The animosity between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto played out in the open on Monday after the DP was stopped from travelling to Uganda.
Ruto was set for a private trip to the neighbouring country — the second time in a month — but was blocked by immigration officials at Wilson airport.
Sources said immigration officials insisted Ruto had to get clearance from President Uhuru Kenyatta.
However, the DP’s aides accused Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i of issuing the decision to stop Ruto’s trip.
Former Presidential Strategic Communication Unit director Dennis Itumbi blamed Matiang’i.
Ruto later tweeted “isorait tumwachie MUNGU” (Leave it to God).
Sources close to Matiang’i denied the claim, insisting that “Ruto knew what to do”.
Witnesses said the DP and his team had used the VIP area in efforts to access the airside for their plane that was scheduled to leave at 1 pm when they were stopped by the immigration officials.
Ruto’s communication secretary David Mugonyi confirmed that the DP was blocked from travelling.
He said Ruto was asked to seek clearance from the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet Joseph Kinyua.
“The DP was scheduled to make a private visit to Uganda this afternoon. When he got to the airport, he was asked to seek clearance from the Head of Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet. We are surprised. This has never happened in nine years,” Mugonyi told the Star.
The stand-off at the airport lasted about five hours.
Sources said Ruto called Kinyua who said he was not aware of the directives to stop his travel.
In his entourage were MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Oscar Sudi (Kapsaret), Benjamin Tayari (Kinango).
Others were Harun Aydin, Mombasa businessman David Lagat, Eric Ruto and Elijah Rono.
Sources said the MPs were the first to be blocked. However, when a call was put to Speaker Justin Muturi, he cleared them, saying his office had nothing to do with a private visit.
The MPs and Ruto’s friends were then cleared to travel. However, Ruto was not.
The matter was a political hot potato with none of the government officials willing to say what exactly happened.
Government Spokesperson Cyrus Oguna said: “I have no information regarding this. I have just heard of it from you. You may need to contact the Immigrations boss Alexander Muteshi.”
However, Muteshi, in a text message, said: “Please find out from the airport.”
There was no response from Matiang’i’s office.
Interior ministry communications director Wangui Muchiri said she has been on leave since last week having lost a relative.
A senior official at the Office of the President said such trips are cleared by the President.
The official said it is a policy to clear all civil servants.
“Protocol is clear. You get your clearance from your boss. There’s only one boss for the DP,” said a senior official at the OP.
Another source said there was concern that the DP is making unofficial trips to the region amid claims he has been bringing in huge sums of money.
“He went to Uganda and later Zanzibar where we suspect he brought in lots of money. But let it be an issue of another day for now,” the source said.
This was to be the second trip by the DP to Uganda. He was in Uganda last month, hosted by President Yoweri Museveni.
He also flew to Zanzibar for another private meeting with some of those present yesterday.
However, the nature of his engagements remains unclear.
The July visit to Uganda came under heavy political scrutiny at a time when his relationship with Uhuru is broken.
The trip has also exposed his growing camaraderie with Museveni whom he vigorously campaigned for in 2015 amid a groundswell of criticism from Ugandan opposition leaders.
With the tense 2022 general elections around the corner, the DP’s support by a neighbouring head of state could have huge political and diplomatic significance in the battle against rivals.