How democracies die

That book up there is about ‘How Democracies Die’. I will borrow four lessons from it to explain why William Ruto is your next President.


The days of changing governments through military coups and popular revolutions are over. If you are waiting for another Arab Spring to remove a dictator from power, chances are that you will wait till Kingdom come. Your task therefore is to pick out upcoming politicians with dictatorial tendencies and kick the ladder off their climb before they get to the top. Because once they’re there, it will be difficult to bring them down.


The best time to prevent William Ruto from being President was 2013. This is because the most foolproof means of ensuring William Ruto doesn’t make it to State House was to prevent him from being on the ballot. Which means that the Jubilee Party was supposed to have denied him the chance to contest in 2013, and if he would’ve decided to go independent, the IEBC should have disqualified him too.

Political parties have a bigger role to play in the breeding, growth and maturity of a nation’s democracy. If authoritarians are to be kept out, they must first be identified by party structures and be kept off party ballots at election time. This requires that political parties must resist the temptation to nominate these dictators for higher office even when they can potentially deliver votes. Isolating political extremists requires political courage. But when fear, opportunism, or miscalculation leads established parties to bring extremists into the mainstream, democracy is imperiled and can as well be said to be dead.


Kenyans failed the first test of protecting our democracy when we elected a president and a deputy with a dubious allegiance to the rule of law, and a questionable anti-corruption track record. The moment we placed Ruto at the center of power, and exposed him to government machinery that is prone to abuse, it was a foregone conclusion that he was going to use them to his advantage. You have since seen his political and economic stock rise; and there are no indications he is about to stop now. As it stands, therefore, the only person who can stop William Ruto from getting to the actual top is Uhuru Kenyatta. Which leads us to the fourth point.


The only remaining means to stop Ruto from being President is to strangle him off government resources, from now up to 2022. And the only person who can cut Ruto’s influence in government right now is President Uhuru Kenyatta. Through an executive order he can convert the Deputy President’s vast entourage into a cubicle in the Office of the President, cut the Deputy President’s budget to a meaningless minuscule, and constitute cabinet without consulting his Deputy. And if he wants the downfall to be messy, noisy and dramatic; he can ask Noordin Hajji and his friend Kinoti to revisit Ruto’s files. In one month, the choppers will stop flying, churches will stop receiving cash in bags. Goats in Kimalel won’t be petitioning the President to stop them from being bought using questionable cash. This decision is not as easy as it might sound, and that’s why it is the only legacy Uhuru will be remembered for.

This is because the abdication of political responsibility by existing leaders often marks a nation’s first step towards authoritarianism. Political leaders, therefore, are asked to heed the warning signs and take steps to ensure that authoritarians remain on the fringes, far from the centers of power. But since Uhuru Kenyatta is more interested in lecturing Mwangi Kiunjuri in Portuguese than stopping Ruto from ascending to the Presidency, there is no way Ruto is going down.

And Kenyans must begin to embrace the inevitable.