The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rally in Narok yesterday brought to the fore the underlying tension with leaders talking at cross purposes and others seizing the moment to oppose the proposals.
ODM leader Raila Odinga and Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi were reading from different scripts even as Cotu leader Francis Atwoli let the cat out of the bag on the BBI’s end-game.
Signs that all was not well were evident on Friday when Kipsigis leaders walked out of an advance meeting chaired by ODM leader Raila Odinga.
By the time the rally that was held at Narok Stadium -- which was renamed yesterday to William ole Ntimama Stadium -- ended it was clear that the possible referendum would be a hot potato.
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“Mudavadi is still stuck in the past of the coalition government which was a special situation of its own kind,” Raila said, in reference to the ANC leaders submission to the BBI task force where he warned that the Prime Minister position will create two centres of power.
“What we want is a model borrowed from Tanzania and France. They have a president and a PM but there is only one centre of power. There will be no conflict because the roles would be distinct,” he added.
Mudavadi had told the rally that a powerful PM is a recipe for chaos. He rooted for more clarity on the mandate of the premier and Executive to avoid friction. “If there shall be need to create the position of the PM, there should be a clear role. We should ensure that the BBI addresses the confusion we are seeing in the current leadership where some are claiming to be co-presidents,” Mr Mudavadi said.
But it was Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina’s remarks that drew strong reactions. Vouching for the rights of the Maasai to their land, ole Kina said political seats in the area should be left for the community and those who acquire the land should consider the community’s culture in appropriating it.
While the big-shots at the stadium steered clear of the senator’s remarks, Deputy President William Ruto and his troops took him on.
Speaking at separate events in Tharaka Nithi and Laikipia counties yesterday, Ruto said that BBI was turning out to be an unmitigated disaster for Kenya.
“I am the Deputy President of this country and I want to assure Kenyans that they are free to do business everywhere in this country. We will not allow this country to be divided along tribal lines like has happened before,” the DP said at Thiru Secondary School in Laikipia West during a funds drive.
He termed ole Kina’s sentiments primitive, criminal and foolish. The DP also castigated Raila for presiding over an alleged scheme to divide Kenyans along tribal lines.
“We know who is behind these schemes and as leaders, we will stop him. There is no way that one man can dictate to us where we will do business or contest for any political seat,” he said.
Earlier in Narok, leaders challenged the DP to come out clean and declare his stand on BBI. They said Ruto’s brigade was preoccupied with 2022 politics and would be swept away by the BBI wave.
“During the day they are supporting BBI but at night they are opposing it. The irony is that they are constant visitors in churches. This BBI will deal with these kind of people, including the lords of graft who are stealing from us,” Siaya Senator James Orengo said.
Suna East MP Junet Mohamed described the Ruto team as mere noisemakers.
Atwoli reiterated that President Uhuru Kenyatta would not retire in 2022.
“He is going nowhere. There is nothing that will stop Uhuru in the new government to help Raila and others, as he finishes his legacy,” the Cotu boss said and accused the the DP of fanning succession politics.
But the DP maintained that the BBI agenda had slipped out of hand.
“The two meant well as the initiative was to unite this country. But some people have hijacked it to gain political mileage. I will support it for the sake of unity but if it is to divide Kenyans, I am not for that,” he said.
The DP was accompanied by former Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri and MPs Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu), Michael Muchira (Oljororok), Patrick Mariru (Laikipia West), Charles Kamuren (Baringo South), Martha Wangari (Gilgil) and Laikipia Senator John Kinyua.
Earlier in Tharaka Nithi, Ruto had also invoked the name of President Kenyatta in condemning the Narok rally.
“The president did not tell us that there would be communities who would be denied their basic rights,” he said.
Governors Tunai, ole Lenku and MPs called for the return of the community land grabbed during the colonial era in Naivasha, Molo, Nakuru, Mau Narok, Kedong, Kitet, Laikipia and Ndabibi.
Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula cautioned the Jubilee administration against excessive borrowing saying this was posing a threat to the economy.
Cabinet Secretaries Keriako Tobiko (Environment), Amina Mohammed (Sports) and Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution) attended the rally. “President Kenyatta and Raila hold the handshake and BBI and that is why we as government employees are in it,” said Tobiko.
Mr Wamalwa on his part hailed the BBI saying that it will uplift the lives of the marginalised communities such as the Maasai.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen claimed that his political wing decided not to go to Narok because of the air of animosity that had been fanned in the build-up to the rally.
“Once we realised that it was going to be violent had we gone with our supporters, we decided to keep off,” Murkomen said. He claimed that BBI was becoming divisive and repulsive.
“The president has been telling people to be free to work and do business and live anywhere in Kenya, what does he think about this, now that some Kenyans are being told that outsiders should not live or politic in Narok,” he said.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech claimed that their presence in Narok would have lent credence to a fraudulent process that had been designed to be chaotic.
“A day before the preparatory meeting at Maasai Mara University, some people were locked out by some leaders, we sensed that the setting was not good and we decided to skip it and plan another meeting later,” Koech said.
The leaders, led by Narok Deputy Governor Evalyn Aruasa, Emurua Dikir MP Johana Ng’eno and five MCAs had vowed not to attend the event, citing discrimination.
“It is so ironical that in the BBI which we thought will unite Kenyans is sidelining others. We had attended as elected leaders from Kipsigis in Narok only to realise that the session was being conducted in a language that we did not understand,” Ng’eno told journalists at a Narok hotel after the walk out from Maasai Mara University grounds. He accused the organisers of sidelining them.
Heo said the minority groups in Narok/Kajiado will hold a joint meeting where they will present their petition to the BBI committee.
[Reports by Julius Chepkwony, Robert Kiplagat and James Munyeki]