DP absence at Rift leaders meeting raises eyebrows

Wednesday, March 11th, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta with governors from Rift Valley region at State House, Nairobi, on Monday. Photo/PSCU

Noah Cheploen @cheploennoah

The relationship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto came into sharp focus yesterday after the former held a meeting with some Rift Valley governors at State House without him. 

During Monday’s meeting attended by nine county chiefs, Ruto, who has accused the “system” of hatching plans to finish him politically, was conspicuously absent, leaving no doubt that relationship between the two leaders had hit the rocks.

According to information accompanying the pictures posted on State House social media accounts, Uhuru held consultative meeting with governors who briefed him on the preparations for the March 21 Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally in Nakuru.

“The governors assured the President of their full backing of the BBI process and undertook to ensure unity and inclusion of all stakeholders in the run-up to the Nakuru rally,” the statement said.

Led by Nakuru’s Lee Kinyanjui, governors Stanley Kiptis (Baringo), Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet), Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu), Josphat Nanok (Turkana) and John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot) gave the President their assurances. 

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Others were Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Hillary Barchok (Bomet) and Ndiritu Muriithi (Laikipia). 

Only Nandi’s Stephen Sang and his Trans Nzoia counterpart Patrick Khaemba were absent.

Yesterday, Kinyanjui told People Daily on phone that the two leaders had sent their apologies, adding that they were fully committed to the course.

“Yes, Rift Valley is one and united,” he said, adding: “We had gone to have direct consultation with the boss and we want to bring everyone on board.” 

He said they discussed preparations for the BBI events with the President emphasising the need for leaders to tone down political rhetorics. 

On the absence of the DP from the meeting, Kinyanjui said: “I wouldn’t want to be drawn into that but remember the Head of State has interest in the Rift Valley and what he wants is peace and not short- term politics.

You know politics will come and go but we are taking non-partisan approach (on the BBI)…” he said. 

By virtue of being the senior most leader and politician in the Rift Valley, Ruto’s absence from the meeting speaks volumes. He also missed—for the first time—last Sunday’s Beyond Zero Campaign sponsored by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta. 

Ruto and his allies have on several occasions claimed the BBI has been hijacked by some politicians led by former Prime Minister and ODM leader Raila Odinga for their selfish political agenda.

The DP, who has never attended any of the BBI rallies being addressed across the country by Raila allies, has been moving around the country selling the narrative that his political opponents have hijacked the initiative as a platform to clinch power in 2022.

He has also claimed the BBI is aimed at blocking his bid for the presidency by introducing a power sharing arrangement that would isolate him, allegations Uhuru, Raila and their allies have dismissed as untrue.

Kinyanjui, who heads an area seen as pro-Tanga Tanga, has been on a charm offensive in the past one week particularly after 14 out of 16 local MPs skipped the first consultative forum held at ASK Showground. 

He later held a closed-door meeting with Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and Senator Susan Kihika, who is also Senate Chief Whip, among other leaders.

The two pro-Ruto leaders have in the past accused the President of reneging on his promise to support him (Ruto) on his 2022 presidential bid. 

Ngunjiri said failure to implement the political pact that brought the duo together in 2012 would portray him and the Kikuyu community in bad light. 

During last month’s retreat in Naivasha attended by more than 170 MPs allied to Ruto, eight out of 11 elected Nakuru MPs were in attendance. Only Samuel Arama (Nakuru West), Raymond Moi (Rongai) and David Gikaria (Nakuru East) were absent. 

Although they are seen as moderates MPs Martha Wangari (Gilgil), Jane Kihara (Naivasha), Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi South), Moses Cheboi (Kuresoi North), Liza Chelule (Woman Rep) and Charity Kathambi and Nelson Gachobe (Subukia) all support Ruto.  

The DP has publicly questioned the establishment of BBI and the March 9, 2018 Handshake between Uhuru and Raila, matters, however, came to head last Saturday after he (Ruto) hinted at plans by powerful figures to assassinate him. 

Apart from the assassination plot claim, Ruto also accused the Directorate of Criminal Investigations of being used to discredit and destroy his office and his standing in the society ahead of the 2022 presidential elections. 

“Those in this scheme are boasting that I will not be there soon,”  Ruto said during the burial of police Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei at Chamasis, Nakuru county last Saturday.  

He added:“Since the system cannot elect anybody, they can only kill. But there is God in heaven.”

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