Legislators clash over Bomas Building Bridges Initiative meeting
Anthony Mwangi and Mercy Mwai
MPs allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and those supporting his deputy William Ruto yesterday clashed over invitations to Monday’s launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
The Deputy President’s (DP) allies accused their counterparts in the Kieleweke wing, which supports the Handshake between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga and by extension, the BBI report, of deliberately locking them out of the launch at the Bomas of Kenya auditorium, Nairobi.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen kicked off the storm on Sunday night when he claimed Ruto›s allies had not been invited to the event.
Through his official Twitter feed, Murkomen claimed that only those leaders supporting the Handshake were had been served with invitations card.
“My friends in National Assembly and Senate have not been invited to the ‹inclusive› BBI Bomas rally... I hear cards are being dished to Kieleweke adherence like Panadol!” claimed Murkomen.
His sentiments were echoed by Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali who lamented that he expected the invitation to be automatic and did not anticipate that a section of leaders would be left out.
“I expected the invitation but got none, I cannot tell who was behind the invitation but will inquire,” said Washiali.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa hit out at a section of top officials in the Office of the President for deliberately locking out the DP’s allies from the function which was attended by 6,000 delegates drawn from all corners of the country.
“I am sure the President did not direct the State officials to deny us invitation, they did it on their own,” said Ichung’wah.
“Where is inclusivity when even the invitation is skewed pitting us versus them?”
Only two Tangatanga allies of the DP attended the Bomas function; outspoken Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and his Kajiado West counterpart George Sunkuiya.
But in a quick rejoinder, National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya whose office coordinated invitations to MPs dismissed the DP’s allies accusing them of mischief.
Kimunya said he was only given 200 cards to distribute to members yet senators and Members of the National Assembly are 416 in total.
“Not everybody was getting the cards. The card was written by the steering committee and was given to me to distribute, how do I then deny people cards.
When I am given a list of people to give cards I am only a conveyor belt,” he said.
“People like to be mischievous, they want to use the issue of invitation cards to say they were not included in the list.”
He, however, said the cards were being given based on the participation one has been giving to the BBI project, the number of seats available and the Covid protocols.
Separately, National Assembly Chief whip Emmanuel Wangwe also dismissed accusations by Ruto’ss allies, saying all MPs had been invited to the event.
“All invitation cards were placed in the pigeon holes of individual MPs and Ichungw’a and his colleagues have very good pigeon holes, his invitation card was there,” said the Navakholo MP.
“I want to challenge Ichungw’a, how come some of the staunchest allies of the DP attended the event at Bomas, where did they get their cards from? He needs to be honest.”
The Head of the BBI secretariat, Paul Mwangi, denied claims that the DP had been sidelined at the event.
Ruto’s communication team had on Sunday night expressed concern that he was yet to receive his invitation card, a few hours to the event. But responding to the claims, Mwangi maintained the DP had been invited to the meeting.
“There is no chance that the DP would not have been invited to the event. His seat was there well in advance and he was listed on the day’s official programme as one of the keynote speakers,” Mwangi said.
“ It was the BBI secretariat which was in charge of the event, of course in conjunction with the government,» he added.
The occasion, which was initially billed as an event to mark the journey to reform the Constitution through the report, turned out to be a showdown pitting the President and his BBI brigade against Ruto, who almost scuttled the event by poking holes into the document.
Ruto, who was jeered by a section of the Bomas delegates, faulted the proposed expansion of the Executive, saying it does not address the winner-take-all system.
He also faulted the structure of the Senate, arguing that it had been weakened by denying it a role in revenue allocation.
The DP warned that if adopted, the report would interfere with the independence of the Judiciary and that of the police service.
And for the first time, differences between the President and his deputy played out in public with Uhuru being forced to abandon his official written speech to respond to Ruto, who appeared to distance himself from the BBI project.
“I consulted the DP over the BBI and he even helped in recruitment of the BBI taskforce members,” said Uhuru, who had sat between Raila and Ruto on the main dais.
The President narrated the genesis of his differences with Ruto, blaming it on early campaigns by the DP.
Yesterday, sources claimed that the absence of the pro-Ruto MPs at Bomas had caught the President›s attention and he questioned why they were missing, only for the DP to tell him that they had not been invited.
A furious Uhuru is said to have asked the State officers present to explain why they took the decision but none was ready to give an answer.
This weekend, the Ruto team is expected to hold a series of functions in Mount Kenya region where the BBI issue is expected to dominate.
On Friday, the team led by the DP will attend a harambee for Mathioya Women›s Sacco at Rurii Stadium in Murang›a county.
Later in the afternoon, the DP will preside over another funds drive in aid of the Kangema Bodaboda Sacco Joint Harambee Empowerment at General Kago Stadium in Kangema constituency.