Deputy President William Ruto's allies have cried foul over their exclusion to a retreat in Naivasha held to deliberate on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report.
Yesterday more than 200 members of the National Assembly and Senate were expected to converge at a Naivasha hotel for the retreat convened by the leadership of the House.
The retreat, seen in some quarters as critical in setting referendum roadmap, has, however, drawn criticism from allies of the DP, who say they were not invited for the meeting.
The Standard has established that in the National Assembly, Majority leader Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri) and his Minority counterpart John Mbadi (Suba South) were tasked with selecting at least 200 members to attend the Naivasha retreat.
Equally, in the Senate, Majority leader Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot) and James Orengo (Siaya) were required to ensure that at least 48 Senators attend the meeting.
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While the pro–‘Handshake’ MPs were making their way to Naivasha, yesterday Ruto and his allies were in Meru and Tharaka Nithi, where they warned against the stance taken by those supporting the document.
Ruto, while on a tour of Uhuru’s backyard, threatened that he and his supporters would stop the BBI process if the proponents turn a deaf ear to his offer for negotiations to avoid a contentious referendum.
Although a number of MPs allied to Ruto stated that they had not received, the invite, Kimunya,?however, said that invite was extended to all 416 members of Parliament.
“We extended invites to all the 416 MPs in both Senate and National Assembly. For those who will not be able to make it for this retreat, we shall soon organise another session for them. The date shall, however, depend on the availability of the two principal leaders - Uhuru and Raila,” said Kimunya.
But Mr Mbadi told The Standard the retreat was for all those who had been pro-BBI and its process.
“The retreat in Naivasha was organised by the House leadership. Some were invited others were not. The ones who were not invited will attend another session if convened. We invited the MPs who believe in the BBI process and its report,” said Mbadi.
Mbadi explained that the main agenda of the retreat was to take the MPs through the BBI report so that they could have informed opinion.
According to Mbadi, the BBI technocrats were scheduled to explain in detail the report that requires a constitutional amendment, legislative process and the parts that require administrative policy.
“We did not invite everybody but only those who support and champion President Uhuru Kenyatta’s agenda,” said Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang'ata (Murang'a).
Senators Mithika Linturi (Meru), Samson Cherargei (Nandi) and Susan Kihika (Nakuru) denied receiving any invitation to attend the meeting. “We were not invited, I did not receive any invitation. I am told it was some ‘Kamukunji’ for those pro-BBI. We are, however, aware of a retreat in Naivasha,” said Mr Cherargei.
Ms Kihika said the BBI was not about inclusivity but exclusivity.
“We have always maintained that BBI was never about inclusivity but exclusivity. It’s surprising, given that it will have to pass Parliament. If they want a smooth and successful process, then they should walk their talk and be more widely consultative and inclusive of different viewpoints,” she said.
Linturi said: “I was not invited to that meeting. You can see the hypocrisy. On one hand they want people to have a non-contested referendum and on the other hand they are locking out people they perceive to have contrary opinion. We know that they want to use taxpayers' money in the name of campaigning for the BBI. We will not accept,” said Linturi.
MPs Nelson Koech (Belgut), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Victor Munyaka (Machakos Town), Silvanus Osoro (Mugirango South) and Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), who are close allies of Ruto, also said they were not invited to yesterday's retreat.
“We have indicated that it is in the best interest of the country that we do not have a contested referendum. We have also indicated that there are matters that we need added on top of what they have so that consensus is built. Clearly they are not interested in having a negotiated document and they want to push through without adding or removing a comma,” said Mr Koech.
“I was not invited to the retreat. It seems they only wanted the ‘Yes Sir’ team," said Mr Osoro.
Munyaka said had he been invited to the retreat he would have proposed changes to be made to the report.
“It is a meeting allied to Raila Odinga that may not be of national importance. If they were of national importance, they would have opened it up. We were not invited, it is no longer building but breaking bridges. They are focused on 2022, the same way we are, but for us we are focused on wananchi, with them it is about sharing positions,” said Mr Barasa.
Mr Ngunjiri said those attending the Naivasha meeting were handpicked, just as happened in Bomas during the launch of the BBI document.
“We wonder what kind of a consensus this is. The president needs to know he is dividing Kenyans. If the president wants to unite this country, let us discuss this document and be one,” he said.
Ruto allies led by Soy MP Caleb Kositany, Daniel Rono (Keiyo South), Cornelly Serem (Aldai) Willy Kogo (Chesumei) and his Sigor counterpart Peter Lochakapong’ all said they had not been invited for the retreat.
“Those driving the BBI agenda and calling for a referendum have been consulting people who only say yes to their proposals. I am told there is another meeting in one week, specifically for those who were not invited for the Naivasha meeting. We are waiting to see whether we will be invited in that other meeting,” Mr Kositany said.
Serem said exclusion of MPs perceived to be Ruto’s supporters confirmed claims that the BBI process was not genuinely uniting Kenyans.
“Why are we having a consultative meeting a week after the report was launched? What is prompting a meeting even before MPs are given copies? The decision not to invite people believed to be critics of the report is a clear indication that this is a process to burn bridges and not build any bridge,” Mr Serem said.
Mr Rono said BBI proponents had been “relentlessly” looking for opposition for the proposed constitutional changes. “By not inviting people perceived to be holding divergent views, the BBI architects are simply being dictatorial. They want to bulldoze this thing (BBI report) on Kenyans. And if they bulldoze, we will oppose it,” he said.
However, Endebess MP Robert Pokuse and Pokot South's David Pkosing are among Ruto allies who said they received invitation to attend the meeting.
Dr Pokuse claimed an attempt by the MPs allied to the President and Raila to create divisions among Kenyans by scheming a ‘NO’ and ‘YES’ team.
Kandara MP Alice Wahome said she was not invited. "Clearly, BBI is for Kieleweke and ODM and if they are selecting only a few, they are surely not interested in consensus. They are looking for a "them versus us" contest to propel them to 2022 as campaigning for the YES vote will enable them to draw public resources to finance a "government" project much as it's not one," she said.