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Inside Ruto's cautious plan to calm BBI tempers

Sunday December 08 2019
MAIPIC

Deputy President William Ruto joins a dance group during the 12th edition of the Lake Turkana Cultural Festival in Marsabit County on December 6, 2019. PHOTO | JONAH MWANGI | DPPS

By NDUNGU GACHANE
By JOSEPH WANGUI
By WANJOHI GITHAE

Deputy President William Ruto has lined up a multi-pronged strategy to beat President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga in the battle for the control of the Building Bridges Initiative narrative.

The recent change of tune on the referendum by his allies, the formation of regional caucuses that will sell Ruto’s message to the grassroots from next week and the inclusion of Cabinet Secretaries and parliamentary leadership led by Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka to his fold all speak to this new strategy.

The DP and his allies have also changed political tack by dropping their hitherto hardline position that the report be exclusively handled by Parliament and instead embraced a national referendum as a possible option in dealing with certain clauses.

This is in a bid to beat President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga at their own game.

To start with, Mr Ruto’s allies have already set up two regional caucuses to sell the DP’s BBI narrative to the populace in their respective regions, the first one bringing together his allies in the Mt Kenya region and the second one comprising his allies from the Rift Valley.

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Whereas the Mt Kenya caucus headed by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri held its first meeting in Embu last weekend and vowed to educate the citizenry on the BBI report across the region, their Rift Valley counterparts were on a two-day retreat on Thursday and Friday to push a similar agenda in the expansive region.

The latter group was headed by Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, a Ruto diehard.

Interestingly, both groups declared that they were ready to have the report subjected to both Parliament and the referendum.

“We have absolutely no problem with the anti-Parliament crusaders as long as they propose an alternative constitutional mechanism for enacting legislation,” the MPs said on Friday.

Mr Ruto’s allies drawn from Isiolo, Marsabit and Samburu also met this week and expressed support for the BBI report with or without a referendum.

And, speaking at a fundraiser presided over by Mr Ruto in Maragua, Murang’a County, on Friday, Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa announced plans by MPs allied to the DP to form their own caucus to sensitise wananchi on the report within the region.

KIUNJURI ATTACKED

The DP’s allies from the Mt Kenya region have come out to openly defy President Kenyatta over the BBI report and vowed to advance Mr Ruto’s position on the document.

Mr Kiunjuri, who has emerged as the face of the pro-Ruto movement in the Mt Kenya region, this week told off pro-Kenyatta MPs calling for his resignation.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Kiunjuri said he would not be cowed by the pro-Kenyatta forces.

“I won’t engage the leaders in idle talk, let them disclose those who have sent them. Why is it that they have singled me out when there are other CSs who have expressed themselves over the BBI?” he posed.

He wondered why his Cabinet colleagues - including Fred Matiang’i, James Macharia, and Joe Mucheru - have not been targeted by the pro-Kenyatta team yet they have also made remarks on the BBI report.

Mr Kiunjuri has been on the receiving end from the Kieleweke brigade, which is opposed to Mr Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.

Led by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, the leaders have accused Mr Kiunjuri of insubordination.

Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi said it was wrong for Mr Kiunjuri to participate in meetings held without the blessings of the State.

LEADERS FORSAKEN

At the Maragua event on Friday, the pro-Ruto MPs openly told off President Kenyatta over his approach to the BBI report and vowed to back Mr Ruto.

Led by Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, the leaders said they were under no obligation to justify to anyone (read President Kenyatta) their support for the DP.

The leaders reminded the President that they criss-crossed the country campaigning for him, only for him to embrace their “enemies”.

“We criss-crossed the country seeking votes for him. We were even attacked with stones while those who are now in his kitchen Cabinet were in their houses with their wives,” Mr Kuria said.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said those given a chance to speak in Mt Kenya regional meetings should also tell the President that the people were angry due to low prices of milk, tea, coffee and lack of money.

“We want the BBI to go through Parliament so that we can dispense with it very fast and go back to the Big Four agenda and the issue of tea, milk, coffee and small-scale traders,” he added.

Mr Ruto has also turned to his allies in Parliament to push for the report being debated by MPs.

PARLIAMENT'S INVOLVEMENT

Speaking in Nyandarua County on Friday, Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka argued that sections of the BBI report could only be handled by Parliament.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi last Sunday ruled out a parliamentary process, saying it belonged to the people.

Later in the week, he cancelled a retreat planned by members of a parliamentary committee charged with the implementation of the constitution in Mombasa to discuss the BBI report. The committee is chaired by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni.

The pro-Ruto MPs in Mt Kenya have lined up a series of public engagements to “educate” their people on the report starting January.

The caravan will start start in Marimanti, Tharaka-Nithi, on January 7 and culminate in a major rally to be held in Nairobi on January 22.

The tours are dubbed ‘Mt Kenya and diaspora MPs BBI sensitisation’.

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