Deputy President William Ruto on Sunday criticised projects that are dear to President Uhuru Kenyatta, signalling a near-end to a love affair that has weathered many storms since 2013.
The DP dismissed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) as “an act of political conmanship” while warning public officers who defy court orders that they will be forced to account for their actions in future.
Signs that the relationship between the President and his deputy had irredeemably deteriorated played out over the weekend when Dr Ruto threw all caution to the wind and unleashed a barrage of attacks targeted at one of the President’s pet projects, the BBI.
Speaking in Soy constituency in Uasin Gishu County, Dr Ruto expressed fears that the BBI had been hijacked by former prime minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party in its bid to engineer its path to power in the 2022 General Election.
He declared that he was firmly against the project saying its main aim is to divide Kenyans.
“We accept that both the BBI and the ‘handshake’ have been hijacked to craft ODM’s 2022 political line-up,” he said of the political pact sealed between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga in March 2018 on the steps of Harambee House in Nairobi.
The attack on the BBI came soon after he publicly assailed public officers he claimed disregard court orders, warning them that they will carry their own cross when the right time comes.
In a quick rejoinder, however, two Members of Parliament — Maina Kamanda (nominated) and Ben Momanyi (Borabu) — dismissed the DP’s attacks on the Executive and challenged him to resign instead of undermining President Kenyatta from within.
“It’s hypocritical for the Deputy President to contradict his boss in public. This is insubordination and he should resign,” Mr Kamanda charged during a church service in Murang’a County.
Mr Momanyi blamed the current paralysis in government and Jubilee Party to the law that binds the President and his deputy together.
He said he will propose constitutional amendments to give the President a free hand to sack his deputy.
“The DP now thinks he’s strong enough to challenge the President and his boss can do nothing about it. We need to change the law to give the President the freedom to sack his deputy when he so wishes,” he said.
The war of words between the two sides signals the start of a vicious war between the President and his deputy, especially after it emerged that Dr Ruto had last week been denied access to his official residence in Mombasa.
Whereas claims of a strained relationship between the two have been limited to rumours, the events since the turn of the year suggest the problem could be bigger than what the public has suspected.
The government has been on the spot in the last week with concerns being raised about the incessant disobedience of court orders after it stopped lawyer Miguna Miguna from returning home.
Dr Miguna had last week tried to return, but his journey aborted after two airlines refused to fly him home, claiming the government of Kenya had issued a red alert against him.
Dr Miguna was deported in early 2018, but a High Court order by Justice Chacha Mwita declared his deportation illegal and ordered that he should be allowed into the country through the facilitation of the State.
On Friday, police officers at the Kilimani Police Station refused to release Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria from custody even after they were presented with a court order from a magistrate directing that the lawmaker be freed on a Sh50,000 bail.
Mr Kuria had been arrested on the same day on assault allegations.
The DP did not refer to either of the cases and only condemned blatant disregard of court orders by government officials in the past few days, which he said was a worrying trend in the administration of justice.
“I want to say that any public officer who disobeys the law or disregards court orders will carry their own individual cross. They will be held personally responsible for such violations,” he said, noting that the slide to anarchy and impunity will begin when public servants stop respecting the rule of law.
Dr Ruto’s sentiments on the public officers were preceded by his attack on the first consultative meeting of the BBI in Kisii County on Friday, which he termed unnecessary and a waste of public funds.
“What are all these campaigns for? Who do they want to persuade? Is it a way of misusing government resources? If there are those opposing BBI, let them not hide behind these campaigns. They should come out and say what they are opposed to,” the DP said.
In Murang’a, Mr Kamanda said the BBI qualified to be a government initiative because it was mooted and gazetted by the President.
“When Dr Ruto claims there is a ploy to misuse government resources, he can’t be directing the remarks to Mr Odinga. His utterances are directed at the President who is the Jubilee Party leader, of which the DP serves as deputy party leader.
“It’s uncalled-for and unfortunate that he continues to stay in a government which, he claims, plans to misuse public resources and I urge him to be a gentleman and resign so that he can issue his remarks without contradicting his oath of office or undermining the presidency,” Mr Kamanda said.
Mr Kamanda’s remarks were supported by MPs Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Sabina Chege (Murang’a), Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga) and Wangari Mwaniki (Kigumo).
Mr Wambugu said the DP’s remarks were serious and detrimental to the running of government affairs and allocation of public funds.
He reminded him that his work was to assist the President not to attack him.
“His remarks are not those of a principal assistant ... If he has a problem with the President, he should look for him and stop issuing careless remarks,” he told the Nation.
Mr Ruto, Ms Chege said, should come out openly and say what he knows of the plot to use public funds. She dismissed the remarks as unfounded.
“It’s unfortunate to hear the Deputy President say such things against his boss. Let him table the evidence on how much the government intends to misuse instead of misleading Kenyans,” she said, and challenged the DP to resign.
The Gatanga MP said the DP’s remarks can only suggest that the relationship with his boss is irretrievable, sour and long gone.
Politicians who accompanied the DP said the BBI was not only aimed at giving Mr Odinga a lifeline, but was meant to scuttle Mr Ruto’s presidential ambitions.
Narok Woman Rep Soipan Kudate and Deputy Governor Everline Aruasa echoed the DP’s sentiments and accused the organisers of BBI forums of harbouring an ulterior motive.
“This is purely a political meeting meant to derail Ruto’s chances of ascending to the presidency and, therefore, as his supporters, we have no business attending such meetings,” Ms Aruasa said.
The DP accused ODM of hypocrisy regarding their agenda on the BBI. He claimed that after killing Nasa, Mr Odinga was busy dividing the ruling party.
Reporting by Ibrahim Oruko, George Sayagie and Ndungu Gachane