President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto’s separate Central Kenya visits yesterday brought the region to terms with the divisions wrought on the ruling Jubilee coalition by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
At his impromptu meetings in Nyeri and Nanyuki, the President rallied his backyard to support the initiative while in Murang’a, Ruto’s troops trashed the initiative with his official Deputy Presidential Press Service (DPPS) reporting that they had “poured cold water” on it.
The President’s visit in Nyeri was a surprise call - he landed without notice - and while inspecting projects, pitched for BBI saying it would end the cycle of electoral violence and ethnic profiling in the country.
“Elections should not lead to violence and fear, with Kenyans being displaced based on their ethnicity. You should live and work anywhere you choose. You should continue to work even during election years,” he said.
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The President also put his backyard on notice over lies being peddled about BBI, insisting it was a uniting tool that would foster lasting peace and protection of rights of all Kenyans.
“BBI is here to ensure your one vote, one shilling is equal to anyone else, and the resources are distributed equally across Kenya, regardless of who or where you come from,” he said.
He told Kenyans it doesn’t matter who becomes President but that there is equality across the country. At Kandara Technical and Vocational College in Murang’a, however, a section of pro-Ruto MPs claimed BBI was being forced down the throats of Kenyans and that they had zero faith in it.
In the presence of the DP, MPs Alice Wahome (Kandara), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu), Githua Wamacukuru (Kabete), Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira), Moses Kuria (Gatundu South), Purity Ngirici (Kirinyaga), Jayne Kihara (Naivasha) and Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) claimed the initiative was being used to impose leaders on Kenyans.
“There is no value coming from BBI. That is why President Kenyatta and his deputy have left it to Raila Odinga who is using it to divide the country,” said Ms Wahome.
Mr Kuria said he would not rally behind a BBI meant to impose leaders on Kenyans.
“I am for a BBI that seeks to unite and empower Kenyans,” he said. While calling for a pro-people BBI, Mr Nyoro said Kenyans should not be forced to support it. “President Kenyatta told us that we would read the BBI report for ourselves and that no one will read it for us. Today, we are opposed to BBI because we have not read it,” said Mr Gachagua.
Once the second BBI report is made available to Kenyans, Ms Kihara said would be when a meaningful conversation would begin. Dr Ruto said even as the country deliberates on the BBI report, politicians should not use it to divide the country.
“The biggest problem in Kenya is not political position but the needs of the people. That should be our driving force,” he noted. Later during the day, Wahome and Kuria clashed with Murang’a Governor Mwangi wa Iria over the controversial county Avocado bill 2020. “The governor should not dictate to farmers who they can sell produce to. Farmers should be allowed to do business with any willing buyer,” said Kuria.
Wahome, whose constituency leads in avocado production in Murang’a County, said the Bill should be rejected. “The bill undermines free market, it should not be entertained,” she said. When DP Ruto and his entourage of MPs arrived at Kenyoho Secondary School to hand over a school bus to the students, Wa Iria stormed the event accompanied by several youth. A scuffle ensued while security officers attempted to eject the youth who had walked to the dias where leaders were seated, leaving scores injured.
Right to speak
Wa Iria said he came to the meeting to respond to those who insulted him over his move to control avocado sector.
The crowd attempted to shout down the governor who insisted he had a right to speak as a local leader. “I want to make it clear that as a leader in Murang’a we all know the problems facing us in the avocado sector. I will not allow anyone to come to my county to destroy any sector more so the avocado sector,” he said.
He warned that he would not allow anyone to incite people against efforts to increase the price of avocados.
“Let the people of Murang’a do business as they please and no avocados will leave the county if the prices we are demanding have not been met,” he said.
Ruto asked leaders to tolerate others despite their political stand. “We have seen some people attempting to disrupt the meeting, but let us respect each other and work together,” he said. The DP asked Jubilee leaders to work together and avoid the divisions which he blamed on opposition.