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William Ruto’s might tested after dismal show in BBI House vote

Deputy President William Ruto. (Sammy Omingo, Standard)

Deputy President William Ruto’s political path could get rockier if allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga make good their threats to impeach him in the National Assembly.

Buoyed by Thursday’s victory on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020, lawmakers who support the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) claimed they could remove the DP if the number of MPs who voted for the Bill is anything to go by.

Proponents of the constitutional amendments won the vote, with 235 lawmakers endorsing it against 83, who are mainly Ruto allies.

Led by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, a section of the House leadership yesterday issued thinly veiled threats to Ruto over his stance.

They said the vote had demystified the notion by Tangatanga MPs that they have the numbers. Questions have also emerged on the commitment of some Tangatanga MPs in the long haul.

On Thursday, at least 10 MPs who had opposed BBI in public rallies voted in support of the Bill.

The DP allies were out-voted three to one. The win has added a spring to Raila allies’ steps and given them something to hang over Ruto’s head: we can impeach the DP if we want.

While calling on the Senate to endorse the Bill next Tuesday as the National Assembly had done, Kimunya said they would be courting opponents ahead of the referendum.

“We expect that even their leader (Ruto) has seen the light and he will stop defying the president.

“President Kenyatta is in charge and anyone who is defying him is doing so at their own risk. If people continue defying him, then the next steps may be taken,” said the Kipipiri MP.

But Junet let the cat out of the bag, saying the numbers the pro-BBI faction pulled could alter the DP’s political future.

“These numbers can lead to other things. We should focus on peace-building first, but these numbers can make someone lose their job,” he said.

Later, the BBI secretariat co-chair said the vote marked the “death of Tangatanga”, adding that its burial would take place in “2022”.

“Or even before,” added Kimunya.

But Ruto tweeted: “Being a democracy, the National Assembly voted on the Constitution Amendment Bill and so will the Senate. When the people’s turn comes they too will vote and we will march on. We should respect everyone’s decision & accept democratic outcomes; all views make us stronger together.”

Others present during yesterday’s briefing were Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe, Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore and Eldas MP Adan Keynan.

“The ground has changed and it is pro-BBI. If you are truly a practising politician then you must follow the will of the people,” said Keynan.

But DP allies dismissed talk of his impeachment.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei termed the threats as “laughable”.

He said BBI proponents should not be fooled by Thursday’s vote, saying MPs voted based on their individual convictions.

“We have never discussed our stand on the BBI in any forum. The DP has never supported it, neither has he opposed it. Most people voted based on the provision of additional constituencies,” said Cherargei.

Surprises

On Thursday, there was no question on whether the Bill would sail through, rather what was unknown was to what extent the amendments would pass.

There were no surprises, therefore, when the Yes votes won in the Second and Third readings of the Bill.

What took many by surprise were MPs allied to Ruto voting for the Bill.

Those who voted Yes included Bomachoge Chache MP Alpha Miruka, Feisal Bader (Msambweni), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), David ole Sankok (nominated), Ahmed Kolosh (Wajir West), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba) and Kubai Iringo (Igembe Central).

Miruka, a Ruto ally, said the voting was based on principle and not political affiliations.

“There are those who believe one can’t have an independent mind. This is not a process to show political might or loyalty to certain leaders. We will do politics at a later stage,” he said.

In an earlier TV interview, Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma told his Mathira counterpart Rigathi Gachagua of their poor record in the National Assembly. “We can even impeach Ruto now,” said Kaluma.

But Gachagua said voting for the BBI was different from succession politics.

“This is totally different from politics. There were a lot of local political considerations in the way one voted. Even if I had a problem with this BBI, if there was an extra constituency I would have voted Yes because that is local politics,” said Gachagua.

Ngunjiiri said voting for the Bill and supporting Ruto were mutually exclusive.

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, an ally of Deputy President William Ruto, was among the 235 MPs who voted in support of the Bill on Thursday night, May 6. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Betrayal of DP

“I voted without being influenced by anyone and that does not amount to a betrayal of the DP. The Bill is good for Nakuru County and that is important. I voted in support of the Bill but I still remain on the front line in supporting  Ruto,” said Ngunjiri.

But political analysts and pundits look at the outcome of the Thursday vote differently.

Mutahi Ngunyi, while holding that it is only the actual numbers that will tell who has control of the House, concedes that the vote was totally irrelevant.

“It does not matter either way who voted Yes or No. Even if the whole House had voted No the Bill would still go to a referendum,” he said.

“Nevertheless, the number could portend an even graver result. It could also be a dry run to an impeachment. Uhuru has just shown Ruto that he can marshal the numbers for impeachment.”

Dr Philip Chebunet, University of Eldoret (UoE) political science lecturer, agrees with Ngunyi on the fact that the vote in the House had no implication on whether the country would have a referendum.

“The MPs were aware that the House was just acting as a conveyor belt so the vote cannot show the true picture. Some MPs were just playing to the gallery,” he said.

Msambweni MP Bader said he had not betrayed the DP.

“Kinango MP Benjamin Tayari, Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani and I met the DP at his residence on March 5 and he allowed us to vote for the document if we felt it will benefit our people who are also his people,” Bader said.

Yesterday, ODM chair John Mbadi said Parliament heeded the clarion call as the representatives of the people and passed the BBI Bill.

“Therefore, I would wish to convey a heartfelt gratitude to the minority side and the majority side led by Kimunya for their overwhelming support and purvey of unity of purpose and commitment to the course,” he said.

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata dared those in favour of the DP’s removal to table such a motion in Parliament.

“We shall defeat them,” he said.

[Additional Reporting by Erick Abuga, Kennedy Gachuhi and Benard Sanga]  

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