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Why Ruto asked Meru MPs to make tactical retreat in Senate purge

By Wainaina Ndung'u | May 26th 2020

Former Deputy Speaker Kindiki Kithure during the Senate Special Sitting at Parliament to discuss his ouster. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Days before senate Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki was ousted last Friday, Deputy President William Ruto had directed a group of Meru MPs to make a tactical retreat.

The Standard has since established that when the MPs met Dr Ruto a week ago, he beseeched them to keep off possible fight back that may turn out to be destructive.

Pundits believe it may have been at this point that the deputy president approved the 'tactical retreat’ stance popularised by his camp in difficult times.

Ruto met the Meru MPs upon request by his close ally Senator Mithika Linturi. The meeting, organised at short notice, was to establish his feelings on the impending removal of a key ally, who has stuck with him for over a decade and even represented him during the International Criminal Court case.

The meeting, which took place in Karen at the official residence of the deputy president, was attended by nine out of 12 Meru MPs. Only three legislators seen as President Uhuru Kenyatta's key allies were not at the meeting.

Those who didn’t attend were John Mwirigi (Igembe South), who has been dilly-dallying between the Uhuru and Ruto camps and is not a favourite of Linturi, Rahim Dawood (North Imenti) and Maoka Maore.

The trio confirmed they didn't get invites, with Maore saying he would still have skipped the meeting anyway. The two have been consistent supporters of the president throughout the Jubilee fallout, with Maore seen as an extremist and Dawood a middle-ground operative.

Those who made it to the meeting were Kubai Kiringo (Igembe Central), Josephat Kabebea (Tigania East), John Mutunga (Tigania West), Mugambi Rindikiri (Buuri), Moses Kirima (Imenti Central), Kathuri Murungi (South Imenti), Halima Mucheke (nominated) and woman rep Kawira Mwangaza.

“The idea was to know the DP’s feelings about the purge against his strongest allies and how he wished his loyal troops to react,” said one MP who attended the Tuesday meeting.

Vote of confidence

This MP said the DP received the group warmly and was very jovial to see loyal troops from an enthusiastic support bloc confiding in him.

The DP cracked a few jokes though he appeared 'largely deflated and not the usual vibrant man', according to an MP, who was in attendance. 

Linturi is said to have put up a very convincing case of how the Meru group should officially make it clear that if Kindiki was removed, they would openly declare their support for Ruto in future political engagements.

“His speech was largely the script at the Senate on Friday during the ouster motion, but he repeatedly referred to the ‘promise’ to Mt Kenya East (Meru, Embu, Tharaka Nithi) by their western cousins that the future vice president under a Ruto presidency should be from this area,’’ said another MP.

He was referring to a much touted 'silent agreement' between Mt Kenya East and Mt Kenya West under the now discarded 'Uhuru 10, Ruto 10 years' slogan in the Jubilee’s first years.

Kindiki was initially seen as the point man to claim the running mate position under the DP, according to the thinking at the start of the Uhuruto reign back in 2013. However, after the 2017 General Election, that push was watered down by his demotion from the lobbying epicentre of Majority Leader to the more ceremonial Deputy Speaker position.

Slow down

Few other MPs spoke at the session but the DP is said to have praised them for flying his flag high in Meru. Ruto then calmly urged the legislators not to escalate the party rows, but let the president have his way, as this was still 'Uhuru's government'.

“Don’t waste your time opposing the changes because the president is the national and party leader. It is his government and he should be allowed to drive it the way he aspires,” another MP quoted Ruto telling the group.

Some of the MPs said their reading of the mood at the meeting was that of a deputy president who had given up the fight to seize control of Jubilee, which had earlier seen him and over 100 allies challenge the changes at the party’s National Management Committee. Ruto appeared resigned to moving on to some other opaque strategy.

None of the MPs we talked to could, however, speak on record and some of them were fearful that their attendance at the meeting had contributed to their not being invited to another allegedly planned between the president and Jubilee mainstream group.

The turn of events at the meeting, one week ago, comes against Friday’s ouster of Kindiki and reports that the Jubilee camp allied to Uhuru was by yesterday holed up in meetings to draw up the new line-up of expected House leadership.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang'ata, the new Chief Whip after the ouster of former Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Susan Kihika (Chief Whip), said the next line-up of Jubilee parliamentary leadership would be out after yesterday's meeting.

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