Deputy President William Ruto has taken the battle over the Building Bridges Initiative report to the door of ODM leader Raila Odinga. And the stage is now set for a clash between the two politicians following Mr Ruto’s change of heart on the BBI consultative meetings.
Apprehensive that Mr Odinga was stealing the political limelight courtesy of the forums, Mr Ruto, through his allies, has decided to join the rallies.
The DP’s allies also made it clear that they will take charge of some of the meetings, vowing not to allow their political competitors to use the meetings to drum up support for the ODM leader ahead of the 2022 polls.
In addition, the 20 leaders drawn from both the National Assembly and the Senate, led by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, also said they will organise for their own complementary rallies to facilitate “a deeper” conversation on the BBI report.
“After consultations as leaders, we have decided that
in order to pursue the original spirit of the BBI irrespective of our concerns against the use of public resources in a process that has been blessed with full nationwide consensus, we will participate and, where necessary, take charge of these public rallies,” Mr Murkomen said.
“However, other than the schedule so far published, our constituents desire us to organise more meetings in other parts of the country to facilitate deeper engagement and wider participation,” he added.
The Nation has reliably learnt from sources within the DP’s office that Mr Ruto changed tack to avoid being seen as undermining the project that is supported by his boss, President Kenyatta.
“It was the DP’s initiative to defuse tension brought by the BBI debate. He is concerned that ODM has hijacked the initiative and is using it for its 2022 politics going by the remarks made by its leaders during the Kisii and Kakamega rallies,” a source at the DP’s office said.
But Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, a vocal critic of Mr Ruto, scoffed at the change of heart claim, saying it is driven by fear.
“Their coming is due to fears that they will get finished. The two last meetings we have had in Kisii and Kakamega have shaken them. They have realised that if we tour the whole country without them, they will be finished on the ground. They have panicked. Our last two meetings have made them to panic. But we welcome them for the BBI meetings in future,” he said.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna welcomed the “Damascus” moment, saying: “We’ve been saying that the BBI process is for everyone with a genuine commitment to change Kenya. We, therefore, welcome the Tangatanga team’s Damascus moment and now hope to forge ahead as one to deliver on the vision of our two leaders, Raila Odinga and President Uhuru [Kenyatta]. The BBI secretariat will remain in charge of the meetings.”
Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu was, however, sceptical at their sincerity: “Let them come. Of course, naturally, it will be a bit tough for them because they are coming to join a process they have been fighting viciously. We especially want to know whether they will support allocation of money for the referendum.”
The Nation has also learnt that yesterday’s public announcement on the change of tune is part of the resolutions reached when the DP met the leaders at his official residence in Karen last week.
Just 10 days ago while in Vihiga, the DP dismissed the BBI meetings as a waste of public resources ''since nobody is opposed to the document''.
“This is a new twist. No one is opposed to the BBI. Why this campaign and what is it about? Is it aimed at misusing public funds?” the DP said then.
The MPs who attended yesterday’s meeting included Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), David Pkosing (Pokot South), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Caleb Kositany (Soi), Moses Kuria (Gatundu North), Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Nelson Koech (Belgut).
Others were Silvanus Osoro (South Mugirango), Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango), John Muchiri (Manyatta), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), John Waluke (Sirisia), Joyce Emanikor (Turkana), Steve Lelegwe (Samburu) and Vincent Musyoka (Mwala).
After meeting for about three hours at Serena Hotel yesterday, the MPs came out with seven resolutions and declared that they will attend all the remaining BBI consultative meetings starting with Mombasa on Saturday.
A source at the closed-door meeting told the Nation that the MPs were angered by the political tone the meetings were taking. The MPs were also worried that there was a secret committee working on another document and not the original BBI report launched at the Bomas of Kenya.
“It was a concern that if we just sit back and let ODM run the process, we will be losing out politically, hence decided to join them and talk to Kenyans on the same platform,” the source disclosed.
“We are concerned with reports of existence of a clandestine BBI steering committee with an underground draft report and bill. To this end we demand that the entire BBI process be driven in an open and transparent manner by the gazetted committee,” Mr Murkomen said.
“We asked ourselves, would we rather sit out there and watch them mislead the public? We would rather use that same opportunity to make our point known on issues affecting Kenyans such as the economy and unemployment among others,” he said.
The leaders also opposed the use of public resources to organise the forums, saying that if any money is to be used, then it must be approved by Parliament.
“If there are plans to use public money to organise public rallies for BBI, then let the budget be brought to Parliament. It’s Parliament that has the power to appropriate use of public funds,” Mr Washiali said.
The leaders said that, at the moment, the discussion on BBI is centred on the pursuit of political power positions by leaders.
“We believe that by our participation in these rallies, we shall redirect the BBI conversation to people-centric issues such as the economy, unemployment, social justice, rule of law and human rights,” they said, adding that their parallel meetings will be funded through their personal contributions.
“We shall take ourselves to Mombasa and pay for our own accommodation. We hear that some people get allowances and others are paid to attend the meetings. As for us, we shall not use any money from the public coffers,” Mr Murkomen said in a bid to paint the DP as a leader who does not misuse public resources.
The leaders expressed concern that despite the BBI report having promised to eliminate the ''us versus them'' kind of politics, it has mutated to pit certain leaders against others.
“To our utter disappointment, at recent public rallies in Kisii and Kakamega, leaders resorted to the very callous tactics rejected by the BBI report, backsliding into the reviled old order that Kenyans are running away from,” Mr Murkomen said.
“Instead of focusing on issues affecting the people, the two rallies focused more on discussing and demonising one individual in a manner that contradicts the letter and spirit of the BBI process,” the MPs said.
As the DP’s allies were speaking at Serena Hotel, ODM leader Raila Odinga was meeting Rev Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who is visiting the country, and Bishop Jackson ole Sapit, discussing the BBI report.
“The Archbishop of Canterbury described the BBI report as a remarkable document that can be used to change the ethos and culture of the country,” reads a statement sent by Mr Odinga’s spokesman, Denis Onyango.
Mr Odinga briefed the church leaders on the journey to the working relationship with the President, the setting up of the BBI team and the ongoing steps to involve more people in the preparation of the final document.
Archbishop Welby noted that the bulk of the BBI report focuses on addressing socio-economic inequality as the source of the tensions and anger experienced in the country and appealed to Kenyans not to lose focus.
“There has been some focus on positions being created, but we see that as part of the wider effort to create more communities to come to the negotiating table and deal with imbalances,” the Archbishop said.
Archbishop Welby later met the DP and underlined the unity of the country, terming it more important than scoring political goals.
He said he was fascinated with the report because it sets out to address socio-economic problems facing the people.
He said addressing issues of tribalism and creating a new culture and a new agenda for the country was good for the people.