Battlelines have been drawn in western Kenya between Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s and Deputy President William Ruto’s troops ahead of the publication of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, which is near completion.
The recent tours and rallies in the region have seen allies of the DP from Kakamega County, including former senator Boni Khalwale, Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali, former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and aspiring woman representative Khadija Nganyi vow to trash any debate about a referendum seeking to water down devolution.
The Odinga-led team has however maintained that the BBI offers a clear path to rescue Kenya, asking President Uhuru Kenyatta to rein in his deputy for not supporting the “handshake” and proposed referendum.
The leaders, who spoke at Muranda Catholic Church in Shinyalu on Sunday, further urged the National Treasury to stop funding the BBI, claiming that there is no budgetary allocation for its activities and that the initiative was working on a known outcome.
“In the first place, Kenyans thought the BBI was working for the good of all citizens. But now that it is in the public domain that the initiative is working for the good of only a few leaders; we should stop wasting taxpayers’ money to fund an individual initiative,” said Mr Khalwale.
They accused Thirdway Alliance leader Ekuru Aukot of being too ambitious when he proposed to reduce the number of constituencies in his Punguza Mizigo initiative.
“As leaders from this region, we are against both the BBI and Punguza Mizigo initiatives and would rather want the current Constitution to remain as it is,” Dr Khalwale said.
Mr Washiali said they will back a referendum that strengthens the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) so that votes are not stolen during elections, and to ensure the independence of the police and Judiciary from the Executive and push for more funds for counties.
“We are not scared of a referendum, but we will not be arm-twisted to change the Constitution to revive the political fortunes of leaders who are talented in losing elections,” said Mr Washiali.
On the same day, 12 opposition politicians urged President Kenyatta to rein in his DP to stop early campaigns for the 2022 polls.
They included Mr James Nyikal (Seme), Mr Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town), Dr Eve Obara (Kabondo Kasipul), Mr Tom Kajwang (Ruaraka), Mr Jared Okello (Nyando), Mr Tom Odege (Nyatike), Elisha Odhiambo (Gem), Mr Martin Owino (Ndhiwa), Jackline Oduol (nominated), Mr Peter Masara (Suna West) and Kisumu Woman Rep Rosa Buyu.
The leaders, who converged in Seme, Kisumu County, on Sunday for a service at Sacred Hearts Reru Catholic Church, rallied residents to support the BBI, assuring them that it was a clear path to power.
They lashed out at DP Ruto even as he denied that his countrywide trips were political.
“You have the executive authority, Mr President, to stop your deputy from roaming. Do it!” said Mr Odhiambo.
He added: “History has it that when Daniel arap Moi was the President and Mwai Kibaki was his deputy and wanted to go to Kisumu, Moi called him and told him to stop roaming about and instead sit in the office and work. So, Uhuru Kenyatta, your job is cut out for you. Take charge!”
Mr Masara said the new-found rapport between Mr Odinga and President Kenyatta had ensured that the country is peaceful.
But he claimed that DP Ruto is out to create a premature campaign mood to scuttle the existing peace.