Kenyatta, Odinga Form 'Summit' as Push for Referendum Gathers Momentum

As part of the push to galvanise the country in anticipation of a referendum to change the Constitution, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga have identified key regional allies who will make up a national summit to oversee the process.

The Sunday Nation learnt that ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka, the two leaders with their eyes trained on succeeding President Kenyatta, have been brought on board to play a bigger role. Kanu chairman Gideon Moi, the scion of the late President Daniel Moi, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and former Gatanga MP Peter Kenneth have also joined the fold.

The regional representatives will be vital in endearing the document to the masses, especially in the next political phase, once the BBI secretariat is done with collecting views from the public. The summit, if it holds, could easily culminate in a post-referendum political behemoth.

The mobilisation is being done under the aegis of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a product of a political truce between the Head of State and Mr Odinga. Deputy President William Ruto accuses Mr Odinga of hijacking BBI to use it to advance his 2022 State House ambition. Mr Odinga insists that this is the referendum year despite there being no allocation for it in the budget being drafted by Treasury CS Ukur Yatani.

Regional coordinators of the BBI such as Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, Makueni's Kivutha Kibwana and Machakos's Alfred Mutua will also sit in the summit once the validation of views being undertaken by the Yusuf Haji-led committee winds up its work. Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi and his Meru counterpart Kiraitu Murungi are also members.

The line-up has seen Mr Kenneth make a comeback to the national stage and will now play a key role in the arrangement. Some influential players from Mount Kenya consider the former lawmaker as one of the possible Kenyatta successors when he finally exits the political stage.

Together with senior Central Kenya politicians such as Anne Waiguru, Mr Kenneth has been charged with drawing up a strategy to counter the Ruto wave in the vote-rich region.

One time rated the best performing MP during his tenure in terms of CDF expenditure, Mr Kenneth had an unsuccessful stab at the presidency in the 2013 polls. He also wanted to be Nairobi governor in the last elections. In many occasions, there were calls by Murang'a leaders such as Gatanga MP Nduati Ngugi asking Mr Kenyatta to consider naming him to the Cabinet.

From all indications and going by his latest utterances, DP Ruto will oppose the referendum in what will likely pit him directly against his boss.

Fashioned as a government project, Interior CS Fred Matiang'i, being Mr Kenyatta's right-hand man, is also expected to play a major role. The provincial administration that he supervises has been instrumental in mobilising the masses to attend the rallies.

Sources also indicated the team was in talks with former Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto to join the team.

Yesterday, Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, a leading member of the team from the North Rift, said the alliance was fast taking shape, warning that anyone who tries to stop it will be outrun.

"Nobody will stop the journey because ours is the winning team. You are soon going to see more bigwigs joining in fulltime. The future of the country is in the BBI," he said.

Elgeyo-Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos and Nakuru's Lee Kinyanjui are part of the team that also has Kakamega's Wycliffe Oparanya.

The Sunday Nation understands that he is working closely with the politburo headed by political strategist Nancy Gitau, who is retained by the State House.

Yesterday, speaking at the funeral service of slain police officer Kipyegon Kenei, who was the head of security at his Harambee House Annex office, a frustrated DP said he was aware of a plot to isolate him politically, or at worst kill him.

"Those executing this scheme to stop me are using all means. I want to tell them that they may have the system, the support and everything, but we have God and the life of this innocent Kenyan will not go in vain," he said.

Political analysts believe the unity among the leaders could produce a new political momentum akin to the one formed during the 2005 referendum, which shook President Mwai Kibaki's PNU in the 2007 election.

They say DP Ruto could be eclipsed from the succession politics following his lukewarm support for BBI.

"There is a deliberate effort to ringfence Ruto, isolate him, and profile him. It is a conscious all-out effort to stop Ruto from sustaining much steam as we head to the carefully planned succession politics of 2022," argues Mr Bigambo.

Senator Moi had, during the BBI rally held at Kinoru stadium in Meru last week, said the Uhuru-Raila unity was "a sure bet for Kenyans".

Mr Bigambo adds: "To Gideon, it is only the Uhuru-Raila coalition that can keep Ruto in the cold."

Another analyst, Prof Herman Manyora, says: "The clouds are gathering over Ruto. The vultures are circling in the air. Those scheming against Ruto are now coming out in the open."

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