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Fresh bid to reconcile Uhuru and Ruto

By Jacob Ngetich and Roselyne Obala | October 14th 2020
President Uhuru Kenyatta greets Deputy President Dr William Ruto at State House, Nairobi, on June 01, 2020. [PSCU, Standard]

A flurry of activity has characterised attempts by bishops and senior politicians to reconcile President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto. 

The Standard has learned that there have been strategy meetings attended by representatives of the two leaders.

The relationship between Kenyatta and Ruto has grown sour over time. Last week, the National Security Advisory Council issued fresh security measures which have since slowed down Ruto’s political activities.

Two Catholic clerics are leading the quiet push which, in their estimation, should lead to a handshake similar to the one between Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga in 2018.

A bishop who was reluctant to be quoted said there was progress but they were yet to firm up the process.

“We started the process of reaching out to the leaders. The talks are fruitful but not concluded. We pray for unity and reconciliation,” the bishop said.

He said political tension is not good for the country. The team hopes to rope in more leaders.

During last Saturday’s national prayer day at State House, Kenyatta and Ruto hardly exchanged glances. The DP did not speak and it is Bishop David Oginde who invited the president to speak.

Since Saturday, activities have intensified with night meetings led by a Cabinet Secretary from the Rift Valley and the religious leaders, seeking ways of reconciling the two by the end of the week. A meeting was held by the leaders on Sunday night and the following morning, the DP left the city for Sugoi to meet Nyanza clergy. On Monday afternoon, he flew back to Nairobi and met the bishops then went to a private meeting. It is not clear what they agreed upon.

On Monday, Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen tweeted: “President fighting his deputy is not merely a Jubilee political joke. In international business terms, that’s called political risk. It’s terrible. Being a nation that has borrowed heavily, the shilling will keep falling and we shall pay heavily. Investors are already on wait and see state.”

Ruthless purge

In April and May, Kenyatta removed Ruto allies from key positions. The removal of National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Majority Whip Ben Washiali, Senate’s Murkomen, Susan Kihika, Kithure Kindiki diminished Ruto’s political clout in Jubilee. In May, Kenyatta sanctioned the change of guard at the Jubilee Party National Management Committee, kicking out Ruto allies. The changes are seen to have trimmed DP’s influence in the party. 

Ruto’s close allies have poured cold water on the possibility of a handshake between Kenyatta and the DP.

“What talks are you talking about? I am not aware. Why would the president and his deputy reconcile? When did they differ in the first place,” Soy MP Caleb Kositany posed.

Ruto’s communication director Emanuel Tallam said the claims were absurd. I am not aware of any differences between the president and his deputy. Someone must be overworking,” Tallam said.

Meanwhile, Prof Kindiki is among Ruto allies who believe the Jubilee marriage is irreconcilable.

Yesterday, the former Senate deputy speaker argued the ship had sailed and the differences within the JP were beyond repair. “It is my humble estimation that the situation is irredeemable. It is time to accept the reality, reset the journey and restart the quest for an ideology-based political discourse in the days ahead,” said the Tharaka-Nithi senator. He said he was part of the team that put together the legal and “ideological” texts for the TNA/URP coalition and later, the Jubilee Party of Kenya.

The ideals, as he understood them, have been compromised by what he calls indiscipline within the party’s rank and file. Belgut MP Nelson Koech said he had heard of the talks and wondered why they are necessary now.

“We have got used to mistreatment in a government we built from scratch. We are now comfortable in our suffering. We have adjusted and moved on,” Koech said.

He added that the proponents of the Kenyatta and Ruto handshake had realised they did not have the numbers to push the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and were courting Ruto to get him to support it.

“The popularity rating for BBI is dismal. That’s why they want to have a handshake with Ruto so that they can immediately unveil the BBI report hoping he will help them support it,” Koech said.

Kimilili MP Didmus Baraza said the talks are on course. “We should not be extremists. Henceforth, we are embracing each other. We are children of one family. Talks are at an advanced stage. We are ready to work together devoid of politics of insults,” Baraza said.

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