A full-blown political battle is brewing, days after the Building Bridges Initiative report was unveiled to Kenyans with much fanfare by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.
The BBI report, meant to chart the way forward to a united country, now threatens to tear it apart as politicians take hard-line positions.
Two days ago, President Kenyatta promised an all-out assault on critics of the report come January next year.
Meanwhile, two parallel meetings pitting rival political groupings in Jubilee party are expected today, in what threatens to revive old grudges and resurrect new grievances.
And in Parliament, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi is at war with Jeremiah Kioni, who is the chair of the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee after Ndaragwa MP said his team will interrogate the report.
But Muturi rejected the move, describing the report as ‘strange to the House.’
Today’s meetings pit allies of Deputy President William Ruto, who will gather in Naivasha, against those of his critics in the Rift Valley, who will meet at Maasai Lodge on the outskirts of the city. The former group is led by Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen, while the rival team is led by, among others, Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny and former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto.
Also expected at the Maasai Lodge meeting are Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, Tiaty MP William Kamket and Moiben lawmaker Silas Tiren. The Standard has reliably established that other than misgiving on the BBI report, the DP's group is keen to recall unfinished business in the Jubilee coalition and raise new complaints related to 2022 succession battle.
Conduct of Matiang'i
The group is unhappy with the way they have been handled lately by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inner circle as their push to have a Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting remains elusive.
The meeting is also set to discuss the conduct of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, who last week engaged the DP in a war of words amid claims by Tangatanga members that the CS was frustrating them.
According to some members of the Rift Valley Parliamentary Group who confided in The Standard, it is time to engage the region and evaluate where they are right now, after the 2017 polls and the post handshake development.
They said they will canvass a myriad of issues, with some even regretting the collapse of their parties to form Jubilee in 2017.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, who is also the Senate Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee chairman, disclosed that the meeting will also discuss future matters affecting the Rift Valley region.
“The running of government is critical. I had a run-in with the Interior CS over abuse of power and partisan handling of government issues,” he said.
Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi said the group will defy the President on his remarks about 'endless politicking' on the report. The President made the remarks at Mang'u Catholic Mission.
“President Kenyatta is the cause of all this debate and he should not get upset with us. Building bridges should bring all leaders on board for the sake of unity,” said Sudi.
“After his handshake with Raila, President Kenyatta should have incorporated other leaders including Kalonzo Musyoka, Musalia Mudavadi and also those in Jubilee in the BBI. Why should he get upset when leaders embrace the report, which they started?” posed Sudi.
The parallel group on the other hand said they will be pushing for the creation of the committee of experts to spearhead the BBI process that should culminate into a referendum.
“We want the committee of experts to have the BBI report views harmonised together with other issues Kenyans want addressed and the document later taken for referendum,” said Isaac Ruto.
Mr Kutuny said by yesterday evening, 29 leaders had confirmed attendance for the meeting.
“We will have our meeting today (Friday) and we hope to have a position on the BBI report so that we move together in one direction as a region,” said Kutuny.
Mr Murkomen said his group was also ready for their meeting.
“Plans are complete and we are heading to Naivasha for the meeting… 103 members have confirmed attendance for the Thursday and Friday meeting. It brings together MPs from the 14 Rift Valley counties who will converge in Naivasha, Nakuru County,” he confirmed.
“By last evening, 83 MPs had checked in for the meeting. The agenda is to discuss the BBI report and cement our unity,” he said.
The meetings come in the backdrop of another meeting last Saturday by a section of MPs from Mt Kenya region led by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro and Kirinyaga woman Rep Purity Ngirichi.
An MP from Rift Valley who spoke on condition of anonymity said the marriage between the President and the DP had hit rock bottom.
“We want to be treated as equals. We are all Jubilee members and no one is superior. Actions speak louder. We don’t have to be told that we are being treated as strangers in our own party. The matter is not in the agenda, but we will not skip it,” he said.
A governor from the region took issue with the President’s body language and tone at the launch of the Sh8 million dispensary in Mang'u, saying it was an all-out war.
“Do you think the President is happy? He is not, based on his speech. Any problem can also be solved through dialogue and not lecture,” said the governor.
"The BBI report is the main agenda of the meeting. We want to give directions to our people on why that document should not be placed in the hands of the so-called experts," said Bomet Senator Christopher Lang'at, who confirmed attendance.
"The elephant in the room is the governance structure. There are people who want to sneak in an executive PM position with two or more deputies. But is that what Kenyans want?" he posed.
“We will emphasise on the position for 2022 standing with DP Ruto and the rest are details,” said Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono.
[Report by Roselyne Obala, Jacob Ng'etich, Steve Mkawale, Titus Too and Antony Gitonga]