Allies of Deputy President William Ruto Saturday made good on their threat to storm the third Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) consultative meeting in Mombasa and declared their firm support for the initiative that seeks to unite a divided country.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen led at least four MPs allied to the Tangatanga group to declare their support for a referendum to amend the Constitution while insisting they are firmly in the BBI, the product of the March 2018 rapprochement between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
“Our presence here is proof that we are together in this [BBI]. This should help clear the air on this us-versus-them debate and that Kenya will walk together in this journey without any fights,” Mr Murkomen said when he addressed the rally in Mombasa.
But even as the senator drummed up support for BBI, his boss the DP was singing a different tune, insisting that BBI is unnecessary and that its priorities are wrong.
Addressing a fundraiser in Trans Nzoia County, the DP hit out at the general organisation of the BBI consultative rallies and questioned how they are being run and how speakers are picked, pointing out that the priorities of the organisers are wrong.
Whereas Mr Murkomen announced the DP’s team will support constitutional reforms through a referendum, going to the extent of saying the team is open to the idea of a powerful prime minister and two deputies, the DP insisted that the problem of Kenya is not the governance system.
“Let us be truthful and honest. BBI is for the purpose of bringing together people from all over the country. The main speakers in the rallies should be drawn from the regions where they are being held. We should stop this business of duplicating speakers in all the rallies,” the DP complained.
It is possible to unite all communities without name-calling and abuses, Mr Ruto said.
Speaking at an interdenominational fundraising for 11 churches in Kapsigilai, Trans Nzoia, the Deputy President said leaders organising the rallies have lost their priorities, and accused them of throwing the country into an election mode.
‘It is still too early to put the country in a political mood the way leaders from the other side are doing. We have a mandate to work for our people and deliver on the promises we made before we were elected,” said Mr Ruto.
Ever since its inception, the DP has had a lukewarm attitude towards the BBI process. In some instances he adopted an ambivalent tone, coldly approving it, but while also declaring that it was a waste of time.
It is possible the DP’s prevarication stems from the deep feeling that he is the target of the BBI, which he believes to be a scheme to clip his chances of succeeding Mr Kenyatta in 2022.
This feeling is cemented by how both the State and the President have treated him since the March 2018 handshake and the November 2019 launch of the BBI report at Bomas, where he appeared to be a stranger in government. He has openly accused bureaucrats in the Office of the President of scheming to set up roadblocks on his State House ambition.
During an interview with the Nation on Thursday, he totally refused to state what he thinks is good in the report and appeared to rubbish the idea of an expanded executive.
“The problem we have is the weakness of the opposition not a system of governance. Adding more seats in the executive and recruit those who should have been in the opposition to join in, you create a dictatorship,” he said when asked on his preferred system of governance.
“My understanding of the BBI is that it a project around trying to eliminate ethnicity from our politics. And trying to create space where competition is fair and give the best opportunity to bring out our best. I don’t know whether that is the direction we are going,” he added.
Before it prepared its report, the BBI team, led by Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, toured all the 47 counties.
Of the counties, only in Uasin Gishu, the DP’s home county, did local leaders give the BBI meeting a wide berth. In its report, the task force says that none of the elected leaders showed up to make presentations, probably out of concern that the DP was not for the idea.
In the Thursday meeting, the DP revealed that he had asked the committee, whose mandate was extended last week, that he was ready to present his views when it convenes for the final session.
“If there is any one constitutional change that I will support, it will be to constitutionalise and institutionalise the position of the opposition leadership both in the national government and the county government. The reason why you find that the opposition in government has collapsed, and has run away — literally — from its roles is because their positions are not secured by the Constitution.”
BLOCK THEIR MAN
Sources have told the Sunday Nation that just before the release of the BBI report in November last year, the State approached all leading political figures seeking support for the report.
However, the DP’s sentiments, coupled with Mr Murkomen’s message in Mombasa, adds confusion in the Tangatanga team’s stand on the BBI, a matter that has been a source of tension in the ruling Jubilee party. Unsure of his stance on the whole BBI push, some of the politicians associated with him have adopted a wait-and-see approach before committing themselves to it.
Tangatanga MPs have avoided the BBI meetings out of concern that it’s a scheme to block their man from ascending to the Presidency.
During yesterday event, Endebes MP Robert Pokose accused Mr Odinga of using BBI to enrich himself politically.
“We are very sure that President Uhuru’s motive with the BBI is totally different from that of Raila. The President is truthful to the real agenda of uniting Kenyans where as Raila wants to use the noble course to advance his political ambitions,” said Dr Pokose.
Soy MP Caleb Kositany said Jubilee leaders are following the BBI very keenly and will not be fooled by anyone wanting to misuse it. The MPs will today converge at the Great Rift Lodge in Naivasha to take a stand on the accumulated matter of BBI and whether they should join the ongoing bandwagon or curve out a different niche but preaching the same message.
After the first BBI meeting in Kisii earlier this month, the DP claimed the BBI was a con game that had brought about confusion in government and was derailing the ruling party's Big Four agenda.
He further claimed that the consultative forums were a ruse by some in the opposition to misuse public funds and other resources and demanded that the BBI proposals be implemented without amendments for the country to focus on the development agenda.
“When the BBI report was released, leaders agreed to give enough copies to the people so they can read it by themselves and make [their own] decisions,” he said during a funds drive for a school in Vihiga County.
Reporting by Ibrahim Oruko, Gerald Bwisa and Evans Kipkura