Politicians allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga’s Tuesday expressed dismay at Deputy President William Ruto’s move to convene a meeting in Naivasha, saying he has staged a ‘coup’ against the Head of State in government and in the ruling Jubilee Party.
The leaders said Monday’s meeting, attended by more than 150 lawmakers allied to DP Ruto where they announced a different schedule for the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) campaigns was dishonest and erodes the gains made in uniting the country.
The meeting has been dismissed by Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju as not having been convened by the party leadership.
On Tuesday, President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga’s allies reminded DP Ruto’s Tangatanga brigade that the BBI is the result of the “handshake” between the two leaders and hence their lieutenants including DP Ruto must rally behind them.
“Ruto and his team must operate under the umbrella of President Kenyatta as we do under Raila Odinga. Anything to the contrary is complete disobedience to the President,” he said.
He said the President had already appointed regional leaders to lead the BBI campaigns, adding that the DP’s team must work with Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos in the Rift Valley region. ODM Director of Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi said the Tangatanga group was out to divide the country.
“They are certainly flexing their political muscles and demonstrating that they have no regard whatsoever for the President Kenyatta, who is their party leader,” Mr Wandayi said.
Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said the rallies being planned by the DP’s allies were not genuine BBI rallies.
“Those are Tangatanga rallies and not genuine BBI consultative meetings, which are planned bottom-up by the BBI secretariat. They have now revealed themselves that their support for BBI is only lip service,” Ms Waiguru told the Nation.
Nyeri Town MP Wambugu Ngunjiri said the organisers of the Naivasha meeting were “unable to see beyond Ruto’s ambition to be President”.
“Any rallies they hold will therefore not be about BBI, but about their 2022 candidate. But that’s their right. Those of us who believe in BBI will keep doing ours to tell the truth, and point out where they are lying,” he said.
ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna questioned why the team had changed their mind after agreeing to the campaign schedule.
“We welcomed them in Mombasa and it went well. Why this about-turn? It’s clear that they have a hidden agenda and have always been opposed to a united country,” he said. Mr Sifuna said they will also insist on attending their rallies.
Busia Woman Rep Florence Mutua and nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi accused the Tangatanga team of insincerity. Mr Osotsi said the DP was using his cronies to undermine his boss President Kenyatta.
BBI steering committee co-secretary Paul Mwangi said the secretariat will listen to all Kenyans regardless of their political affiliation.
He said his team encourages national dialogue on the BBI process and noted that they would be part of any conversation to explain the contents of the report: “So if the people arranging the meetings request us to bring our experts to work with them, we shall send them experts.”
Ford Kenya Secretary-General Eseli Simiyu said the DP’s lieutenants had realised that the BBI rallies spearheaded by Mr Odinga’s team had started to galvanise the country.
“So they felt being left out and if they join those rallies led by Mr Odinga, they will be lost in it,” he said.
Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) party leader Isaac Ruto cautioned politicians against hijacking the BBI debate.
Mr Ruto said the ongoing rallies across the country were not necessary and should be called off to allow the people to study the document and give their input to the document.
“The rallies are not necessary as they are polarising the people and raising political temperatures,” he said.
Speaking at his Tumoi home in Chepalungu constituency, Bomet County, Mr Ruto said politicians should unite the people and not divide them.
He said that each region in the country should hold consultative meetings and come up with one position on the document as opposed to politicians roaming the country dictating to the people what they want.
Additional reporting by Vitalis Kimutai