Wednesday was a long day for Deputy President William Ruto and his allies as they endured moments of humiliation before, during and after the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.
That the DP was having an uneasy time was reflected in his demeanour and body language during the ceremony that was a culmination of the ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Throughout the event, Dr Ruto appeared pensive as speaker after speaker heaped praises on President Uhuru Kenyatta and Mr Odinga for the Building Bridges Initiative. He laughed or smiled only occasionally.
As President Kenyatta laughed animatedly at jokes and jibes, Dr Ruto wore a blank face.
The 'handshake' drew President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga and their supporters close, but alienated Dr Ruto who has on several occasions accused the ODM leader of seeking to split Jubilee Party.
Their rivalry reached the climax during the recent Kibra by-election when they engaged in a supremacy battle.
Following the loss of the Jubilee candidate, Dr Ruto accused Mr Odinga and his ODM party of fuelling violence.
On Wednesday, President Kenyatta made light of the matter, saying the election had in fact demonstrated mature politics.
On Thursday, Dr Ruto's supporters complained about what they termed as attempts of the organisers of the event to humiliate and embarrass the DP.
During the ceremony, leaders who have openly shown support for Dr Ruto under the Tangatanga faction of Jubilee were conspicuously missing from the list of speakers.
Only Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who is the Majority Leader in the Senate, and Mr Adan Duale, the Majority Leader in the National Assembly, got a chance to speak.
“We were not even informed that we would speak as we were not given any programme indicating the list of speakers of the day,” Mr Murkomen said Thursday.
“I guess that it was an afterthought to allow us to speak, reading from the mood in the building.”
Mr Murkomen said although the event was meant to start a conversation on national unity, the running of the event and mobilisation of delegates were aimed at silencing the DP’s supporters.
“It was purely a one-sided event,” he said. “They mobilised their own people; they didn’t want us to talk and they heckled us.”
Mr Murkomen was heckled when he complained about the treatment given to some leaders.
Dr Ruto's supporters said the DP had been forced to wait for some minutes for President Kenyatta’s convoy and that of Mr Odinga to leave the venue before he was cleared to leave.
The DP, in the co-driver’s seat, watched the convoy of Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga leave ahead of him.
Some delegates leaving the venue also shouted at the DP, accusing him of opposing the initiative.
Earlier during the day before the meeting started, Dr Ruto was seen waiting outside the VVIP holding area where President Kenyatta, Mr Odinga and other dignitaries were holed up as members of the Presidential Escort Unit and the President’s aide-de-camp Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Lekolol kept guard outside the door.
As the event started, Tangatanga politicians tried to protest after discovering that Suna East MP Junet Mohamed was listed as an emcee for the event.
Unlike in past events, the official programme was distributed about 30 minutes after it had started.
In the programme, Mr Odinga spoke after Dr Ruto and it was the ODM leader who invited President Kenyatta to address the meeting.
“The programme looked like that of an ODM party convention. They even selected Junet Mohamed who is one of the party’s loudest mouths to be the emcee in the section meant for leaders’ speeches,” Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro complained.
According to Belgut MP Nelson Koech, Mr Mohamed only picked ODM and Kieleweke-leaning politicians to speak.
“It seems he was forced to call on Mr Murkomen and National Assembly Majority Leader Adan Duale after protests from other leaders present. Before that, he hadn’t called any leaders who openly support the DP,” Mr Koech said.
North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko accused Mr Mohamed of being partisan.
Allies of the President and Mr Odinga who spoke at the event include women reps Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay) and Sabina Chege (Murang’a), governors Wycliffe Oparanya (Kakamega), Ali Hassan Joho (Mombasa), Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Kiraitu Murungi (Meru). Siaya Senator James Orengo also spoke.
The other speakers who have in the past said Dr Ruto had no chance of becoming President in 2022 but who were invited to address the gathering were Kanu secretary-general Nick Salat and Cotu boss Francis Atwoli.
Mr Junet called party leaders Musalia Mudavadi (ANC) and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang'ula to speak before asking Mr Duale and Mr Murkomen to air their views.
“It was either a break of protocol or that we were never meant to address the gathering at all,” Mr Murkomen said.
The allies Ruto on Thursday vowed to support the BBI report, saying they had already read and understood it.
Mr Duale said he will rally his fellow legislators behind the BBI report. “I don’t know where Mr Odinga got the idea of the appointment of a Committee of Experts to take the BBI forward as this is not listed in the report,” he said.
ITUMBI KICKED OUT
He added “There is also no clause for a referendum in the report. If they want a referendum, they can forget the BBI report and choose the route of collecting at least one million signature so as to push for a popular vote so as to change the Constitution.”
Mr Duale said he had spoken to the President and pledged to support the BBI report through the parliamentary process.
Notably during the Wednesday event, the President summoned Interior Security Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i for a chat after which Dr Matiang’i went and said a word to his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.
Moments later, Mr Dennis Itumbi, the State House Digital Secretary who has in the past voiced his concerns over the BBI initiative, was whisked away from the presidential podium by security officers.