President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to take charge of Building Bridges Initiative meetings in central Kenya even as his allies contemplate skipping similar forums in Deputy President William Ruto’s turf.
Reports indicate that MPs allied to Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga are considering skipping Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) meetings in Eldoret to avoid a possible political confrontation.
A close ally of Uhuru yesterday told The Standard that Ruto-allied Tangatanga team was setting the stage for a clash after Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen announced that it would take charge of meetings in its perceived strongholds.
“We may consider skipping the Eldoret meeting to avoid a political clash. We (might) just keep off and let them run the show,” said the MP.
The source further revealed that Uhuru was expected to take charge of the Mt Kenya meetings to lock out rebels in the region said to be planning to hijack the programme.
This was confirmed by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chairman, John Mbadi who said the president will personally take charge of the region’s BBI meetings.
“He is going to take charge of the meetings personally. He has also been heavily involved in the past two meetings by sending his Cabinet secretaries,” said Mbadi.
The BBI meetings are threatening to become major showdown between Uhuru's allies and those of his deputy. Addressing a press conference yesterday, Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, MPs Kanini Kega (Kieni), Junet Mohammed (Suna East) and Fatuma Gedi (Wajir) said there was no guarantee that their colleagues would address the Mombasa meeting on Saturday.
The leaders said Coast governors will be in charge of the meeting and will decide who will speak.
“The Mombasa meeting is for the Coast people. We will go there as guests. We cannot go there and demand that we must speak. We are going there to listen to the Coast people,” said Kega.
Speaking yesterday, Mombasa Governor Hassan Ali Joho, who is leading the preparations for Saturday's rally, welcomed the Deputy President's allies to attend.
He, however, cautioned them to stick to the agenda of uniting the country in their speeches.
Stick to the script
“BBI is not about politics but a national conversation meant to unite the country. We are not issuing pre-conditions to anybody but we want those who attend to promote a national conversation that ensures inclusivity,” said Joho.
Uhuru and Raila's allies had claimed that there was a political scheme by Ruto-allies to cause chaos in regional BBI meetings so as to discredit the process.
A close ally of Ruto said they plan to ferry 500 delegates from each of the constituencies in the Coast region for the Saturday meeting at Tononoka Grounds to counter any plans to use the crowd to shout them down.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa said he and other leaders were already in Mombasa mobilising supporters.
In Nairobi, Sakaja said there was a plot by the rival camp to cause chaos in the meetings to create the perception that they were locked out of the forums.
“We are happy that our colleagues have had a Damascus moment to join the BBI. We want to thank them for seeing the light in joining other Kenyans. But they should know that we don’t want conditions,” said Sakaja.
“We know their plan to ferry goons to cause chaos then claim that they have been kicked out of the meetings. We will not fall for their trap,” said Sakaja.
On Tuesday, Murkomen led 20 MPs in resolving to join the BBI meetings promising to mobilise their supporters and “where necessary, take charge of these public rallies.”
But Junet said organisers of the Mombasa meeting would not entertain what he described as “political sideshows” in the meetings “like they (Tangatanga) did at Bomas.” This was in reference to dramatic scenes during the launch of the BBI report in November last year when Murkomen claimed the programme was skewed to favour those allied to Uhuru and Raila.
“What shocks me is the hypocrisy and inconsistency by the Tangatanga team. If they want to join us let them do so with clean hands. They must come with decorum,” said Junet.
“If they have plans to undermine the meeting, we are ready for them,” he added.
Similar remarks were separately made by Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Lugari MP Ayub Savula and Ben Momanyi (Bobasi) who warned Ruto’s backers against attacking the president.
The leaders chided the Tangatanga side for initially claiming that the meetings had been turned into 2022 campaigns only for them to make a U-turn and join the rallies.
“We are happy that those who were opposed to the BBI have come to us. However, as they come they should not bring with them the insults they were hurling. Respect for the president is not negotiable. They have to reform,” said Kinyanjui.
Kega told off their rivals against trying to politicise the process, stating that it is aimed at uniting the country while Gedi appealed to the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai to beef up security during the meeting to thwart any plans to cause chaos.
Played down conditions
Murkomen, Barasa and David Sankok (nominated), however, played down the conditions set by Uhuru and Raila’s allies, saying that their side would remain focused on the issues that touch on unity and development.
“I would like to welcome all leaders to the BBI meeting in Mombasa this Saturday. We shall be focusing on the unity and development of this country and not sideshows about 2022 and discussing individuals,” tweeted Murkomen.
“We have no problems with the conditions. What we want is a united country,” said Sankok.