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With Tears and Steel, Kenya’s ‘Hustler’ President Vanquishes His Foes

However, many wealthy Kenyans saw otherwise: “A thief and a murderer who is clearly unfit to be president of this republic,” said Jerotich Seii, a former aid worker and Odinga voter, now a prominent Ruto supporter. “It’s a class thing.”

Despite the slogan, Mr. Ruto was not your average ‘hustler’. In the early 1990s, he broke his teeth into politics as a campaigner for Kenya’s longtime autocratic president, Daniel Arap Moi, a fellow countryman of Kalenjin. As minister of agriculture, then higher education, between 2008 and 2010, Mr Ruto was seen as an effective, hands-on leader, but not a reformer: he sided with conservatives to oppose a new constitution passed in 2010. approved.

Along the way, he became very rich and built a business empire that includes luxury hotels, a 15,000-acre farm, commercial farm and a massive poultry processing plant. He was involved in corruption scandals, including allegations that he tried to seize land from a school in Nairobi for a hotel parking lot — a case still pending in court.

Mr Ruto has always denied all wrongdoing — “I’ve been controlled left, right, upside down and from within,” he said during a presidential debate in July — and many voters are willing to look beyond his wealth.

“They are all scammers, we know that,” said Ms. Seii. “I’m going for the crook with a plan.”

Mr Ruto’s career has largely been shaped by the International Criminal Court.

In 2010, prosecutors accused Mr Ruto and Mr Kenyatta of directing the political violence that followed the controversial 2007 elections – the major trauma of recent Kenyan history, with more than 1,200 dead and 600,000 displaced, when the country threatened to collapse. civil war.