Kenya: Revolt as Ruto Group Resolves to Go It Alone

28 January 2020

Deputy President William Ruto appears to have resolved to chart his own political path in what seems to be the beginning of the end for him and President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The decision was made at a meeting DP Ruto's allies attended in Naivasha on Sunday, just hours after they gave a public undertaking to take part in the ongoing Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) consultative forums.

During the meeting, the MPs, while declaring their support for the BBI report, said they will organise their own rallies to run parallel to those led by ODM leader Raila Odinga.

A source, who was at the meeting at the Lake Naivasha Resort, said the MPs resolved that they must maintain their identity, which they could not get from the ongoing BBI forums.

"This is the beginning of the end for the two leaders. We've realised that joining the ongoing BBI rallies is suicidal for the deputy president's political future," the source, who didn't want to be named, told the Nation on Monday.

He added: "We've decided to flex our political muscle by organising our own rallies."

MEMBERS' FREEDOM

However, as the leaders exuded confidence, the meeting had a sour ending after Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju disowned it, saying it was not a party meeting because it was not sanctioned by the party top organs.

More bad news came in when Ford Kenya also disowned some of its MPs, who were part of the meeting, with its leader Moses Wetang'ula saying they were there in their individual capacity.

"I read about the meeting in the newspapers. I was not invited, but members are free to meet, to caucus and all that. Nothing wrong with that. But you can't call it a parliamentary group meeting because it's not chaired by the President (party leader) as provided for in our constitution. So there is no such sanction by the party that I can confirm," Mr Tuju said.

Among those who attended were MPs Charles Gimose (Hamisi) and Catherine Wambilianga (Bungoma), who belong to Ford Kenya.

But, in a statement, the party said its leadership is committed to supporting the BBI report as earlier communicated through the leadership.

"The party is independent and is neither associated with 'Tangatanga' or 'Kieleweke' political groupings," reads the statement signed by Mr Wetang'ula.

EMPATHETIC DP

Multiple sources in the meeting, who talked to the Nation, said the more than 150 MPs resolved to tactfully counter Mr Odinga's rallies in a scheme that is aimed at ensuring that Dr Ruto's identity remains distinct.

Inside their plan is coming up with resolutions that endear them to the public, such as allocation of five per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and the capping of a quantum of allocation to the Judiciary Fund.

The schemes are meant to paint the DP as a man who cares for public interest while at the same time cast President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga as people who are consumed by power and are focused on creating more executive positions.

In addition, the team also resolved that 3.5 per cent of revenue collected annually should be allocated to the Judiciary in what is seen as an attempt to forestall the funding challenges that have been experienced between the Judiciary and the Executive since last year

"The strategy is clear; that the DP should be projected in the parallel rallies as a man who cares for public interest and does not advocate creation of more positions that will overburden the taxpayer," the source said.

NAIVASHA TALKS

However, Uasin Gishu MP Gladys Shollei denied claims that the issue of disengaging from the President was in the meeting's agenda.

"That was neither discussed nor was it part of the agenda," she said, pointing out that a lot of things are happening and the Ruto team did not want to be left behind.

"We've come to the conclusion that if we maintain our distance, our people will be mere rubber stamps in the BBI process, so we've decided to go to the ground and educate them through our own rallies."

"This is the logical thing to do. There is nothing sinister. We have all accepted the BBI report because there is nothing wrong with it. Our people will not forgive us if we don't do what we have agreed to do," she said.

While on paper the team declared the purpose of the Naivasha talks as redirecting the conversation of the BBI meetings to people-centred issues as opposed to creating political posts for a few people, the reality is that the team has decided to chart its own political path in the knowledge that the President's route is all but closed for the DP.

"We cannot be ignored. This is a movement and the focus is Wanjiku. We're coming up with views that are not discussed in the ODM rallies and we will be meeting more frequently," Pokot South MP David Pkosing said.

RAILA'S INTERESTS

Among other things, the team wants the Haji-led task force to come out and publish its programme of activities.

"We don't understand why BBI memoranda are presented to Mr Odinga instead of the committee," Mr Pkosing added.

Kipkelion West MP Hillary Koskei said they will hold their own rallies since they are not happy with the trajectory the rallies held so far in Kisii, Kakamega and Mombasa was taking.

It's "about expanded executive, three-tier government and nobody bothered to talk about the issues affecting the common person. We come from regions that depend on agriculture and nobody is talking about that. Politicians will have to be patient so that we elevate the issues affecting the people," Mr Koskei added.

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