Bishops push for Uhuru, DP Ruto reconciliation talks

Monday, September 6th, 2021 00:00 |
Archbishop Anthony Muheria of the Nyeri Catholic Archdiocese who chairs the group seeking to reconcile the President and his deputy. Photo/PD/file

Six senior clerics who have been trying to reconcile President Uhuru Kenyatta and his estranged deputy William Ruto are now pushing for a face-to-face meeting between the two leaders this week.

The meeting is being arranged amid warning by the clerics that the relationship between Uhuru and Ruto had “grown worse” in the recent months.

The religious leaders, who began the initiative last year before their mission was interrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, blame hardliners surrounding the two leaders of frustrating their reconciliation efforts.

They are now racing against time to achieve their mission with an anticipated round of caucus this week.

Archbishop Anthony Muheria of the Nyeri Catholic archdiocese, who is the chairman of the group, has reportedly been in touch with both Uhuru and Ruto ahead of an anticipated meeting.

The Handshake

“We are optimistic that we shall re-ignite the talks and bring together the two erstwhile political allies.

Archbishop Muheria is scheduled to brief us on the progress he has made so far in reaching out to the two leaders before a joint meeting,” retired African Inland Church (AIC) bishop Silas Yego, who is a member of the team, told People Daily last week.

Bishop Yego and Archbishop Muheria, have quietly been working alongside archbishops Jackson ole Sapit (Anglican Church of Kenya), Philip Anyolo (Kisumu Catholic Archdiocese), bishops David Oginde (retired head of Christ is The Answer Ministries) and Robert Lang’at of African Gospel Church to reconcile the two politicians.

Bad blood between the President and his deputy climaxed in 2018 when the former reached a truce with his 2017 presidential race rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The truce resulted in the formation of the Building Bridges Initiative Task Force charged with the responsibility of looking into a nine-point agenda that would have led to amendments to the Constitution through a referendum.

But Ruto took a divergent route from his boss, as he traversed the country voicing opposition to the proposals contained in the BBI document, among them the expansion of the Executive.

And now with the collapse of BBI following a Court of Appeal judgment, the bishops are of the view that the two politicians should forget their differences and work together for the sake of the country’s development and unity.

Contacted yesterday, Muheria declined to delve into the details, but only expressed optimism that their efforts would soon bear fruit.

“I think we have made much progress and God willing, we may realise the gains,” Muheria said.

But Bishop Yego said the talks that had been slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic that made it difficult for physical meetings – particularly when Archbishop Muheria was admitted in hospital after he was infected with the virus – would have yielded results by now.

Asked about the genesis of the differences between the two leaders, Bishop Yego says whereas both Uhuru and Ruto have shown willingness to be reconciled, none of them has come out openly to state the reasons for the fallout.

Bishop Yego said Ruto appears to have been in a hurry to get assurances from his boss about his 2022 presidential candidature.

“From our separate meetings with them, we have deduced one fact, their differences are not ideological but are out of perceptions and unknown fears,” he said.

Other independent sources indicated to People Daily that besides the President’s concern over alleged disrespect by his deputy, he was also not comfortable with the manner in which the latter was pushing him to endorse him for 2022 as a reciprocation for his support in the 2013 and 2017 elections.

“The Deputy President was out to bulldoze the President. Matters got worse when the DP started going around the country in what was believed to have been aimed at showing the President his might and capability,” said the source.

Another cause of divergence, according to the source, are fears by the DP and his allies that the President is determined to scuttle Ruto’s presidential bid in favour of Raila.

Hardliners role

So far, the clerics have held two separate meetings with the two leaders in their bid to diffuse the tension.

Bishop Yego said they have met the President at State House twice and held two lengthy meetings with Ruto at his Karen residence.

“Both of them are willing to work together again. But it is the hardliners surrounding them who have been exaggerating and accelerating their differences.

But in our next meeting, if it happens, we are going to tell them to decide to either ignore their supporters and move the country forward, or be prepared for blame if the country burns,” Bishop Yego warned.

He said the clerics fear that the animosity between the two leaders could push the country to the brink.

Bishop Lang’at said they were puzzled that the President was willing to reconcile with his former nemesis Raila and yet he was reluctant to extend the same olive branch to Ruto.

Meanwhile, religious leaders from the Rift Valley region have said they are ready to reconcile warring factions of leaders in the country for the sake of unity.

Bishop Alfred Rotich of Kericho diocese said as the country heads to the next General Election, there was need for politicians to speak in one accord, political differences notwithstanding.

“We may differ politically but we do not want a situation where politicians incite the youth,” said Rotich.

Kisii Catholic Bishop Joseph Mairura said the standoff between Uhuru and Ruto was causing unnecessary anxiety ahead of next year’s election.

“Uhuru is the father of the nation. I want to pray for him and his deputy. It is impossible for them to forgive each other,” Bishop Mairura stated.

He  was addressing a congregation at Nyabururu Catholic church on Saturday during the ordination of seminarians to priesthood.

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