Why Deputy President Ruto’s lieutenants beat retreat

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020 00:00 |
Raila Odinga meets the Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev. Justin Welby at the former Premier’s office in Nairobi yesterday. The meeting was also attended Head of the Anglican Church of Kenya Jackson ole Sapit and other senior clerics. Photo/PD/EMMANUEL WANSON

A plot by Deputy President William Ruto to disarm Opposition chief Raila Odinga who had taken control of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process is said to  be the main reason behind change of tune by his allies in support of the national unity project.

The other is to avoid a confrontation between the President and his deputy in a possible referendum over the initiative, which is aimed at addressing inclusion, election-related violence and corruption, among other salient issues that have haunted the country for decades.

Members of Parliament (MPs) allied to Ruto who have been vocal about the process, accusing Raila of hijacking the second phase of the BBI public hearings, yesterday vowed to attend the next regional conference in Mombasa.

Future BBI rallies

Sources privy to the latest turn of events told People Daily that the decision to attend future BBI rallies was reached during a meeting at Ruto’s Nairobi residence last week attended by pro-Ruto Jubilee legilstaors and sympathisers.

“The resolve is to take the battle to Raila’s door. Being a government project we don’t want a situation where the BBI forums are being used as platforms to attack the DP,” said an MP, who attended the meeting.

The MP suggested that Ruto is also set to attend some of the meetings, a situation that is likely to cause protocol tiffs between him and Raila, one of the BBI principals.

Elsewhere, in a fairly candid conversation with the Archbishop of Cantebury Justin Welby in his office yesterday, Ruto appeared to corroborate the thinking against a possible political contest over the project.

“When we started the process many people thought I will not support it. They said when we have Ruto on the other side, we have a contest that will be used for politics in the future,” he told the archbishop who appeared keen to understand his seeming opposition to the national cohesion campaign.

“There is a push to try and create camps. I have taken a decision to ensure there are no camps.

We don’t want to have an ‘Us vs Them’ contest even  if it means accommodating some things we don’t agree with,” said Ruto. 

He noted: “The BBI is a document in progress. We are ready to enrich it, distill the issues for implementation and if there is need to change the law, the Constitution or hold a referendum we will do so together.

We can finally arrive at a destination that everyone is comfortable with. We are not going to agree on a monarchy.”

Yesterday, MPs led by Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, his deputy and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika said that they will attend the Mombasa meeting on Saturday which is organised by governors from the Coast including host Hassan Ali Joho and his Kilifi counterpart Amason Kingi, all key Raila allies.

“We shall participate and contribute towards the success of the already organised BBI rallies across the country, beginning with Mombasa this weekend,” said Murkomen.

“We support existing efforts and complement the already scheduled rallies, we are organising rallies in other parts of the country. We shall soon announce the calendar of complimentary rallies to reinforce those already published. To these rallies, everybody irrespective of political opinion is invited,” they said. 

Respective governors

The Mombasa meeting follows similar ones held in Kisii and Kakamega convened by respective governors James Ongwae and Wycliffe Oparanya during which politicians criticised Ruto as a man unfit for the presidency. Raila was the key speaker at the highly charged events boycotted by Ruto allies. 

The Ruto group contends that the last two rallies were not only a waste of public funds but also meant to craft a line-up for the 2022 presidential contest built on the posts contained in the expanded executive proposed in the BBI report.   

Yesterday, Murkomen indicated that they will expand the BBI discussions to include issues touching on the economy, unemployment, social justice, rule of law and human rights.

However, there are fears that the move by Murkomen’s team would be calculated to bait Raila’s supporters for a possible confrontation which will then lay the ground for them to hold parallel rallies across the country castigating the Opposition chief and BBI.

 The MPs said they would mobilise their constituents to present their views in all the 290 constituencies as soon as the task force gazetted by government announces its full schedule.

But during the meeting with titular leader of the Anglican fraternity globally, Ruto still sounded skeptical about the rallies, saying they could be hijacked by the political elite for selfish interests.

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