Ababu Namwamba is a talented politician but this time he seems to be borrowing heavily from some unscrupulous politician who once said if you cannot convince them, confuse them.
That seems to be Ababu Namwamba’s goal in his March 13, 2022 column in the Nation headlined: Hustler’s US, UK, visit was a game-changer.
Yes, it was a game-changer—the kind you want to avoid.
There were red flags right at the onset of the trip. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said Ruto had clearance to take a personal trip. With Ruto’s and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s relationship in the gutter, it’s implausible to imagine Kenyatta would have tapped Ruto to represent him in a village council meeting, let alone a high-stakes meeting with crucial allies like the US and the UK.
That is why Namwamba’s press release hyping the tour as if it was an official state visit was rather curious. He said the Deputy President was honoring invitations by senior government officials and top policy institutes in Washington DC and London. But he did not name any senior government officials, and no senior US government officials expressed advance knowledge Ruto was coming to visit with them.
“In Washington DC, the Deputy President is scheduled to meet, among others, officials of the State Department and the Pentagon as well as the US Government Nationals Security Council (NSC) Advisor,” Namwamba said.
- RUTO NOMINATED TO BE UDA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE
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The above statement suggests Ruto was scheduled to meet with the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, or somebody high up in the Pentagon like Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. But so far, there is no evidence such meetings took place.
It’s also not plausible that Ruto met with President Joe Biden or Vice President Kamala Harris. Both Biden and Harris were out of Washington DC during the DP’s visit.
And because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s unlikely the Pentagon or the top-ranking NSC or State Department members would have made time for Ruto and his entourage, which cost the Kenyan taxpayer $1 million.
Namwamba uses the word-salad trick to give himself plausible deniability to cover for the deficit of willing hosts. He identifies the officials vaguely by naming their institutions but not the person. With such broad criteria, Ruto meeting any State Department or NSC employee, even one on his first day on the job as an IT guy, would qualify as meeting an official.
It’s also curious that we’re only learning of the meeting between Ruto and NSC Director of African Affairs Dana Banks from Namwamba’s fawning column– but still not substantial details of the conversation.
RUTO HAS NO CLOUT INTERNATIONALLY
While meeting with Phee and Banks gave Ruto some contact with US government officials, with all due respect to the officers, they’re not Ruto’s peers in terms of inter-governmental bilateral relationship.
As Kenya’s Deputy President, you’d also expect him to meet with his US counterpart Vice President Kamala Harris. But there is no evidence such a meeting took place.
The generalities and lack of evidence produced by the campaign or the State Department and NSC of any meaningful meetings between US officials and Ruto suggest the White House trip, and the embarrassing video the campaign produced was just a stunt to boost the DP’s image.
Judging by the reaction on social media, the stunt backfired badly.
Namwamba also makes some curious statements about Ruto’s performance during the trip.
“Dr. Ruto engaged all the interlocutors he met in both Washington, DC, and London with the confidence, knowledge, and wit of your quintessential seasoned diplomat,” Namwamba wrote in the op-ed.
The above statement is puzzling because, as perhaps one of the most gifted speakers and orators in Kenyan politics, Ruto’s public performance should not come as a surprise big enough to be remarked upon in an op-ed.
Saying a leader at the level of a Deputy President is confident when dealing with other people is a condescending statement that should never be applied to somebody running to be president of a country. It’s almost as if Namwamba had low expectations or viewed Ruto as inferior to his hosts.
And while some might have found Ruto’s performance satisfactory, his performance at Loyola University was wanting. He appeared nervous. His points lacked depth; the speech was disjointed, hard to follow, and punctuated with long pauses making him appear unprepared.
He could have benefited from a written address because, at one point, he even lost his train of thought when speaking about the three issues he believes will be on the ballot on August 9 and only enumerated two. And he spent a lot of whining about the handshake, complained about his boss like a disgruntled employee at a fast-food restaurant, and without any evidence, made startling allegations about blackmail, intimidation, and a plot to rig the elections.
It was also fascinating to watch him respond to questions about ICC. You could tell the question still rattles him. He tensed up and choked on his words. Ruto is perhaps one of the fewest leaders you’d ever hear asked about his role in an event considered to be crimes against humanity.
I don’t know about Namwamba’s assessment of things, but it’s not a good day when an audience member asks your candidate about his alleged role in killing people.
One glaring omission in Ruto’s whinefest was his lack of an agenda for the Kenyan diaspora. While he scored major points by saying his administration would institute a diaspora ministry, he appeared caught off-guard whenever questioned about diaspora issues.
If Namwamba thinks this trip was a game-changer, he’s not the right man to serve as the Ruto campaign international relations chief.
Instead of writing a self-congratulatory op-ed, Namwamba should debrief, learn international protocols, be transparent, and recognize this as a missed opportunity for Ruto’s campaign.
Ruto has a lot of supporters in the US. He should have avoided making the cringeworthy walk-of-shame trip to the White House that only made a meme-magnet and used that time to connect with the “Hustlers” abroad and listen to their ideas.
Thankfully his performance significantly improved as the days went by, and save for the whining, the UK speech at Chatham House was, stylistically, perhaps his best of the trip.
Maybe now, to equalize the score for Ruto calling him “jamaa ya vitendawili,” Odinga should start calling Ruto “jamaa wa kutanga-tanga White House.”
NOTE: THIS PIECE WAS SHARED WITH THE NATION AS A RESPONSE TO NAMWAMBA’S ARTICLE.