “it’s alright, let’s leave it to God” in Kiswahili.
It is the latest incident to plague the strained relations between Ruto and his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The two erstwhile partners who came to power in 2012 through their Jubilee coalition fell out in 2018. Ruto is rumored to be preparing a bid for the presidency.
This is not the first time Museveni is rumoured to peddle intentions to influence Kenya’s politics.
In the past Mr Museveni was accused of backing former President Mwai Kibaki for his second and last term of office against Raila Odinga.
In 2009, Uganda was accused of sending troops to Kenya to help President Kibaki quell opposition protests in the western part of the country.
It was rumoured that the Kenyan government incorporated hundreds of Ugandan troops into Kenya’s paramilitary police to neutralize riots in the western city of Kisumu, home to opposition leader Raila Odinga amid allegations that Mr. Kibaki had rigged the elections to stay in office for another five years.
Kenyans have warned Mr Museveni to stop interfering in their internal politics. Law Professor Mutua Makau says it is a terrible mistake for a neighbouring country’s head of state to interfere with internal matters of Kenya especially “if that head of state is a dictator and anti-democractic.” “For Mr Museveni to be Kenya’s teacher of democracy is very worrying to Kenyans. Museveni is not Kenya’s best friend,” says the law don.
But how did Ruto, Museveni become friends?
It is possible that Ruto started befriending Mr Museveni as early as 2015 when DP went to Uganda to campaign for Mr Museveni. It is also suggested that Mr Ruto started preparing to succeed Kenyatta around the same time.
According to political scientist Gilbert Khadiagala of University of Witwatersrand argues that the Ruto-Museveni relationship is 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, taking advantage of that. Two, Museveni is not going away any time soon. He, therefore, needs a reliable partner in the region,” Prof Khadiagala, who has studied Mr Museveni, says.
On December 21, 2019 Dr. William Samoei Ruto was invited to Uganda to lay a foundation stone for the William Samoei Ruto Leadership Institute at the Department of Performing Arts and Film Grounds at Makerere University.
President Museveni pledged $100,000 towards the construction of the William Ruto Institute of African and Leadership Studies, which is estimated to cost $7million.
Present were Uganda Ministers Kahinda Otafiire and Frank Tumwebaze and Makerere University Vice Chancellor Barnabas Nawangwe. Others were Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago and MPs Kimani Ichungwa, Khatib Mwashetani and Charles Njagua.
According to Makerere University, the William Ruto Institute would forge partnerships with similar institutes around the world to deepen the understanding of Africa.
The Ruto Institute indicated that Mr Museveni held the Kenyan deputy President in a much higher regard than Kenyatta whose father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, was founder of Kenya.
Presently, Mr Museveni values Mr Ruto as a dependable ally. Why? Ruto hinted at backing Museveni to establish and assume leadership of the East African Federation.
“You owe us a debt. Before you retire and if possible in the next two or three years, you owe us the fruition of the EA federation,” said Ruto while laying the foundation the vaccine manufacturing facility in Uganda.
Museveni is currently leading a regional campaign for East Africa to merge into one solid state with one head of state.
So Ruto is backing Museveni to become the first EAC federation chief and in return the Kenyan deputy President wants the Uganda leader to back him for the Kenyan president.
Secondly, Ruto believes Mr Museveni can reconcile him with Kenyatta. According to Sunday Nation, while in Uganda Ruto sought Mr Museveni’s intervention to patch things up with Mr Kenyatta. The deputy president believes that despite the strained relationship with his boss, the window of re-uniting ahead of the next elections remains open.
“Being an elder statesman, maybe Uhuru can listen to him (Museveni) and retrace his steps,” a source based at Ruto’s Karen office said. Mr Museveni he has been in power for almost four decades holds a lot of sway in the region’s politics.
Apparently, during talks with Ruto, the Ugandan leader was concerned that the Kenyan deputy president’s brand of politics in which he often takes on his boss head on may end up working against his State House ambition. Museveni reportedly asked Ruto to adopt a less confrontational method in pursuit of votes.
Ruto’s closeness to Museveni is not strange. While establishing foundation for his leadership institute at Makerere, Ruto advocated for creation of mass national political parties similar to Uganda’s NRM because “they easily marshal enough human resource to effect social transformation.” This is unlike in Kenya where political parties are based on ethnicity.
