Questions over Uhuru-Ruto peace talks

President Uhuru Kenyatta with DP William Ruto at AIC Milimani, Nairobi, January 26, 2020. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto yesterday denied that he has been a stumbling block to the attempts by the church to reconcile him with his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Ruto yesterday released a letter to the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) dated September 16, expressing willingness to holds talks with Uhuru. The letter comes a day after Catholic bishops said the two leaders had not formally responded to the invitation for talks. 

After the national prayers day at Subukia shrine, the bishops said they were still waiting for the two leaders to respond. 

But sources told The Standard that although the DP wrote the letter immediately after he publicly affirmed his willingness to reconcile with the President, without conditions, the men of the cloth are yet to officially respond.

Ruto’s Director of Communication Emmanuel Talam confirmed the letter to the Bishops was delivered in person and stamped, but curiously the same Bishops expressing frustrations to bring the two leaders to talk, have never responded to the DP.

“The Bishops should tell the public the truth,” said Mr Talam.

Questions now abound on whether the Bishops reached out to the two leaders. If they did what was the mode of engagements now that the DP has denied receiving any response? Was there any response from either of the leaders? What next for the Bishops? Will the talks ever take off?

But even as Ruto held out an olive branch, Uhuru’s inner circle yesterday declared they will not engage in any reconciliation talks. A highly placed source at the presidency told The Standard that Ruto’s calls for mediation were not genuine.

“The president has declined any talks. The DP is in government, let him keep quiet and focus on his work. The talks just worsens the situation,” said the source.

State House Spokesperson Kanze Dena yesterday declined to respond to our inquiry on the President’s position over the matter, curtly saying “no comment.”

Efforts to get a comment from the clerics were futile.

In the letter, the DP declared willingness for arbitration to end the tiff that has since degenerated to an all-out political war between the erstwhile bosom friends. The Bishops argue that the open disagreement between Uhuru and Ruto was dangerous for the country as it was likely to be taken up their supporters at the grassroots.

In the letter that was delivered to Catholic Secretariat Waumini House Westlands, just a day after the KCCB offered to mediate, the DP said he was ready for talks without conditions. He assured the Bishops of his respect to the President’s decision to make changes in his administration for efficient service delivery.

DP William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta, 2015. [PSCU]

“I want to give you my assurance that I hold nothing against the President. I supported him unconditionally and respect his mandate as Head of State and Government. I have also respected the President’s decision to configure his administration as he considers most suited for the best expression of his vision and delivery of government agenda,” said the DP.

“I want you, the Most Reverend Bishops, to know that I am willing, ready and available to participate, without any conditions whatsoever, in any forum that you may find necessary to address and resolve these concerns,” he added.

Ruto linked state agents to the re-emergence of political intolerance that has seen chaos erupt in some meetings. He explained that his union with Uhuru in the run-up to the 2013 General Election was premised on the need for “brotherhood, cohesion and peace”.

The DP said that the President and he hailed from communities whose frequent politically instigated antagonism had vexed the nation for decades, informing their deliberate decision to change it by working together.

Ruto cited recent violence in Naromoru, Nyeri, Kisii and Taita Taveta counties and Kenol in Murang’a. He suggested complicity by security agents claiming that despite heavy deployment, violent attacks are not effectively contained.

“I regret to share observations which indicate that, for a while now, this intolerance has found violent expression. It is in this context that I regard, with profound concern, the re-emergence of intolerant and violent tendencies, especially in connection with political mobilisation,” said the DP.

Ruto further supported calls by the church to the Government to provide the necessary resources for the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to deliver a free and credible 2022 General Election.

The church called for the recruitment of a substantive IEBC Chief Executive Officer to replace Ezra Chiloba, who was fired by the commission in 2018. Hussein Marjan has been holding the position in an acting capacity since then.

“The commission should have the support it requires to successfully oversee next year’s General Election. The appointment of a substantive commission chief executive officer is long overdue,” said Ruto.

President Uhuru Kenyatta (left) elbow greets DP William Ruto, 2021. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

He promised to rally MPs allied to him to enact outstanding legislation to ensure a credible electoral process. Ruto further joined the church in opposing calls to change the election date. He said that those seeking to change the election date were engaging in an illegality.

Last month former Nominated Senator Paul Njoroge moved to court seeking to have the August 9, 2022 elections postponed to 2023.

He argued that IEBC irregularly declared that the next presidential elections will be held on August 9 since Uhuru and Ruto’s terms will not have lapsed by the August 9 date.

Uhuru was re-elected on October 26, 2017, in the repeat poll after the August 8, 2017 outcome was annulled by the Supreme Court.

The Standard
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