Who is William Ruto?

President William Ruto taking an oath of office led by Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi (Photo courtesy State House twitter)
President William Ruto taking an oath of office led by Chief Registrar of the Judiciary Anne Amadi (Photo courtesy State House twitter)

William Kipchirchir Samoei Arap Ruto was born on 21 December 1966 in Sambut village, Kamagut, Uasin Gishu County to Daniel Cheruiyot and Sarah Cheruiyot.

Ruto is married to Rachael Chebet. Ruto and Chebet were married in 1991. Ruto owns a considerable chicken farm in his home village of Sugoi, which was originally inspired by his stint as a live chicken hawker on the Nairobi-Eldoret-Malaba highway.

Ruto first studied at Kerotet Primary School, then Wareng Secondary School and Kapsabet Boys High School in Nandi, where he obtained his primary,  Ordinary level and Advanced level education respectively.

He then enrolled at the University of Nairobi, to study Botany and Zoology, eventually graduating in 1990 with a Bachelor of Science in both fields. The following year after his graduation, he enrolled for a Ph.D at the University of Nairobi, after several setbacks, he completed and graduated on 21 December 2018 with a Ph.D. from the university.

During his time in the campus for his undergraduate education, Ruto was an active member of the Christian Union. He also served as the Chairman of the University of Nairobi’s choir.

Through his church activities at the University of Nairobi, he met President Daniel Moi, who would later introduce him to politics during the 1992 General Elections.

After graduating from the University of Nairobi in 1990, Ruto was employed as a teacher in the North Rift region of Kenya from 1990 to 1992, where he was also the leader of the local African Inland Church (AIC) Choir.

Ruto began his political career when he became the treasurer of the YK’92 campaign group that was lobbying for the re-election of President Moi in 1992, from which he learned the basics of Kenyan politics. He is also believed to have accumulated some wealth in this period. After the 1992 elections, President Moi disbanded YK’92 and Ruto attempted to vie for various KANU (then Kenya’s ruling party) branch party positions but did not succeed.

Ruto ran for a parliamentary seat in the 1997 General Elections. He surprisingly beat the incumbent, Reuben Chesire, Moi’s preferred candidate, as well as the Uasin Gishu KANU branch chairman and assistant minister. After this, he would later gain favour with Moi and be appointed KANU Director of Elections. His strong support in 2002 for Moi’s preferred successor Uhuru Kenyatta saw him get a place as assistant minister in the Home Affairs (Interior) ministry docket. Later in that election, as some government ministers resigned to join the opposition, he would be promoted to be the full Cabinet Minister in the ministry. KANU lost the election but he retained his parliamentary seat. Ruto would thereafter be elected KANU Secretary General in 2005 with Uhuru Kenyatta getting elected as Chairman.

In 2005, Kenya held a constitutional referendum which KANU opposed. Some members of the ruling NARC coalition government, mainly former KANU ministers who had joined the opposition coalition in 2002 under the LDP banner and who were disgruntled as the President Kibaki had not honored a pre-election MoU on power-sharing and creation of a Prime Minister post, joined KANU to oppose the proposed constitution. Since the symbol of the “No” vote was an Orange, this new grouping named their movement the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Ruto was part of its top brass, dubbed the Pentagon. He solidified his voter base in the Rift Valley Province. ODM was victorious in the referendum.

In January 2006, Ruto declared publicly that he would vie for the presidency in the following General Elections (2007). His statement was condemned by some of his KANU colleagues, including former president Moi. By this time, ODM had morphed into a political party.  Ruto sought the nomination of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) as its presidential candidate, but on 1 September 2007, he was placed third with 368 votes. The winner was Raila Odinga with 2,656 votes and the runner-up was Musalia Mudavadi with 391. Ruto expressed his support for Odinga after the vote. As KANU under Uhuru Kenyatta moved to support Kibaki, he resigned from his post as KANU Secretary General on 6 October 2007.

After the 2007 elections Ruto was appointed as Minister for Agriculture in the power sharing government of Kibaki-Raila.

On 21 April 2010, Ruto was transferred from the Agriculture Ministry and posted to the Higher Education Ministry, swapping posts with Sally Kosgei. On 24 August 2011, Ruto was relieved of his ministerial duties and remained a Member of Parliament. He joined with Uhuru Kenyatta to form the Jubilee alliance for the 2013 presidential election.

He served as the Acting President of Kenya between 5 and 8 October 2014 while President Uhuru Kenyatta was away at The Hague.

In the August 2017 General Elections Uhuru and Ruto were declared victors after garnering 54% of the total votes cast. However, the Supreme Court of Kenya nullified the election, and a fresh election was held in October 2017. The opposition boycotted the fresh election and Uhuru and Ruto were re-elected with 98% of the total votes cast. The Supreme Court upheld the results of this second election.

On December 2020 Ruto announced his alliance with the newly formed United Democratic Alliance party.

On 15 August 2022, six days after the General election held on August 9, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chair Wafula Chebukati announced that Ruto had won the presidential election, defeating candidate Raila Odinga of the Azimio La Umoja party. Ruto received 50.49% of the valid votes cast, while Odinga received 48.85%.

His victory was challenged by Odinga in the Supreme Court. On 5 September, the Supreme Court judges unanimously found that Odinga’s alliance had presented inconclusive evidence of its claims that the election was rigged, and it upheld the election of Ruto as the president-elect. In response to the ruling, Odinga said he respected the Supreme Court’s decision even though he strongly disagreed with it.

On September 13 2022 William Ruto was sworn in as the fifth President of the Republic of Kenya after serving as the Deputy President for a two term period under former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

In a nutshell;

William Ruto was the Eldoret North MP- 1992-2007, Deputy President from 2013-2022, Minister for Agriculture from 2007-2010, Minister for Higher Education from 2010-2011.