Elections 2017

Ruto allies dismiss handshake team as a plot to stop DP bid

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre) flanked by his Deputy William Ruto (right) and Jubilee Head of Secretariat Raphael Tuju when they addressed journalists at State House, Nairobi. The President apologised to the JP members following the cancellation of all its primaries that had already started countrywide. [File, Standard]

The war within Jubilee Party between rival camps allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto has reportedly prevented the ruling party from submitting its views to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Jubilee is the only major party yet to make presentation on constitutional reforms which is curious considering the team was jointly named by President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga following their March 9, 2018 truce that ceased hostilities that stemmed from the disputed 2017 presidential vote.

Officially, Jubilee's top brass explains individual members have been left to present their own views as a common presentation by the ruling party would be construed to be Uhuru's position that would in turn send the wrong signal that he was railroading the team.

But interviews with Jubilee MPs across the political divide reveal the divided party is unable to present a common position and avoided making a party position, as Raila's ODM has, to avert an ugly situation where a rival faction disowned the presentation.

At the heart of the disagreement is the general feeling by Dr Ruto’s camp that the handshake between Uhuru and Raila was part of political machination to block him from ascending to the top seat with the DP's allies dismissing the BBI as part of this scheme.

Ruto has publicly declared his opposition to the initiative by vowing to oppose any referendum seeking to expand the Executive.

MPs allied to Ruto confirmed their rejection of the process, describing it as “choreographed with predetermined results” to create political seats for certain individuals.

The camp vowed to fight the final document by the team should it propose expansion of the executive, in yet another clear indication of succession battle.

They accused Uhuru and Raila of sidelining deputy president in the process by picking only people allied to them to the committee.

At the same time, they accused the outfit of not engaging its members over the initiative, with attempts by members to have parliamentary group meetings reportedly being dismissed by the party’s top brass. Ruto’s request for a parliamentary group meeting was also dismissed by State House.

Jubilee has not held any meeting to discuss the March 9, 2018 deal between the two leaders.

But while confirming that the outfit will not submit its views, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju dismissed reports that it was as a result of the party wrangles.

Tuju said the decision was made to avoid perception that Uhuru was dictating to the task-force as any proposal by the party would be seen as his official position.

“The decision was informed by need of us as ruling party to listen to the needs of the people. We have a strong feeling that we let our members express their views freely,” said Tuju.

He added: ODM is not a ruling party so they are free to submit their views without being seen to be dictating to the team. We have, therefore, made that decision not to submit as a party,” Tuju explained.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and his nominated counterpart Isaac Mwaura admitted that the wrangles could have informed the decision but still defended it.

“You know very well that Jubilee is not united. But the most important thing is that grassroots position and not the position of the party,” said Mr Mwaura.

Sakaja said the party had not communicated to its members over the BBI, but said the decision by the party to allow members to present their individual views was welcome.

“If the party takes radical position, it will be taken as the position of Uhuru,” he said. 

The Orange party led by Raila convened retreats for its members to back the deal before forming a technical committee that came up with radical proposals to the BBI.

The party has proposed, among other things, creation of a powerful Prime Minister position and reverting to a parliamentary system of governance.

Others parties that have submitted their proposals are Governor Alfred Mutua's Maendeleo Chap Chap, Kalonzo Musyoka's Wiper, Amani National Congress, Ford Kenya, Kanu and Narc Kenya.  

But Ruto allies said they were not interested in the process, claiming it had been hijacked by dark forces keen on frustrating Ruto’s 2022 bid.

“BBI is being driven by forces with some hidden political agenda. Why would we have our opinion in a process already predetermined,” posed Nelson Koech (Belgut MP).

He added: "This initiative was not meant to unite the country but to push some people out. It should be called Breaking Bridges Initiative because they have succeeded in breaking Jubilee by creating two camps. The moment they decided to alienate Ruto that is when we knew the initiative was not genuine,” said Koech.

A chairman of a parliamentary committee who is a close ally of Ruto, said the DP by agreeing to participate in the process would be akin to taking himself to a slaughterhouse.

“Why should we take part in that choreographed process The composition of the members and how it was constituted can tell you the intention,” said the MP.

Another Ruto ally, Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu MP), said they have nothing to do with the initiative as it was pushing for individual political interests.

“BBI is a Raila initiative to exert and impose his personal views to Kenyans. We have nothing to do with it,” said the MP.

He claimed that the process' end game was predetermined before the team started collecting views from Kenyans.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said it was frustrating for the party to decline convening a parliamentary group meeting for members to share their views about the process.

Mr Barasa said as things stand, the party was divided and cannot have a common ground about the initiative, claiming some of their officials were now working for the Opposition.

When contacted, BBI Joint Secretary Paul Mwangi told The Standard Jubilee had not submitted its proposals the last time he checked but added “I wouldn’t know, I have to ask the secretariat if they submitted today”.

But Mwangi explained that it was not a must for the ruling party to submit its views to the team.

“There is nobody that must submit their views, people are free to choose what to do. Again, it would be unfair for us to give our views on what the party plans to do. They have a public position on the matter which you can refer to,” said Mwangi.