President Uhuru Kenyatta appears to be headed for a major fallout with his staunch lieutenants from Central Kenya over the yet-to-be published Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
Even before he officially receives the report, Uhuru has already indicated that he will go around the country drumming support for its recommendations, terming it as the answer to the myriad problems that have bedevilled the country for years.
However, a large section of Central Kenya leaders, including some of his strongest defenders dating back to his days in Kanu, have come out guns blazing, giving indications that they are ready to take a different path from the president’s.
On Thursday, a group of about 40 legislators – from both the National Assembly and the Senate – gave what they termed as their irreducible minimums for the region to support the BBI.
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They said that they will not blindly go for constitutional reviews which will further disadvantage the region.
Key among their demands is that BBI addresses the inequality of the vote that they claim has seen the region under-represented compared to other regions, and also disadvantaged in the allocation of resources under the devolved governance.
They said that unless this is done, they will shoot down the report, a pet project of President Kenyatta and Opposition Leader Raila Odinga.
The MPs were drawn from Uhuru’s former Central province bedrock, supported by others from what has now come to be referred as the diaspora counties -- Nakuru and Laikipia -- and those from the counties of Embu, Tharaka Nithi and Meru.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi said the Parliamentary Group was also backed by other senior leaders from the region who could not be allowed to make an address in Parliament where they issued the statement. Only sitting members are allowed to do so.
Tellingly, they were escorted in Parliament by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri.
Uhuru has in the past publicly displayed anger at what appears to be a growing open rebellion against him from some leaders in Central Kenya. When he attended the Akorino National Convention on June 16, a visibly angry Uhuru even vowed to go round Central Kenya calling out those he claimed were sabotaging his agenda, terming them mikora (thugs).
“These thugs we’ve chosen and are politicking, let them not think that I am their small boy,” he said then.
Five months after the warning, the president has hardly been seen publicly in the region. The BBI report will be handed to him anytime after the Initiative’s Secretariat said they were only waiting a date to present it. Last week, Uhuru vowed to go around the country supporting the document’s recommendations. “We will be back with BBI very soon...and let no one lie to you that it’s politics we would be doing,” he said.
“If there is a legacy, and I am praying to God to help me realise (it) on behalf of the Kenyan people, it’s that we should not have any other election where Kenyans will shed their blood,” he said in Ngong as he launched the Nairobi-Suswa SGR line.
But the Central Kenya MPs say that once the report is out, they will retreat and take a common stance on the works of the task force that was formed after the much-publicised handshake between Uhuru and Raila.
They warned that they will reject the report unless it addresses what they term as under-representation, claiming that the populous region has been discriminated against in resource-allocation.
“If the BBI does not address the challenges of equalisation of the vote, under the universal suffrage principle of one-man one-vote, then we will sit down and advise our electorate accordingly,” said Jeremiah Kioni, the chair of the Constitution Implementation and Oversight Committee (CIOC) of the National Assembly.
However, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria dismissed the conditions issued by his colleagues. “The leaders should have been patient and see what the report says before making a decision,” he said.
Curiously, the outspoken MP was among those who had signed the joint document that was read by Kioni on Thursday.