Ruto has vast business interests in Uganda. He is said to own hundreds of acres where he does avocado farming that he exports to the West. He also runs a chain of petrol stations.
With agricultural investments in Uganda, including a rice farm in Bugiri, east of the country, it may seem natural that he will seek to befriend Museveni.
The Kenyan deputy president also celebrated Mr Museveni’s Operation Wealth Creation Initiative, which he compared to his own hustler campaigns. The initiative was launched five years ago to help folks elevate their farming from mere subsistence to commercial, even if on smaller plots.
The deputy president is therefore cultivating deep political and commercial ties with Uganda, which is one of Kenya’s biggest trading partners.
But who brokered Ruto, Museveni marriage?
It is Dr Paul Bamutaze, an NRM activist who call himself a “Pan Africanist and young scientist with discoveries” that brought Ruto close to President Museveni by proposing that a William Ruto Leadership Institute be established in Uganda. Bamutaze, the chief executive officer of the East African Book of Records, convinced Mr Museveni that such an institute would add value to regional integration.
After laying foundation for the institute at Makerere in 2019, Ruto and Museveni started interacting very closely.
Frank Tumwebaze, currently the Minister for Agriculture, was charged with seeing the success of Ruto’s project at Makerere. It is possible that Hon Tumwebaze has continued to play a crucial role in Ruto’s activities in Uganda.
It is believed that Bamutaze could have also introduced Ruto to another NRM activist, Mathias Magoola, a biochemist, who owns Dei Group that is behind the construction of the vaccines facility.
It is Magoola that engineered the presence of Ruto at the launch of vaccines facility in Uganda three weeks ago.
Magoola’s vaccine plant is being funded by Equity Bank-Kenya. It is not known whether Mr Ruto played any part in negotiations between Magoola and Equity Bank to secure financing.
Magoola has recently become very close to Museveni having been introduced to the President by former Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
Who is Magoola?
On his company’s website, Magoola calls himself a broad-based business entrepreneur and professional chemist with over 15 years of experience working with key areas of expertise in the mining sector and medical research.
In the just concluded general elections in Uganda, Magoola was part of President Museveni’s manifesto team.
Magoola is the man that misled Ugandans to believe that he had developed a cure for coronavirus at the start of the Covid 19 pandemic last year. He was filmed convincing President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni along with Speaker Rebecca Kadaga that Uganda would in two weeks begin producing a spray that kills coronavirus. It was later established that Magoola was actually manufacturing a sanitizer.
That is not all. Seven years ago, Ugandan media published stories about the arrest of Minister Isaac Musumba and Ugandan Member of Parliament Micheal Mawanda who were held in India on charges of fraud.
But the arrest involved in a third party- little Mathias Magoola a businessman who turned to be a mastermind of the game.
The fraud involved several billions of Uganda shillings which he sought from Videocon an Indian firm. Magoola had alleged wanted to sell ‘un-existing’ minerals to these Indians.
It is at this point that Kadaga introduced Magoola to President Museveni to help the young businessman secure his money from the Indians.
Whereas Magoola had been placed under investigations by Indian police, he later switched the version of his story saying he had been fleeced of his mining licence by Videocon.
It all began in September 2006. Magoola, working as a proxy for some powerful officials in the ministry of Energy, got the largest wolfram mine in the country, located on 600 acres of land in the western district of Kisoro.
Under the trading name of Dei Minerals International, Magoola was given a licence barely 10 days after applying for it.
He was also given prospecting rights to produce an acceptable feasibility study to develop the mine. He, however, failed to avail the feasibility study, although records show that Magoola had previously worked in the department of Mines and Geological Survey and Mines.
On August 21, 2008, Magoola sold 60 per cent majority shareholding to the Indian firm, Videocon Natural Resources PLC, whose chairman, Martin X. Fernandes, got him arrested in India.
Two years after selling the majority stake, Magoola again applied for a mining licence from the Geological department, using the trading name of Dei Minerals, after getting disagreements with Videocon.
But the first owner of the mine, Sebuhingiriza Rwabiti, had protested Magoola’s acquisition of the mine. The matter ended up in court for determination.
Therefore, if Ruto calls himself a hustler to clinch Kenya’s presidency in 2022, then he is surely dealing with fellow hustlers to secure President Museveni’s political support.