The 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga is being used to forge an alliance for the 2022 elections, Deputy President William Ruto has claimed.
In a tweet yesterday, Dr Ruto indirectly accused Raila of hijacking the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) to further his quest for the presidency, but spared his boss – Mr Kenyatta – despite the initiative being their joint venture.
“We accept that BBI and Handshake have been hijacked to craft ODM’s 2022 political line up. Unity/inclusivity pretence and associated squander of public resources should stop,” said the DP, referring to the regional BBI forums launched by Raila last week.
Addressing supporters in Soy, Uasin Gishu, Ruto dismissed the regional BBI forums spearheaded by Raila.
“What we witnessed at the weekend in Kisii was not a campaign for the BBI report but a revival of ODM’s 2022 presidential strategy,” said Ruto, in reference to the BBI regional forum attended by Raila and Interior CS Fred Matiang’i.
He added: “The handshake and BBI debate has brought confusion in implementation of the Jubilee government’s Big Four agenda after it dismembered the National Super Alliance (NASA) and killed the opposition.”
Raila’s allies, however, dared Ruto to directly take on his boss, the President, instead of waging a proxy war using ODM to mask his frustrations with the Jubilee Party leader.
The statement by the DP comes after months of talk of a super alliance by politicians coalescing around Raila and a camp in Jubilee allied to Uhuru that is determined to scuttle Ruto’s presidential bid.
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In January last year, Uhuru’s close ally David Murathe quit his position as Jubilee vice chairman to be free to champion a “stop Ruto movement”.
Three months later, Siaya Senator James Orengo hinted at a possible political deal that could see Raila and Uhuru in the same camp in the next General Election.
“ODM is going for political power, and when we are holding these meetings our eyes are set on 2022. The contestation for power is going to come from a formation with ODM in it and a formation of Jubilee, where Uhuru Kenyatta is playing a role,” Mr Orengo said in March last year.
And in September, Mr Murathe, again, declared that Raila was the only politician who could beat Ruto in the 2022 presidential contest.
“If there is somebody who can stop that guy (Ruto) from becoming president, it is the former prime minister. There is nobody else,” said Murathe, adding: “Our main aim is to make sure that person (Ruto) does not become president because if he does, we are all finished”.
Murathe last week dared Ruto to oust Uhuru from the leadership of the ruling party in upcoming party elections to block the president from becoming prime minister if the post is created as proposed by some under the BBI.
Ruto has dismissed political brokers he accuses of trying to push Uhuru to extend his hold onto power after 2022.
Instructively, the calls for Uhuru to become prime minister are interpreted as part of a Raila-Uhuru power deal, and at the weekend some ODM MPs said the party would not mind supporting the president if he were to go for the seat.
Yesterday’s declaration by the DP is interpreted as referring to political realignments since the March 9, 2018, a handshake that has seen Raila and Uhuru allies team up publicly, as was the case in the Kibra by-election and the first BBI forum in Kisii last week.
Ruto opened the new battlefront on Friday by claiming that public resources were being misused as Raila and Dr Matiang’i led governors and MPs to drum up support for BBI proposals in Kisii.
Yesterday, some of Ruto’s allies claimed Raila had kicked out his NASA co-principals Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetang’ula, and was in the process of replacing them with other leaders.
They claimed governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Alfred Mutua (Machakos) were set to replace Mr Musyoka, while Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa was being groomed to take up Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula slots in Raila’s 2022 lineup.
The DP’s camp further accused Uhuru of failing to take charge of the BBI strategy, which they claim has given Raila an opportunity to hijack the process and cobble a 2022 contest vehicle.
Mudavadi and Wetang’ula have since protested the manner in which public meetings for BBI were being conducted, declaring: “BBI must be used to build consensus and not for politicians positioning themselves for 2022”.
They have vowed to boycott the Bukhungu, Kakamega meeting scheduled for January 18.
Yesterday, allies of Uhuru and Raila hit back and dared Ruto to face the president instead of turning ODM into his punching bag whenever he had a problem with his party leader.
ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said the DP should stop his obsession with the Orange party, adding that BBI was a creation of Uhuru and Raila.
“How can we hijack our own baby? When we want to create political alliances, we do not pretend. We are bold enough to do so openly. BBI is a creature of his boss and Raila. But he does not have the guts to face his boss over his misgivings so he engages ODM in a proxy war with his boss,” Mr Sifuna said.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja said it was surprising that Ruto was fighting an initiative from his party boss, stating that the DP should be at the forefront in championing the cause.
“He should be the one coordinating the meetings because he said he backs it. If he is not comfortable joining the meetings by Raila, he should organise his own meetings to support the president’s agenda,” he said.
Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi said Ruto should stop crying wolf, accusing him of being the one who started premature 2022 campaigns.
Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala and Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi said forming and disbanding political alliances was the nature of politics the world over.
“The BBI train has left the station and there is no turning back. The nature and form of the ultimate alliances that will go into elections cannot be ascertained as at now,” said Mr Wandayi.
Mr Malala added that BBI was not about ODM.
“Ruto is suffering from the fear of unknown about the presidency. He should not read mischief in BBI forums. BBI is an agenda of his boss and any issue with it, he should take to his boss,” he said.
Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma added: “Ruto should have the courage to face the president, instead of hiding behind ODM. His attitude towards the president as DP makes me believe Kenyans should consider amending the Constitution to make the DP an appointee of the president as was the case before.”
The DP’s allies, Senator Mithika Linturi, and MPs Didmus Barasa and Nelson Koech maintained that inclusion of civil servants in the meetings was a misuse of public resources.
“Everybody accepted the document as it was drafted, but they have gone ahead to create a contest, made themselves proponents and the rest of us opponents. It is a conduit to siphon public funds that had already been set aside for the anticipated contest. They should accept that we got them off guard by accepting the document and should redirect that money to the Big Four agenda,” said Mr Koech.
He further described the recent Kisii meeting as an ODM public rally and not a gathering meant to unite the country.
“Out of the people who addressed the Kisii rally, only Governor Ann Waiguru and Maina Kamanda from Jubilee joined a contingent of ODM rank and file, starting from the party leader. The DP is not talking out of the blue,” Koech said.
Mr Linturi claimed the former premier had managed to hoodwink Uhuru and was now crafting an alliance by bringing in Ms Waiguru and Dr Mutua.
“Uhuru has refused to take charge of the BBI process and Raila is now using that to create a political alliance. Raila is known to metamorphose into something else for his own political interests,” he said.
Positions of power
Mr Barasa said Raila had already crafted his 2022 team and was going round the country to mobilise support.
“He has kicked out Kalonzo and is now bringing in governors Mutua and Ngilu. He has also kicked out Mudavadi and replaced him with CS Wamalwa,” he claimed.
Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi, in a recent opinion piece, warned that Kenyans might revolt against the initiative if it turns out that it is being used to propel a few people to positions of power.
“The BBI will lose its initial acceptance and appeal if it is seen as a Trojan horse to carry certain leaders to power. As I said at the launch at Bomas, we should not make the Constitution with any particular individual in mind, but to serve the best interests of all Kenyans,” he said. Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui called for public dissemination of the report.
“Serious concerns have been raised as to why a document that raised so much hope in Kenyans remains publicly unavailable two months after its official release. This borders on political deceit and contradicts the president’s advice for Kenyans to read and make wise decisions on their collective future,” he said.
Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni called on Ruto to join them in pushing for public participation on BBI.