Yesterday William Ruto asked the land-starved people of Taita Taveta to vote for him because he is a Mata elder who owns more than 2,500 acres of land in the area. In other words, according to Ruto in order to be a Mata elder you have to grab all land in the place and put everybody else into permanent poverty then you become their hero. What a wonderful life this must be for the Mata people and for Ruto.
Ruto’s massive lakeside ranch in Taita Taveta has been a cause of concern for many people in the area and for Kenyans who want land grabbers to be put to justice and the land reverted to those it was grabbed from. The UDA leader now claims that his huge land there was some kind of a gift from Mr. Basil Criticos whom he helped.
The amount of land grabbed by Mr. Criticos in Taita Taveta where he owns the entire productive land in the county is another issue but Ruto wants to use him as an explanation as to how he grabbed his 2,536 acres of land in the county. Quite understandable when you know what birds of a feather do.
William Ruto was at the coast to address the worsening issues of landlessness and historical land injustices which are becoming prominent as a big concern in the 2022 elections.
“I am also a Mata elder because I helped the former Taveta MP to settle his loan at AFC and he gave me a portion of land,” he said.
The farm, located in Mata ward, borders the vast Criticos ranch and Lake Jipe to the South, has been at the centre of controversy over its ownership.
In 2020, the Taita-Taveta County government claimed that Ruto diverted the main water pipeline that serves the location to his farm. It moved to the Taveta Law Courts seeking orders allowing its officials and police officers to access the farm. Ruto farm manager also blocked residents from accessing Lake Jipe where they make a living fishing and getting water.
So in the Ruto world you grab thousands of acres of land from the people who are suffering from landlessness, you grab their water supply system to use in your farm where you make hundreds of millions and then you go and tell the same people that you are part of their community and you will solve their land injustice problems probably by grabbing more of their land.
That requires some genius that only William Ruto can boast of having. You grab all the land and the landless people in the area become cheap labour for you on your farm. Problem solved. Nobody is landless anymore. They are just hard-working manual laborers for you. What a great and simple solution to this nagging problem of landlessness in Taita Taveta.
So now Ruto wants Taita-Taveta voters to support his presidential bid as he is a resident of the county by virtue of owning their land. I could live with this if it was in a fiction book but this is real stuff happening in front of our eyes. This is not just cruel and inhumane, it is criminal. In fact, Ruto claims that Mr. Criticos gave him what he calls “small chunk of land” after he helped him deal with loans from AFC bank.
The records indicate that Mr. Criticos tried all sorts of things to grab that piece of land by fencing it and throwing out the inhabitants whom they called illegal squatters. When that became difficult he gave the land to William Ruto who then did the fencing and threw everybody out. The big boy came with the big guns and put the land inhabitants where they belong and took the land. Case closed.
In a rally at Virungani in Kwale County, DP Ruto castigated President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga for failing to address the land issues. He promised that his administration will roll out a comprehensive programme at the Coast to solve the problem of squatters.
The land quagmire for William Ruto in Taita Taveta county is a prime example of the serious contradictions that the UDA leader faces as he demands to be Kenya’s next president come August 9, 2022. This is not about some stories and accusations. It is a real problem in real time.
If Ruto tried even to repspect the basic intelligence of the people of Taita Taveta he would have told them OK I am sorry I have all this land in your homes and you have nothing and so I hand it over to the county government and the national government to subdivide it and issue title deeds.
At least that would be the start of a decent conversation with a leader who respects the citizens. But Ruto just tells them it is my land and your job is to vote for me and shut up. Can that really work?
William Ruto has the same contradictions everywhere in all aspects of governance for the country. He goes to Mombasa and Kilifi and tells the voters that he will scrap the new ports they built in Naivasha and Nairobi with the SGR of which Ruto claims to be a champion in building and bring the ports back to Mombasa to create jobs. That is to try and get Mombasa votes.
When Ruto goes to Naivasha or Nairobi he will never talk about closing the ports there because that will lose him votes in those places. So when he is there he invents something else. There is Ruto’s bottoms up nonsense but Kenyans have a heads-up approach when dealing with their politicians whom they know very well. So when bottoms up meet heads up there could be some serious complications.
There are three other inland ports in Kenya today. We have Eldoret Inland port which I have never heard Ruto talk about. There is Kenya Inland Container Depot in Embakasi linked to Mombasa by rail. Then there is the Inland Container Depot in Kisumu also linked to Mombasa by rail.
So we are talking about a complicated system of how the country moves goods from Mombasa to the whole country and some for export to Uganda through Kisumu. Kenya will need a holistic approach on how to integrate the whole system and make it efficient for everybody.
But for William Ruto that is too much work and thinking so he just goes to Mombasa and make bogus promises which everybody knows he has no intention of implementing. But his goal is to get votes and what happens after that is irrelevant to him. Maybe it is good politics for Ruto but he will learn that Kenyans are not stupid to believe all sorts of crap from politicians like him who lie through their teeth.
Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada