Was Ruto cornered into supporting the BBI?

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and Moiben MP Silas Tiren during a fundraiser at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral in Eldoret yesterday. [Stephen Rutto, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto’s recent pronouncements on the BBI document has stirred debate on his next political move.

Just days after missing the launch of the signature collection drive for a constitutional referendum by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, Ruto appeared to show lukewarm support for the BBI which he has openly opposed in the past.

For one who had consistently dismissed the initiative, the DP now finds himself in an awkward position where he may have to outrightly support his boss, oppose the drive altogether, or stay away and adopt a wait and see approach.

The DP was not at the signature collection launch at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) and did not append his signature in support of the process in contrast to all other leaders of major political parties.

Those present at the event included Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula and Wafula Wamunyinyi, Narc’s Charity Ngilu, Maendeleo Chap Chap’s Alfred Mutua, CCM leader Isaac Ruto and Wiper Deputy party leader Farah Maalim.

On Saturday, the DP appeared to have made an about-turn to support his boss on the referendum drive.

“I’ve a constitutional duty to assist my boss, the president. We’ve made an improvement to BBI post Bomas. Now working on consensus for Kenyans to have real choices to decide/vote while avoiding yes/no, all/nothing division. We avoided lose-lose we can overcome win-lose to achieve win-win,” the DP tweeted.

Earlier, Ruto had claimed a major victory for mwananchi by celebrating the inclusion of an amendment to Article 11 of the Constitution Amendment Bill 2020 to include grievances raised by pastoralists, agricultural and coastal communities. While his tweet was interpreted as warming up to a process he has opposed, some quarters faulted the DP for referring to provisions already contained in the document he had earlier criticised. 

President Kenyatta has on several occasions called out his deputy for failing to support BBI, a process he says Ruto was part of from the beginning.

During the launch of the final BBI report at Bomas, Kenyatta told Kenyans that Ruto, who was present at the event, was part of the process and wondered why he was opposing it.

Ruto’s recent moves have left his constituency at a crossroads, even as allies of President Kenyatta and Odinga challenge him to walk the talk about his new-found love for BBI.

National Assembly Leader of Minority John Mbadi (Suba South) yesterday said Ruto has been “cornered” and that if he is genuine enough about his new stand on the BBI, then he should campaign for the document, especially in areas that he believes it is bad.

Changed tack

Mbadi said the DP changed tack to save face, adding that he realised that it was going to be difficult to go against the report.

“Ruto is just cornered and there is nothing like change of strategy. If he has seen sense, then he should go out there and support the BBI. We want to see him campaign for the BBI especially in regions he made believe that BBI document was bad,” said Mbadi.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli said Ruto is just a smart politician and has read the signs of the time to change tact.

“The president has the backing of Kenyans and all major political parties in the country. ODM, Kanu, ANC, Wiper, Ford Kenya, Maendeleo Chap Chap, Narc are all supporting BBI. Uhuru realised Ruto was a lone ranger and left him,” Atwoli said.

He said Ruto’s change of heart is also due to other factors.

“He realised that for him to lead the No campaign, he will be forced to quit the government. This will force him to use his own resources and deplete his war chest for the 2022 campaigns, which he will still lose anyway,” Atwoli said.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju yesterday welcomed the move by the DP to support the referendum bill, saying that a consensus had been reached.

“This shows that we have reached a consensus. This means there will be no contention pitting leaders against each other,” he said.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said Ruto had realised that he was losing the battle.

“He was given two years to present his views but he didn’t. He used the BBI to oppose his boss. Ruto had no choice but to join the winning team,” Wambugu said.

In North Rift region where Ruto enjoys a large following, a number of leaders yesterday vowed to support the proposed constitutional changes, saying it carries the views of Kenyans.

Governor Alex Tolgos (Elgeyo Marakwet), and MPs Silas Tiren (Moiben), Swarrup Mishra (Kesses) and William Chepkut (Ainabkoi) said the agriculture sector will benefit under the proposed constitutional changes.

Tolgos said some Rift Valley leaders squandered the opportunity to present their views.

“It was our wish as governors to have our issue of pension put in the BBI report. We also wanted term limits for governors scrapped but all that was not included. And that does not stop us from supporting BBI,” he said.

Tiren said the proposed changes will cure the woes that have rocked the agriculture sector in the country’s food basket for years.

The leaders were speaking ahead of signature collection drive Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet counties today.

In Turbo, Uasin Gishu County, a team loyal to the DP said they would declare their stand on the BBI report before the end of the week. Some of the DPs allies, however, appear to be moving away from their previous hard-line stance on the issue.

Nandi Governor Stephen Sang, his Uasin Gishu counterpart Jackson Mandago and Woman MP Gladys Shollei said a solution of a bloated wage bill as a result of increased number of MPs should be sought before the document is passed.

Face consequences

“If we finally find ourselves in a situation where we have a bloated Parliament under BBI, then we have to face the consequences of our choices, and we may have to slash all salaries of elected leaders by half so that we don’t overburden taxpayers,” Sang said.

Governor Mandago said he will not oppose the document so long as it will not bar an individual from contesting for president in 2022.

“I noticed that a lot of the proposals raised by the DP at Bomas have been incorporated, which are very welcome. The Senate has also been given more powers,” Shollei said.

When sought for comment yesterday, a number of the DPs allies did not want to be drawn into discussing why he had seemingly changed tack.

Mugirango South MP Silvanus Osoro explained that the DP had not changed his earlier position. “He is simply emphasising what the President said. That we seek consensus over adversary,” said Osoro.

[Rawlings Otieno, Protus Onyango, Wilfred Ayaga and Stephen Rutto]


Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021