Leaders aligned to deputy president William Ruto have decided to attend Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rallies to avoid being seen as openly fighting President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Led by Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), the politicians announced that they would now be part of BBI rallies starting with Mombasa’s this weekend.
And with the BBI meetings gaining traction and more leaders coming on board, the DP’s lieutenants said they would take charge of some of the rallies, in a statement interpreted to mean spearheading the public gatherings in areas perceived to be their strongholds, like Eldoret and other parts of Rift-Valley and central Kenya.
Analysts believe that their U-turn follows concerns that they risked being isolated and locked out of the reform process if they failed to participate in the discussions. Political analyst and Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology don Egara Kabaji opines that the DP has changed tack and not strategy since he was being isolated, and which would have ultimately worked against him.
Taking on Uhuru
“The realisation has dawned on him that it is too risky to fight his boss, who is championing the BBI process. Whether his change of tack will bear fruit is a matter of conjecture,” observed Prof Kabaji.
Political analysts Javas Bigambo agrees that the initial stance the DP and his supporters had adopted was pitting them against the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s teams, and being dismissive of BBI and the public rallies was going to land them in political landmines.
“At play is political warfare, and strategy is key. There’s nothing to fight against in the current BBI report. So they’re changing tack, but their hearts have not changed or been converted,” said Mr Bigambo.
Bigambo argues that the change of tune from Ruto’s camp could be a new phase of a political storm ahead of the 2022 polls, adding that there is a likelihood of convergence of convenience.
“It may be the start of a new storm ahead. Each side is spiteful of the other, and with resentment upon resentment, we are only likely to witness a convergence of convenience, not objective unification,” he adds.
A source, who sought anonymity for fear of reprisal, told The Standard Ruto might have changed tack for fear of further isolation in a government that he helped put in place. According to the source, Ruto is joining the BBI rallies to fight it in the disguise of criticising Raila and not BBI or his boss.
Fighting Raila not BBI
“The truth of the matter is Ruto has been embarrassed and the route he was pursuing would have made it easier to finish him quickly. By confronting his boss openly, he was accelerating his downfall,” said the source.
“By joining BBI process, he will have an opportunity to fight the process by more criticism on Raila and not the report.”
But according to Belgut MP Nelson Koech, joining the BBI meetings is not a change of tack but a means of dealing with misinformation and personalised attacks against certain individuals.
“There has been a lot of misinformation and personalised attack. We are joining in good faith and sincerity,” said Koech.
Kipkelion West MP Hilary Kosgei also downplayed any suspicions by the pro-BBI team, saying they had never been against the process and that the larger Rift Valley Parliamentary caucus meeting affirmed the same.
“We want to clear this notion that we are against BBI; that it is us versus them. It’s not a competition. Our Naivasha meeting last year conclusively addressed the subject matter. BBI offers solutions to challenges Kenyans are grappling with,” acknowledged the MP.
He said inclusivity was about bringing everyone on board and 2022 was a different ball game.
“We want to deal with the ills affecting us. Why not bring the Kriegler and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission reports on elections and past historical injustices to be addressed. We need to find real solutions and ensure a win-win for all,” he explained the change of stand.
He pledged: “Once we are done and we have a level ground, then we can engage in competition.”
But according to University of Eldoret don Philip Chebunet, Ruto and his lieutenants have resolved to join BBI rallies to prevent politicians from hijacking process.
“The task-force has not given any road-map on public participation, hence the need to act and be part of the process to redirect the BBI conversation to people-centred issues and not the pursuit of power. The national conversation phase, as recommended by BBI, is for all Kenyans,” said Dr Chebunet.
Chebunet further affirms that the change was not sinister, but to prevent any groups from dislodging the official task-force and to conduct a proper sensitisation exercise to prepare the grassroots for the town hall meetings. Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, however, opines that the DP’s allies have realised their propaganda is not working and are losing too many battles by fighting against the document.
A new Kenya
Wambugu argues that the BBI opponents failed when they tried to fight the handshake, the BBI process and even refused to give views, tried to fight launch of the report, fought the report itself and now they have again tried to fight publicity around the report.
“These failures, when added up to their dwindling numbers, has shocked them into submission. There was also the view that the BBI forums were not only gaining momentum, they are also building numbers against their positions (78 MPs in Kisii; more than 100 in Kakamega and close to 200 are expected in Mombasa,” said Wambugu.
National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi (Suba South) termed the decision by leaders allied to the DP to join BBI consultative forums welcome, but warned that “prodigal sons don’t come with conditions”.
“They should be humble. They should not give conditions. If you are not party to a funeral programme, you cannot start ordering them around,” he stated.
Mbadi, who is also the ODM chairman, said the Ruto team had realised he was getting isolated more and more.
“Since last year, the trajectory spearheaded by Uhuru and Raila is taking Kenya through a new path. Through BBI, we have a fresh start, but the Tangatanga team has made many attempts to scandalise the process,” he said.
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