Just who wants Deputy President William Ruto out of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s pictures?
This is the question on some Kenyans’ minds after the DP’s pictures posing with UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday were deleted from the president’s Facebook account.
The two pictures, which showed Mr Ruto shaking hands with Mrs May at State House Nairobi on Thursday, were only restored after hawk-eyed Kenyans noticed.
More pictures of the DP at the State House function were only released to the DP’s communication team late on Thursday evening and his followers started sharing them enthusiastically.
In fact, pictures of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto having a light moment on the red carpet after seeing off Mrs May were only shared on the private accounts of the President’s personal assistant Jomo Gecaga and State House Digital Secretary Dennis Itumbi.
“The pictures were only restored out of shame after the DP’s communication team requested answers from Kanze Dena (State House spokeswoman) following questions from the public,” said a source, who requested not to be named in this article for fear of backlash from the bosses.
The tussle over the pictures speaks of how far the relationship between the President and his deputy has gone. Flash back to 2013 and those images would have been the thumbnails of the day’s albums.
Back then, both Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto’s social media accounts were awash with pictures of the each other as State House operatives tried to paint a picture of a tight bromance, amidst public perceptions that theirs was a marriage of convenience to beat the ICC cases they were facing at the time.
According to our source, the arrangement then was that during presidential functions, the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit (PSCU) would first upload the pictures of both the President and the DP in the former’s social media accounts.
The DP’s communication team would then share and retweet the pictures in the President’s accounts. Furthermore, to avoid duplication of roles, the DP’s communication team does not cover presidential functions and relies on PSCU for pictures and camera footage.
But the camaraderie between the President’s and the DP’s communication teams is gone, it seems.
According to a senior source in government who did not wish to be named in this article for obvious reasons, a clique of senior government officials opposed to the DP, are responsible for this state of affairs.
Deleting of Mr Ruto’s picture on Thursday only brought the fore the tensions between the communication handlers of both leaders that has been simmering for nearly a year now.
“Occasionally we have had issues with the DP’s photos being delayed,” said Mr Emmanuel Talam, the DP’s deputy director of communication. “But it’s not something that should worry Jubilee supporters.”
Our source said that towards the end of last year, a senior official at State House instructed the PSCU team not to be uploading the DP’s pictures on the President’s social media accounts without the official’s clearance.
The President’s accounts no longer retweets those of his deputy, even as the latter is eager to retweet and share posts on Mr Kenyatta’s accounts.
In addition, the accounts associated with Mr Kenyatta that would freely share Mr Ruto’s images were deactivated following an order by head of Presidential Delivery Unit Nzioka Waita. The order was communicated last month by Ms Dena.
Our source said the aim of the move is to foster the perception that all is not well between the President and the DP.
Our source said that the same State House official ordered PSCU not to post pictures the DP took with the President and former US President Barack Obama’s during the latter’s recent visit to Kenya.