Deputy President William Ruto has declared that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will have to undergo another round of validation by Kenyans even as his boss angrily spoke against its critics.
In what is shaping up into a battle for the soul of the handshake, Ruto said only a “national conversation” could save President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s pet project.
Ruto’s allies have been dismissive of both the handshake and BBI, describing them as exclusive ventures of a few. The handshake has also been accused by Ruto’s henchmen of bringing confusion within the ruling Jubilee Party.
“As a democratic society the proposals by BBI will be subjected to an open national conversation where every voice (the weak/strong, the small/big) will be heard,” Ruto tweeted yesterday.
But speaking in Mombasa later in the day, President Kenyatta made it clear that his legacy was hinged on implementation of the yet to be released report. He made it clear that nobody would come between him and the handshake.
He refuted claims that he was under any political pressure and slammed critics of the handshake for fanning hostile propaganda against the BBI whose report is expected any time now.
He described criticism against the BBI as “petty” and inconsequential and declared that he will not be blackmailed to back down on his rapprochement with the former premier and promoting national cohesion.
“Some people have claimed I am under pressure because of politics. I am too busy working and have no time for politicking.
“The BBI is meant to bring Kenyans together. We cannot make meaningful progress if other people are left behind. I will remain focused in building the country,” said the President.
He spoke at Mwangala Primary School in Likoni, Mombasa County, during the groundbreaking ceremony for the multi-billion-shilling Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone.
On Wednesday, while launching the construction of the Nairobi Expressway, 27km highway from Mlolongo to James Gichuru Junction, President Kenyatta was at pains to address the same critics of BBI.
He said BBI was aimed at addressing election-related differences witnessed in the past with a view of having a lasting solution.
“That road (BBI) myself and Raila with other leaders we shall complete. Do not be misled, love your country, love and respect yourselves. I am confident we shall accomplish the mission,” he said.
Whereas the Uhuru and Raila task force has received a good reception from the two leaders’ support bases, politicians allied to Ruto’s have poured scorn at the initiative, a move that has created heated political temperatures in the country.
Recently while addressing residents of Sabatia, Vihiga County, Ruto scorned the task force, saying it should have just singularly sought Raila’s mind rather than engage Kenyans in what was a one man’s pursuit.
“We know the BBI is trying to push for a referendum meant to appease Raila,” he said.
The BBI, Ruto has said repeatedly, should ask the opposition leader what he needs to be changed in the Constitution for him to accept the outcome of elections.
Notably, Ruto’s attack on the opposition leader’s role in the BBI task force cleverly avoids his boss’s position in the initiative.
Raila has previously warned Ruto and his allies they risk being swept by a political storm should they oppose constitutional reforms proposed by the BBI.
“There are very good views from Kenyans and once the report is out, we will publish it for Kenyans to give their views then go for a referendum,” said Raila at Kamukunji grounds, Nairobi, a month ago.
“I have seen a storm, there are signs that it will rain. There’s is a storm that will take all the Tanga Tanga people to the ocean.”
At the launch of Dongo Kundu Special Economic Zone, the President said the project will provide 300,000 jobs for the youth and open up the economic zone to the outside world.