Uhuru, Ruto, Raila face tough choices on BBI and graft war

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020 00:00 |
President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) with Deputy President William Ruto (left) and Opposition leader Raila Odinga during the launch of the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi on November 27. PD/FILE

By Eric Wainaina and Anthony Mwangi

The New Year presents tough political choices for President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and Opposition leader Raila Odinga in an environment that will be dominated by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), anti-corruption war and 2022 election politics.

Already, the alliance between Uhuru and Raila catalysed by the March 9, 2018 Handshake after the 2017 presidential poll has caused frosty ties between the President and his deputy. 

It has also split the Jubilee Party into two factions — Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga — allied to Uhuru and Ruto, respectively. 

To cement their Handshake, Uhuru and Raila came up with the BBI, whose task force published a report, which among other proposals, calls for a review of the governance structure to enhance inclusivity. 

Ironically, the initiative, which was meant to enhance inclusivity, unity and peace, has isolated Ruto and his allies who see the closeness between Uhuru and Raila as a scheme to scuttle his 2022 presidential ambition.

Big Four

But lawyer Denis Anyoka argues that the BBI debate is unlikely to dominate the political arena, and the three main players will have their own agenda to push.

“Many expect the BBI debate to dominate the political arena this year, but to the contrary the debate has been watered down by the common position taken by the three,” Anyoka told People Daily yesterday.

Ruto allies also read mischief in ongoing anti-graft war saying it is politically motivated and targets the DP’s supporters.   

For Uhuru, who is keen on his legacy as the clock to his exit from office in 2022 ticks, the BBI and Big Four agenda, will be key this year.

According to observers, how he navigates his way around the issues will make or break his legacy, besides being a litmus test for his relationship with Raila.

Ruto, on the other hand, sees BBI, which is expected to take shape this year, and the war of graft as a plot to scuttle his bid to succeed Uhuru in 2022.

In their New Year messages, Uhuru and Raila did not hide their expectations on the unity bid and war on graft, which in 2018 saw a Cabinet Secretary, two Principal Secretaries, three governors and other top officials charged.

The President also said his administration would not allow leaders to continue preaching negativity.

War on graft

“In the year 2020, we will continue to make Kenya a better nation for all as we build bridges of brotherhood among our people by weaving a stronger fabric of patriotism and nationhood. A key aspect of this quest will be anchored under the BBI; a process aimed at comprehensively addressing both historical and emerging national challenges,” the President said.

Raila said his focus in 2020 would be the war against graft. 

“Kenyans have agreed that individuals should carry their own cross of graft. I thank our people for this and encourage them to carry this spirit into 2020 and beyond if we are to make corruption a costly and useless venture,” said Raila, who recently dared Ruto to step aside to allow an audit on his wealth.

One the BBI, Raila said activities related to the initiative are expected to intensify this year.

“It is my hope that we will jointly build on the foundation laid in 2019, which built on the choices we made in 2018, so that we continue building bridges among our people to secure lasting unity and a greater sense of nationhood,” he said.

Last year, in what observers say was a deliberate attempt to avoid a public spat with his boss, Ruto kept a brave face that painted a picture of “all-is-well” between him and the President especially on the BBI, and the big question is for how long the patience will last.

BBI debate

According to Anyoka, who comments on political matters, the trio will not have a common agenda since they all have independent desires to fulfill.

He says Uhuru will have to deliver on the core mandate of his term, the Big Four agenda.“Since Ruto has declared his support for the BBI in whatever direction it takes means that there is no opposition and hence the President will not use it advance his differences with his deputy,” he said.

Anyoka says Raila will seek to use the BBI debate to advance his interests.

“As demonstrated, Raila’s changed his position after the launch of the report. He immediately called for referendum a change of tact to keep the discussion moving,” Anyoka says.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa says it is the desire of many Kenyans that the BBI report be implemented as released at Bomas.

According to the MP, an ally of the DP, there seems to be machinations to change the report to serve the interests of a few people.

“If there are changes to what’s in the report, they must be pro-people not pro-leadership matters,” said Ichung’wa, adding: “We must protect our democracy by respecting and honouring our Constitution.”

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