A planned rally Deputy President William Ruto was to attend in Murang’a tomorrow has been cancelled for the second time, amid reports of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s hand in the latest cancellation.
Some sources said Uhuru personally asked Dr Ruto to cancel the meeting while others pointed to pressure from State House and close associates of the President.
What was clear from multiple interviews with politicians and organisers was that the president’s intervention – either directly or indirectly – prompted the cancellation.
Although it had been billed as an inter-denominational prayer meeting, the heavy political undertones surrounding preparations for the forum were being interpreted as a public show of solidarity with the DP by the region that is the president’s backyard, and which, in some quarters, was being seen as sending signals of defiance.
Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege confirmed that political temperatures forced the organisers to cancel the meeting.
She said although she was not part of the coordinating team, it was feared that politics would cloud the real intentions of the function.
“Since the meeting could be seen to antagonise President Uhuru Kenyatta, it was postponed to a day that would be communicated. Although there was no such an agenda, people might interpret it in the wrong way,” said Ms Chege.
An MP allied to Ruto, and who was part of the coordinating committee, said by Wednesday, 130 MPs and 11 governors from around the country had confirmed attendance through a WhatsApp group formed for the purpose.
“The President called off the meeting. There was panic within Government over the large number of leaders going for the prayer meeting. The president was in catch-22 and asked the DP to call off the meeting,” claimed the MP.
Kimilili MP Didmus Baraza, another Ruto ally, was more forthright about the meeting’s purpose.
“None of the leaders was going to talk. It was purely a prayer event. Nevertheless, it was a show of solidarity with the DP and could have been used to know those fully supporting his push for Jubilee agenda or not,” disclosed Baraza.
An MP from the Rift Valley questioned why the Executive was jittery about activities of Ruto’s allies.
“Kieleweke has been holding meetings without Government interference. Why would a prayer meeting be cancelled on the premise that they are not comfortable with it, and especially the President himself? Kielelweke team is gaining popularity every day, including by some leaders from ODM joining them. Why should our events be of their concern?” said the MP, referring to a rival group that is opposed to the DP.
This is the second time the prayer meeting is being cancelled at the eleventh hour in unexplained circumstances.
Although church leaders organising the meeting sent out cancellation messages saying the convention was called off due to unforeseen circumstances, those privy to the happenings said it was put off due to influence from people near the President.
The meeting was also cancelled at the eleventh hour a fortnight ago in what the clergy said was to allow the country to mourn the death of former President Moi’s son Jonathan.
Yesterday, sources told The Standard Ruto was convinced by close associates of the President not to attend the rally “at this time as it would be viewed as undermining the President in his own backyard.”
“It was felt that the rally that was supposed to bring together the DP’s supporters in Mt Kenya region would have been seen as an attempt by Ruto to flex his muscles in Uhuru’s home area. He was convinced that this was not the right time for such a rally,” a senator aware of the happenings told The Standard.
The senator, who declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the matter, said instead of the high-profile meeting, it was agreed that the Deputy President continues holding his “usual meetings in the region, which will not be open to wrong interpretation.”
“You can imagine a situation where majority of leaders in Mt Kenya turn up for a rally showing solidarity with Ruto at a time the political temperatures are rising. This will be interpreted as the President has fallen out of favour with his political bedrock. This is the reason Ruto was asked to slow down. The issue has been a hot topic since the beginning of the week,” said the source.
An invitation by Bishop Stephen Maina, who is chairing the organising committee, had indicated that the DP would preside over the launch of the Murang’a Church Sacco.
But yesterday, Ruto’s spokesman David Mugonyi denied that the DP was set to attend the fete, saying: “As far as we are concerned, the diary of the Deputy President has nothing like that set for Saturday. We are not aware about the function.”
Preparations for the mega rally at Kenol trading centre in Maragua had already been finalised, with Bishop Maina saying they expected more than 70 MPs to accompany Ruto.
On Tuesday, Maina, a Full Time Winners Gospel Church bishop, led a team to inspect the ground in preparation for the prayers.
He said all the clergy in Murang’a were united in the preparations, with Catholic and Anglican Churches well presented.
Yesterday, Bishop Maina did not pick our calls.
Although other clergymen who had been coordinating preparations confirmed the last minute cancellation, none of them explained reasons behind putting off of the meeting.
The message to the church leaders read in part: “Praise Jesus, due to unavoidable circumstances, our prayer meeting at Kenol has been postponed until further notice. Please inform other Christians.”
Secretary to the bishops’ forum John Kiragu Mwangi told The Standard the meeting was postponed to allow the organisers more time for effective preparations.
“The committee members will be holding meetings to ensure we have a prayer meeting and launch of the sacco for the churchmen sooner than later,” said Mr Kiragu.
He declined to respond on what could have led to the second cancellation.
Murang’a South sub-county administrator James Githii said he was not aware of any meeting in his area.
“The coordinating committee has not informed the offices concerned of intention to hold any meeting at Kenol Market,” said Githii.
Yesterday, Maragua MP Mary Waithera, in whose constituency the meeting was to be held, said she was surprised at the turn of events, adding she did not know the reason for the cancellation.
“As of now, the prayer meeting has been cancelled by the organisers. The leaders are awaiting to know what could have happened,” said the MP.
Waithera and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, who are both allies of the DP, had earlier confirmed that the meeting would be taking place.
During one of the many meetings the DP has held in his Karen office this week, it is instructive that in one of them he was accompanied by Murang’a MPs allied to him, in what was seen as part of the preparations for tomorrow’s meeting.
MP opposed to Ruto were yesterday rubbing their hands in glee as the news of the cancellation spread.
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu and nominated MP Maina Kamanda dismissed suggestions that the convention was a prayer meeting, saying it was a political forum “to try and send a certain message.”
Mr Wambugu, who revealed he was not invited to the meeting, said it was a political rally disguised as a prayer function, yet it had been organised to voice support for Ruto in Mt Kenya region.
Mr Kamanda said: “Preparations for prayers involves a lot of people, while the Kenol one was meant purely for politicians.”
[Additional reporting by Roselyn Obala]