President Uhuru Kenyatta has launched cleverly framed dig at his Deputy President William Ruto for opposing the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Addressing Kenyans at the unveiling of the BBI report at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, the president likened the DP’s recent political behaviour to a relay runner who sprints in the opposite direction of the race track.
“My brother hapa William amepinduka anakimbia nyuma. Mos mos utafika tu. Tufanye shughuli hii kwa taifa. Shughuli ambayo italeta umoja kwa taifa letu,” he said. This can be translated into, “My brother William has changed direction and is speeding on the opposite direction. Just be patient, you will reach your destination. Let’s engage in endeavours that will develop our country and unite pour people,” Uhuru said.
Earlier on the DP had wittingly responded to youth leader Alex Matere for poking holes at his hustler brand of politics.
“I want to thank the young man from Kitale because he said we should not bring the 16th Century inventions because he was referring to the wheelbarrow, and possibly me. How comes in the 21st century, millions of Kenyans are still dependent on wheelbarrow and mkokoteni (handcart?)”
Uhuru rose to the podium on his 59th birthday to address the Bomas parley.
He said he had planned to use the historic conference to voice his perspectives on the key issues affecting the country.
“I was to use this day to say my thanks and also put things in context,” he said.
On the March 9, 2018, handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga, Uhuru said the two sides had to haggle to strike a middle ground.
“When we sat down to speak, it was very difficult for him and my team. But when we went through the process and spoke. We agreed that we are not here to share positions. We were coming with one common agenda. The agenda to unite,” he recalled.
The President then showered Mr Odinga with praises, talking about his selflessness and how he tabled demands that only mirrored his patriotism and not clamour for power.
According to the President, this was a perfect opportunity to thank not only his former political rival but the mediation team that delivered the handshake.
“He is not in government he never made any demands to be in government or share government. He said let us fix what will be able to enable us to compete without the blood of Kenyans being shed,” he said.
With ground having been stirred by the address of Deputy President William Ruto, who had tabled a raft of reservations about the BBI report, the president arose to give assurance but to support the document as well.
Uhuru mentioned Ruto as one of the pillars behind the initiative to the surprise of the crowd that seemed to be of the contrary opinion.
He insisted that the DP was always kept abreast with the progress of the report even as all indications indicate that Ruto and his allies have always been against it.
“He (DP) was part and parcel of this and in fact, he helped me identify some of the wazees I just mentioned here. The purpose as we agreed with him (and Raila) was an extension of what we did in 2013,” Uhuru said.
The President said: “We are a tribal society. We want to pretend but this is what divides us. When the time comes we switch to our vernacular…I have also been part and parcel of this negative politics I must agree,” he said.
He called upon politicians to cease misusing the youth. Uhuru said Kenyan youth was energetic and could prove detrimental if misused politically.
“We have a youth that if not well managed can be a time bomb and can blow this country. How we manage it is very important. We cannot manage it through inciting them by including them in the leadership,” he cautioned.
Even as speakers took the stage to pledge the resounding support for the BBI, at the backdrop were numerous concerns in various amendments proposed by the documents. Mr Odinga confined his speeches to peacebuilding and Uhuru had to take the mantle and rubbish the brewing claims that the initiative was about to dish out positions.
That aside, DP Ruto during his speech raised various grievances saying contemplation by the proposal to diffuse the mandate of the Senate in legislating devolution matters would jeopardise the spirit of devolution.
Ruto would then fault the creation of Office of Ombudsman to sit at the Judicial Service Commission and be appointed by the President. He warned that the move would water independence of Judiciary.
“We must also ensure that the Senate has the constitutional power that those resources are utilised properly,” he said, posing, “If you are saying women are going to the Senate whose functions are downgraded, are you enhancing or downgrading the participation of women?”
He would then challenge the proposal to have political parties appoint picking IEBC officials saying it would entrench rigging.
“How fair will there be a league where the referee is appointed by a team, and not only a team, but teams. If you persuade me that you’ll have a fair game? Fine. You have heard me, I have heard you, do you think that’s fair? We will have a middle ground,” he said
Ruto’s concern on the Senate was shared by ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi who pointed out that the Senate should be empowered instead of being downgraded.
“I think the strength of the Senate needs to be relooked at again. I think the articles that have been touched tend to remove the role of Senate in devolving funds to the counties. Senate is the anchor of devolution,” Musalia said.
But Uhuru made his speech succinct while trying to be accommodative to the wide range of grievances.
He said, “Kuna vipengele mingi, na nimesikia mimi sitaki hii na iwe hivyo, that is the conversation we want (I have heard people calling for changes and that is the type of conversation we want),” Uhuru said, in reply.