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Inside Ruto and Raila political war

By Jacob Ngetich | October 6th 2018

ODM leader Raila Odinga (left) endorses ODM candidate for senate in Migori Ochillo Ayacko (right) at Awendo market in Migori county on October 04,2018. Raila is camping in the county for two day to campaign for ODM aspirant Ochillo Ayacko in a by-election after the death of the former Senator Ben Oluoch Okello. [Photo: Denish Ochieng/ Standard]

At the heart of the renewed rivalry between Opposition leader Raila Odinga and DP William Ruto is the push for a referendum, government appointments, closeness with the President and 2022 politics, Saturday Standard has learned.

The political war between the two comes after months of relative calm following the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila. Deep and emotive to Ruto’s allies is Raila’s strong push for a referendum to change the 2010 constitution, especially on the structure of government and over representation.

Hard push

Change the constitution calls have also come from church leaders and a number of legislators who have since presented a memorandum to the National Assembly on the issues they want amended.

But Raila’s hard push has received an equal measure of opposition from the Deputy President and his allies who have come out strongly to dismiss the calls as attempts by the former Prime Minister to secure a political lifeline.

Pokot South MP David Pkosing, a Ruto ally, said the DP is not opposed to attempts to change the constitution but was only worried about the politics around it and how it will affect Jubilee’s work.

“A referendum is an attempt by Raila to kill the Big Four agenda. The push will come with heavy politics. This will distract Jubilee from achieving its agenda and President Kenyatta’s legacy will be at stake,” said Pkosing.

Disruptive referendum politics, Pkosing said, will affect Ruto’s 2022 bid as Kenyans will judge Jubilee’s performance. “Uhuru and Ruto’s eyes are trained on delivering on the pledges which are capital intensive. Add the cost of holding a census next year and that of delineation of the boundaries before 2022 and tell me where the referendum money will come from?” the MP asked.

Leader of Majority at the National Assembly Aden Duale and his Senate counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen have accused Raila of using the referendum push to “desperately” create a political position for himself. “We know why he wants the constitution changed. He wants a position for himself. Such narrow pursuits should not be reason for a referendum,” Murkomen said.

But ODM Chairman John Mbadi said anybody opposed to the push for a constitutional referendum was deaf to the cries of Kenyans who feel burdened by the cost of living.

“Everyone is saying that we have a huge wage bill, that Kenya is over represented. But some leaders want to pretend that this is not an issue for Kenya now,” he said.

Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, a Ruto ally, has said he does not mind a referendum but has questioned its timing.

“I agree with Raila that the 2010 Constitution needs to be changed. The changes should be about reducing the burden for Wanjiku. It should be about cutting elective and nominated positions, not creating other seats. It is not about adding the position of a Prime Minister or creating a parliamentary system,” he said.

Mr Kuria wants any changes to the constitution taken to the vote alongside the 2022 elections. “We lost the entire 2017 to political campaigns. We cannot waste more time doing the same. We cannot spend another Sh45 billion in a midterm referendum. We will therefore conduct the Punguza Mzigo Referendum alongside the 2022 General Election as the seventh ballot. Let us do this in a non-contentious way.”

Safe bet

The fear of referendum for Ruto, according to political pundits, is that Raila wants to use it to reorganise his political team as he plans for a fifth stab at the presidency in 2022.

Siaya Senator James Orengo, a Raila ally, has said the NASA leader will vie for the presidency in 2022. “The opposition is not going anywhere. Raila is the safest bet for the country after Uhuru finishes his second and last term,” he said.

A youthful NASA senator who sought anonymity confirmed the Deputy President’s fears. He said Raila had confided in his key allies that he will push for a referendum close to the 2022 elections and use it to lay ground for his presidential bid.

“He assured us that a referendum will reboot the current political settings and allow him to change the game for the 2022,” said the senator.

But other than referendum, the purported closeness between Uhuru and Raila seems to infuriate the DP’s team who have in the past week come out to claim that the former Premier’s dalliance with the President was meant to rock the Jubilee Party.

Last weekend, the DP said Raila’s biggest plan was to wreck the Jubilee regime.



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