Ruto, Raila allies in war of words as Jubilee row rages

Wednesday March 18 2020
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ODM party chairman John Mbadi. He has dismissed Siaya Senator James Orengo’s claim that Mr Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta have entered into a deal over the 2022 poll. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PATRICK LANG'AT
By JUSTUS OCHIENG'

The political bad blood between allies of Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga has peaked as the lieutenants of Mr Odinga accused their rivals of fuelling the new campaign to besmirch President Uhuru Kenyatta’s development record.

Mr Odinga’s allies, who include ODM chairman John Mbadi, sensationally claimed that Mr Ruto is using proxies to fuel claims that President Uhuru Kenyatta had neglected his central Kenya backyard and is focusing on befriending opposition zones.

Mr Mbadi was, in effect, accusing Mr Ruto in the wake of central Kenya political leaders’ attacks on President Kenyatta as well as the launch of Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri’s “Washenzi movement".

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, when contacted on Mr Mbadi’s claims, retorted: “That is what the President calls ‘ushenzi’ (foolishness).” National Assembly Majority Leader Duale dubbed the claims “fake news”.

GAME PLAN

DP Ruto’s spokesperson David Mugonyi questioned why the ODM brigade is preoccupied with issues affecting Jubilee.

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“The Deputy President has pronounced himself on the matter of development in the country. The Deputy President always speaks his mind; he doesn’t need anyone to speak for him. It is in [the] public domain [that] those who made contrary remarks are elected leaders who are known.

“But there are a few who want to twist this matter for cheap political gain. The Deputy President respects and is loyal to his boss, the President. Any other view from political brokers is false, malicious and spurious and should be treated with contempt,” he said.

Mr Mbadi claimed that Mr Ruto is “spending a lot of time and resources on some leaders to do things that are crazy … For us, we are members of ODM and not Jubilee, so we have no stake in Jubilee to push him out. Our agenda is to promote the peaceful initiatives between the President and our leader Raila Odinga.”

“His (Ngunjiri’s) anger, when you see him talk, is not because there is no development in his Bahati Constituency, but because the President has refused to endorse Ruto. Endorsing Ruto, to him, is like creating development. It looks ridiculous,” Mr Mbadi said.

DEVELOPMENT

He offered little proof in his claims as the President has in fact, in the past, maintained he will honour the Jubilee pact.

And the DP tweeted on Tuesday advising his Jubilee Party colleagues to avoid washing their dirty linen in public.

“Many Kenyans - especially Jubilee members - understandably are asking us for more. This must be tempered with the reality of what we can afford. No region, community or Kenyan will be left behind now or in future,” he wrote on Twitter, in the wake of complaints that central Kenya, where the President comes from, had received little in terms of development projects.

“Jubilee members must, however, use appropriate mechanisms to channel matters concerning us and avoid unnecessary negative debate that only undermines the party, the party leadership and the President.”

And although Mr Odinga has voiced support for the presidency in the wake of the truce, his ODM party politicians told off their counterparts allied to the Deputy President over claims that they are using Mr Odinga’s March 9, 2018 handshake with President Kenyatta to undermine the DP.

ENDORSEMENT

Mr Mbadi accused Mr Ruto’s sympathisers of thriving in creating fear around Mr Odinga; “that is why he is becoming jittery and against the handshake”.

He accused Mr Ngunjiri and Mr Moses Kuria of playing 2022 political games while hiding behind development projects.

“Since when did Ngunjiri realise Jubilee has not done much? Just because President Kenyatta has not endorsed Ruto should not be used as a tool to attack the President. It is ridiculous to connect Ruto’s endorsement to development in central Kenya,” Mr Mbadi said.

ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna said: “We are focused on strengthening our own party, upcoming by-elections, the BBI [Building Bridges Initiative] and the proposed referendum. Our plate is full and we do not wish to be drawn into the internal wrangles of any other political parties.”

The rift in the Jubilee Party continued to widen yesterday even as Secretary-General Raphael Tuju failed to address the simmering feud over Deputy President Ruto’s political future, which is threatening to split the ruling party.

SCHEDULE

Presidential candidates Peter Kenneth, Martha Karua and Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu led other leaders from the region in castigating Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Mr Ngunjiri who have, in recent days, ran a concerted campaign, accusing President Kenyatta of neglecting the region.

Last evening, Mr Kuria cancelled a planned press conference, even as rumours swirled that the MP, who represents the constituency the President comes from, was planning to resign, following widespread condemnation of his comments.

In a press conference, Mr Tuju sidestepped all questions on complaints by some members over development in Mt Kenya, as well as the apparent implosion about what the DPs’s allies feel is an attempt to use the March 9 truce to block his State House bid — two most critical issues in the Jubilee Party now.

Instead, he focused on the party, saying it had already laid structures for the launch of its party academy, the opening of the 47 branches, one in each county, and “constructive engagements with our legislators both at the county and national level”.

FACTIONS

Mr Tuju termed the handshake as the continuation of what he said was Jubilee’s original vision, one he said was shared between the “real members”, the President and his deputy.

“This (uniting Kenya) is the mission and vision President Kenyatta, his deputy Mr Ruto, the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have repeatedly endorsed in their pronouncements, that no Kenyan should be vilified, hated and discriminated against on account of their tribe, race and gender or political persuasion,” Mr Tuju told journalists at the Jubilee House, Nairobi.

The top party official said he had accepted Mr David Murathe’s resignation as the party vice-chairman a few days after Mr Murathe said he will go to court to have the Supreme Court declare Mr Ruto ineligible to run after having served for two terms.

The battles within Jubilee within the Mt Kenya region are divided into two groups made up of the “Kieleweke” group - led by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu - and Team Tanga Tanga - which has among others Kimani Ichung'wa, Mr Kuria, and Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu).

CRITICS

Most of the elected leaders in the larger Mt Kenya region owe their allegiance to Mr Ruto while the losers during the last General Election have thrown their weight behind the president, in the hope that his dalliance with Mr Odinga would give them a lifeline against the DP.

At the Nairobi Serena Hotel, Mr Kenneth, Ms Karua, and other leaders from the region, called for sobriety in the debate about the neglect of the region.

“We are treading on very dangerous ground here. The president’s ‘washenzi’ anger on those saying there was no development was only directed at leaders who have been misled,” Ms Karua said.