KIAMBU: A prayer meeting convened by Mount Kenya MPs to pray for Deputy President William Ruto and journalist Joshua arap Sang over their cases at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was briefly stopped as local politics took centrestage.
The meeting at Ruiru Stadium, Kiambu County witnessed a clash between supporters of area Governor William Kabogo and Kabete MP Ferdinand Waititu. It was an embarrassing scene for the more than 100 MPs, senators and governors gathered from all parts of the country.
Trouble started when Mr Waititu's entry into the stadium was met with a thunderous welcome from the mammoth crowd. This did not go down well with Mr Kabogo's supporters who engaged their rivals in a shouting match. The showdown enraged members of the United Republican Party (URP) who accused their partners in The National Alliance (TNA) of lacking seriousness and commitment in helping Mr Ruto with his case.
Deputy President William Ruto's URP brigade has in the past accused the State of doing little to help Ruto after President Uhuru Kenyatta's case at the ICC collapsed.
In the ensuing melee, some MPs from Rift Valley left in a huff after they were denied a chance to speak. Others walked out in protest, saying what they witnessed was embarrassing.
Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, who is also the chairman of Rift Valley governors, captured the mood of the URP leaders by saying: "What has happened here today shows what we have been saying that TNA is not serious in its support of Ruto and Sang in regards to ICC is true. If TNA was serious we would not have witnessed what happened here today."
He added, "The leaders from Kiambu should style-up and leave confrontational politics," he said.
Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki also publicly challenged Kabogo and Waititu to calm their supporters and bring the prayer meeting back to normalcy.
When he rose to speak, Kabogo tried his hand at damage control.
"We want to tell our brothers from Rift Valley that, as Central Kenya, we support Ruto and have been supporting him since 2013 when he teamed up with President Uhuru Kenyatta. We shall continue supporting him until 2022 because we have an agreement that he should be President after Uhuru," he said.
He emphasised that the Jubilee government will stick together even with the ongoing cases at the ICC and warned those imagining that the coalition will split that theyare in for a rude shock.
"The fabric that puts the Jubilee government together cannot be torn by any circumstances, including the ICC case. If our brothers from the Rift Valley led by Ruto are not there, we are not there too," said Kabogo, amid cheers.
Renowned Kikuyu musician Muigai wa Njoroge addressed the crowd pleading with them not to embarrass the region.
"Learn to respect all people, even those that you do not support. It is your democratic right to support who you want, but that should not be used to disrupt such a meeting," Mr Muigai said.
Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru, who is also the chairman of Mt Kenya MPs, reiterated the commitment of area leaders to supporting the deputy president.
Prof Kindiki, who was in charge of the programme, wondered why the ICC suddenly decided to use recanted evidence in the cases facing the duo, adding that he read malice. Kindiki said as a lawyer, he has never seen a court anywhere in the whole world changing the rules of engagement in the middle of a case it is handling. He said the ICC is now resorting to desperate measures to find Ruto and Sang culpable.
"We are astonished that the ICC now wants to use the evidence of people who were declared as hostile witnesses, after they recanted their statements. The decision to use recanted evidence is a form of desperation after they found nothing to pin down the two Kenyans at the court," he said.
The host, Ruiru MP Esther Gathogo, said she was optimistic the two will soon be acquitted since she believed they never committed the crimes.
"Politically, we from Central Kenya and the rest of Kenya stand with the Kalenjin community and we shall not allow the ICC to criminalise a whole community when we know truly who should be held liable for the 2007 post election violence," Mr Waweru said.
"If they jail Ruto at the ICC we shall elect him in absentia because locking him up at the ICC will be locking up President Uhuru Kenyatta, and subsequently locking up all Kenyans," said Starehe MP Maina Kamanda.
"Our country was divided following the post-election violence, but it is now united under the President and his deputy. We shall not allow anyone, including the court, to divide the country again," said Kindiki.
Nandi Senator Stephen Sang said the intervention of ICC in the Kenyan case was no longer needed since the two warring communities in 2007 had made peace. "By allowing the use of recanted evidence in the case against the two, ICC has opened Pandora's Box. It is clear the court is now targeting one community," Mr Sang said.
Kabogo said Mt Kenya region was fully behind the deputy president and told-off those alleging TNA's support was wavering. Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi claimed the case at the ICC was political. He alleged that the court had a pre-determined verdict, which is why the judges had allowed the use of recanted evidence.