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BBI vote sends Ruto back to drawing board

By Moses Nyamori | May 13th 2021
DP William Ruto at his Sugoi home in Uasin Gishu County. [DPPS]

The approval of  the referendum bill by lawmakers allied to Deputy President William Ruto has  brought to the fore the reality of politics as a competition for allocation and retention of resources.

By voting in support of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 – after opposing the document for more than a year – a section of Ruto-supporting MPs and Senators gave the strongest indication that they can easily switch camps ahead of the 2022 elections based on personal and regional interests.

Some key DP allies in Coast, North Eastern, Mt Kenya, Western and Kisii voted in support of the Bill, a rude awakening likely to send the DP back to the drawing board to identify dependable foot soldiers ahead of the succession battle.

Of the 320 MPs who voted in the second reading, 235 voted in support, 83 voted against while two abstained.

On Wednesday, a section of Ruto allies described their colleagues who voted in support of the BBI as political flip-floppers and cowards, who cannot be relied on for the 2022 battle.

But others claimed that fear of backlash forced some MPs to back the Bill since their counties were benefiting from additional resources and constituencies while others claimed state intimidation.

But allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga said the vote was a lesson to Ruto that he cannot win votes outside Rift Valley without working with regional kingpins.

They claimed that Ruto had been relying on political lightweights, who can not stand up against their regional supremos to deliver votes.

“Definitely both camps will undergo some political realignments ahead of the polls. I was not surprised by some of my colleagues. But it is good to have a stand; because if you have been singing anti-BBI songs but when it comes to voting, you go YES; people will say you do not have a stand,” said Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, a Ruto ally.

“Voting YES means you agree with the document. They have weakened themselves and are people who cannot be depended on. You cannot be saying any all this time and when it comes to voting you say YES. That was cowardice of them,” he added.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said some MPs, who were opposed to the Bill but voted in support of it, were scared of political backlash from their backyard as they stand to benefit from the additional constituencies.

Duale was one of the few MPs from North Eastern, who voted against the Bill last week on Thursday.

“When the rubber meets the road, I will not think twice on my political affiliation, political formation or personal interest; I will think of the interest of Muslim community and by extension Somali community,” said Duale.

“I have been consistent in defending the right of the people and I will not think about my political affiliation even if I am the only one standing. Without any contradiction, among the things in BBI that I do not agree with is on the issue of representation and resources.  If my region gained in terms of resources, I would have voted yes,”  he added.

Duale disclosed that MPs backing Ruto were told to make independent decisions based on how their regions were going to be affected by the document.

Aldai MP Cornelly Serem said that it was the creation of the media that Ruto was opposed to the BBI Bill.

Serem noted that Ruto and his allies only raised issues with certain clauses and did not ask MPs to vote against the document.

“We did not tell people to vote in a certain way. We told our people to look at their regional interests. It was never a contest. There was no time we said we were going to vote No,” said the MP who voted against the Bill.

Some of the notable Ruto allies that voted in support of the Bill include Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Feisal Bader (Msambweni), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), David Sankok (nominated), Kareke Mbiuki (Maara), Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango), William Chepkut (Ainabkoi), Purity Kathambi (Njoro), David Gikaria (Nakuru East) and Malulu Injendi.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said that the DP was depending on the wrong people for his 2022 presidential bid. He claimed that most of the MPs cannot sacrifice for Ruto and were only with him for personal benefit.

“What they did means that they can switch camps at any moment. Very few people are ready to sacrifice for standing with Ruto, they will all vanish if their survival is threatened,” said Mr Wambugu.

“The people the DP has are not committed to his course. The vote shows that the DP does not have a hold of people outside Rift Valley. He will have to go to the regional kingpins that he has been avoiding if he is serious with his bid. The vote has essentially made him realise that politics is local,” he added.

The Uhuru ally said that Ruto can only bank on Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa and Rigathi Gachagua (Mathira) from Mt Kenya.

Cotu boss Francis Atwoli, a proponent of BBI, said the vote reduced the DP to a community leader, who has no support outside his Rift Valley turf.

Mr Atwoli said that those who do not believe in the BBI will be reduced to political spectators in Uhuru’s succession.

“Politics is like a heavy downpour, when it rains the water will always find its natural course. That is exactly what happened in the National Assembly. If you don’t believe in the handshake you will be a spectator in the succession politics,” he said.

“The landscape of 2022 is now taking shape and the vote shows that he has no committed political allies; after this vote he was reduced a community leader. Political realignments are out there for everyone to see,” added Atwoli.

He said that those who rely on huge political rallies as a sign of popularity will be shocked when the people cast the ballot for the next president.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed said that Ruto has been banking on the wrong people for his political bid.

Junet claimed that some of the MPs were with the DP for “tokens” but will leave him when elections are called.

“These are people who are with him because of his money, at the end of it all they will go back to supporting the Handshake. Look at the total number of MPs in Central; only 10 per cent are with him based on the vote,” he said.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said he was not surprised by the turn of events.

“A politician can change anytime. Very few politicians can be relied on,” said Tuju.

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