Showdown looms in Jubilee Party over BBI team report
By Mercy Mwai and Seth Onyango
Battle lines have been drawn within the ruling Jubilee Party as a team appointed to find ways of uniting Kenyans and avoiding electoral violence prepares to hand over its report to the President.
The impending release of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report has reignited factional wars pitting the Kieleweke team, that supports the March 2018 Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, and the Tanga Tanga group that supports Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 State House bid.
The pro-Ruto team views the BBI as a project meant to scuttle the DP’s presidential ambitions.
Insiders from the opposing groups have vowed to ensure their agenda carries the day, with Kieleweke rooting for a review of the Constitution to create more space in the Executive while Tanga Tanga opposes the initiative.
The new developments came a day after the President praised the Handshake as the panacea for problems bedevilling the country, during the launch of the SGR Phase 2A from Nairobi to Naivasha, on Wednesday. The President said he and Raila are scheduled to launch a vigorous campaign for the BBI report across the country.
A BBI official, Paul Mwangi, told People Daily that their report was ready for handover, adding that they were waiting for an appointment with the President and Raila.
Yesterday, daggers were drawn as the opposing camps in Jubilee vowed to push their positions once the BBI report is made public.
Addressing a press conference at Parliament buildings yesterday, seven MPs allied to Kieleweke announced their support for BBI within and outside the House.
The legislators, Wambugu Ngunjiri (Nyeri Town), Tom Kajwang’ (Ruraka), Gathoni Wamuchomba (Kiambu Women Rep), Anthony Oluoch (Mathare), Mishi Mboko (Likoni), Maoka Maore (Igembe North) and Abdi Shurie (Balambala), said the approach by the BBI team to consult many Kenyans will ensure it does not suffer the same fate as the Punguza Mizigo initiative which was thrown out by a majority of county assemblies.
According to the legislators the Punguza Mizigo initiative spearheaded by Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot, failed because some people wanted to use it as a political tool to divide Kenyans as well as create obstacles for BBI.
Ngunjiri said as MPs they will do everything possible to ensure BBI is accepted by Kenyans.
“As the parliamentary caucus that supports the BBI, we look forward to the report that we expect will be presented to the President and former prime minister. We also expect that it will be made available to all Kenyans and we commit to do our part politically,” he said.
Kajwang said the Punguza Mizigo initiative flopped because its proponents did not address all issues affecting Kenyans. He warned that Aukot’s attempts to stop the BBI report in court would be met with the same fate as the bill and urged him to “accept and move on”.
Wambugu, who is an ardent supporter of the Handshake, described the fall of Punguza Mizigo as a win for the BBI team whose mandate was to collect views from Kenyans on how the country should be united to avoid the cyclic election-related violence.
“We note that, except for Uasin Gishu, all the other assemblies rejected it primarily on the basis of lack of inclusivity on how it was prepared,” the MP said
But in a show of defiance to Uhuru’s pronouncements on BBI, MPs allied to Ruto vowed to campaign against the report if it proposes expanding the Executive.
“Let them know from the onset that it will not be a walk in the park for BBI. We are prepared for any eventuality,” said Nandi Senator Samuel Cherargei.
The senator reiterated his past claims that BBI was being pushed in a bid to stop Ruto’s quest for the presidency in 2022.
Controversial Kapsaret MP Oscar Sudi stated: “The good thing is that Kenyans are not asleep. They are watching every movement being made and would make the right decision when the time comes.”
Ruto will now have to walk a political tight rope not to appear to be fighting a peace initiative spearheaded by his boss and which has quelled political tensions in the country.
However, the country’s second-in-command has been using proxies to discredit the BBI which he deems part of a plot to block his ambitions.
His allies have been traversing the country since the Handshake, criticising the initiative as one meant to “create positions for election losers”, in reference to Raila.
Yesterday, pro-Ruto legislators who did not want to be named revealed that a meeting has been called to plan how to counter BBI in and outside Parliament.
In the likely event that the BBI goes to Parliament, Ruto’s troops have vowed to shoot it down using their alleged numerical strength.
And as they await the release of the report, the Tanga Tanga brigade has been directed to start campaigning against the initiative.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, who has been in the fore front supporting Ruto, said that while he respects the President, Ruto’s team will not allow him to dictate to Kenyans what to do.
“The President should allow the rule of law to prevail. He should to stop being bitter; let him cool down and engage Kenyans on what he wants,” the MP said.