Chinua Achebe’s writing in “Things Fall Apart” describes the rise of Okonkwo as, “looking at the king’s mouth one would think that he never sucked his mother’s breast.” This is a vivid portrayal of the ultimate hustler, the chicken seller from Kamagut village, William Kipchirchir Samoei Ruto. Ruto is known for his unwavering hard work and astute political strategy that propelled him to become Kenya’s President.
In just 30 years, Ruto went from being an errand boy in the Youth for KANU in 1992 (YK92) to becoming Kenya’s Vice President, and then the President of the Republic of Kenya. He was the first Vice President to be elected as the President directly and the first Kenyan to achieve this feat on the first try. Ruto created a political wave that overtook most seasoned politicians in Rift Valley and Mt Kenya. He also shifted the focus from political power to economic empowerment. In his acceptance speech, Ruto declared that his victory was a result of divine intervention.
William Ruto was born in 1966 in Kamagut, Uasin Gishu County, to Daniel and Sarah Cheruiyot. He attended Kerotet Primary School for his primary education, followed by Wareng Secondary School for his ordinary level education. He then went on to attend Kapsabet Boys High School for his advanced level education.
Ruto earned a Bachelor’s degree in Botany and Zoology from the University of Nairobi in 1990, with first class honors. He later went on to earn a Master’s degree in Plant Ecology and a Ph.D. in the influence of human activities on land use changes on the environmental quality of riparian ecosystems. Ruto is a devout Christian, having served as the Chairman of the Christian Union during his undergraduate studies.
After earning his Bachelor’s degree, Ruto worked as a teacher at Sirgoi and Kamagut schools. He then entered the political arena, becoming involved with YK92. Five years later, he won the Eldoret North Parliamentary seat, beating experienced politicians. Ruto rose through the ranks, serving as the Assistant Minister for Provincial Administration before joining the Cabinet in 2002.
Ruto joined forces with former Prime Minister Raila Odinga to defeat the 2005 constitutional referendum, which led to the creation of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM). Ruto sought the nomination for a presidential ticket but emerged third in the primaries. He delivered 80% of the Rift Valley votes to ODM in the 2007 elections, which were followed by vicious violence across the country, particularly in the Rift Valley Region. The international community intervened and Kofi Annan mediated negotiations to form the grand coalition government between Raila and Kibaki, known as Nusu Mkate. The coalition survived until the next election in 2013, where Ruto became the Minister for Agriculture and later Higher Education.