Nation split down the middle ahead of Uhuru’s BBI launch

Monday, November 25th, 2019 00:00 |
Deputy President William Ruto with MPs Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu) and Moses Kuria (Gatundu South)

A gentleman’s agreement—the Handshake—between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga nearly two years ago now threatens to split the country and could open a battleground for the 2022 succession battle.

And as the two political foes-turned-allies prepare to receive the much-awaited Building Bridges Initiative report tomorrow, other leaders—for and against the  March 9, 2018 Handshake — are already expressing varied views on the document.

Ironically, the initiative started to cure the country of political divisions and nurture national reconciliation could spur the opposite, unless sobriety reigns.

Already, cracks have emerged over the report with some MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto warning that they will reject the report if it proposes the creation of more political positions. 

While Uhuru and Raila, backed by their allies, are unequivocal on the support for the BBI report, indications are that Ruto, though ambivalent, is opposed to it.

His position is informed by fears the report could come up with recommendations that could radically alter the country’s power structure and hurt his 2022 presidential ambitions.

Yesterday, the DP cautioned that premature discussions on the report would derail the country’s development, but hastened to add that the opinion of every single Kenyan would have to count if the BBI report is to be backed.

Reject report

He also advised Kenyans to ignore those using threats to rally support for the report. 

“Every Kenyan will be given a chance to read and understand the report. That way, we would agree on how we would move forward together,” Ruto said at a church function in Thika, Kiambu county.

But MPs accompanying him warned they would reject the report if it proposes the creation of more political seats as well as parliamentary system of government.

They included Patrick Wainaina (Thika Town), Simon King’ara (Ruiru), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Jane Kihara (Naivasha), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Moses Nguchinye (Imenti Central), Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu), Kago wa Lydiah (Githunguri)   and former Thika Town MP Alice Ng’ang’a.

Gachagua asked Raila to stop “threatening” Kenyans who do not agree with him over the BBI and instead emulate the President, who has said every Kenyan would be given a chance to read and give their opinion on the report. 

“We have realised there are two reports—that of the President of uniting Kenyans and that of Raila that threatens to sweep away those who oppose it like a tsunami,” he said.

Hidden agenda

Ichung’wa blamed selfish individuals who refuse to concede defeat in elections of pushing a hidden political agenda through the BBI.

 “We agree there is a political problem in the country but the problem is that of selfish leaders who never concede defeat. We want to see how the BBI will address this problem of not conceding defeat,” he said.

 Kuria said while the President was keen to unite Kenyans, his Handshake partners were not honest.

But speaking in Siaya, Senator James Orengo warned that BBI would not only block Ruto from ascending to power in 2022, but also “finish him politically.” He claimed that by opposing the BBI, Ruto has written his political obituary.

 “Come 2022, he (Ruto) will be nowhere,” he said, adding that the BBI would help Raila clinch power.

To allay any anxiety, Uhuru has indicated that he will read the report for the first time when he and Raila receive it tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei termed the BBI report illegal stating there are only two ways to change the Constitution — through Parliament or popular initiative.

She said Kenyans should have been consulted on the matter.

 “Seven thousand people cannot represent the views of 48 million Kenyans. We will have to go through the report carefully before making a decision whether to accept it,” said Shollei.

New positions

Emurua Dikir MP Johana Ngeno his Bomet East counterpart Beatrice Kones and  Kandara’s Alice Wahome also said they would oppose the report if it proposes the creation of new political positions.

“Dynasties will not be clinging to the top seats while others are just stepping stones,” said Kones.  

Separately, MPs Patrick Mariru (Laikipa West) and  Kubai Iringo( Igembe Central) said the President was committed to uniting Kenyans but accused Raila of preaching division. Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru asked those pushing for the adoption of the report to seek the support of Kenyans through consensus.

 Kuria West MP Mathias Robi warned that the report would be rejected if it proposes the creation of more political seats.

Elsewhere, ICT Cabinet secretary Joe Mucheru said the BBI would reshape how Kenya is governed for a prosperous future.

 “I am not a politician but the handshake has ensured a peaceful country with many being able to do business,” he said at the annual CIO 100 Awards in Naivasha.

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