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It was the question on everyone’s mind, but when he stepped out of his Karen office to address the media, Deputy President William Ruto left Kenyans puzzled.

Dr Ruto has since the ban on public gatherings maintained a studious silence as Kenyans battle coronavirus.

Apart from tweets, Dr Ruto appears to have turned – or been turned – into a lone ranger and is not part of the communications team on the pandemic.

He is not a member of the Dr Fred Matiang’i-led National Co-ordination Committee on Coronavirus Pandemic, which reports directly to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Of late, Dr Ruto has not attended meetings of the nine-member National Security Council.

Chaired by the president, the council has the DP, Cabinet secretaries in charge of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Internal Security or Interior as is designated, Attorney-General, Chief of Kenya Defence Forces, National Intelligence Service head and the Inspector-General of Police.

The security council, the Constitution says, has the mandate to see and appraise the objectives, commitments and risks to Kenya. It is this council that has been making key decisions on Covid-19.

With Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i leading the team, it is apparent that Dr Ruto – despite his denials – has been sidelined.

At Thursday’s press conference, he offered a possible explanation by directing journalists to think about the “designated survivor” principle – the keeping aside of one key member of an administration who can step in just in case a calamity befalls the ruler.

“You may want to ask yourselves why the president and his deputy cannot travel in the same equipment at any one time,” he said.

In effect, that means Dr Ruto has been missing in action as a matter of arrangement than being sidelined.

“For the record, we consult… almost daily, with the president and the ministers carrying out various tasks in the management of this pandemic. And that is the position of the Jubilee administration,” he said.

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