Kenya: What Next for DP William Ruto as Kenyatta, Odinga Win

24 February 2021

Deputy President William Ruto is walking a tight political rope in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) implementation journey after President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga scored a significant victory.

The two leaders stamped their authority and comfortably bagged the required backing of 24 county assemblies to secure a referendum to amend the Constitution.

The support even came from Mr Ruto's political bastions that were expected to oppose the proposed law to amend the Constitution.

Following the passage Tuesday, the DP, whose stand on the initiative remains shaky, appeared isolated after nearly three quarters of the assemblies approved the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020, paving way for the referendum.

BBI not the right thing

Tuesday, Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General and the DP's camp de-facto spokesperson Caleb Kositany insisted that they would not be pushed into leading the 'No' camp even as the promoters of the initiative plan countrywide referendum campaigns from March 1.

"We are not going to say 'NO.' We shall leave Kenyans to speak on their own but our position still remains that BBI is not the right thing to do at this time," Mr Kositany told Nation.

The most important thing at the moment, the Soy MP said, is the revival of the economy, dealing with Covid 19, getting the Covid billionaires and fighting corruption.

"Car grant is a right for MCAs, they deserve to get it but it should not be given only when a vote is required of the MCAs. We are impressed with the way the so called system is scared of us that even our simple stand on something forces them to go overdrive on doing things," Mr Kositany said.

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said the BBI promoters ought not to celebrate "as they were competing on their own." Mr Murkomen also insisted that the DP will not lead the No camp.

"We are under no obligation to say Yes or No. Why are we being forced to No? We have said we want a scenario where Kenyans are given an opportunity to vote on the issues they like and shoot down those they do not," he said.

Ruto's options

But political analysts now argue that the country's second-in-command is only left with five options to redeem his image and ensure that his actions do not affect his 2022 presidential ambition.

Political analyst Dismas Mokua argues that Dr Ruto can consider giving BBI unlimited support on account of what county assemblies have done, claim that he did not at any point state his position on BBI or run with the triangulation strategy that since BBI accommodated his views, he is a shareholder in its successes.

"He can as well ignore the county assemblies vote and stay focused on the 2022 price. He can claim that BBI is not high in the priority list. That he is serving Kenyans as he wants to start 2022 campaigns or he can also claim that President Kenyatta represented his view and it would have been an act of insubordination to proactively promote BBI while his boss - Kenyatta- was driving the agenda," said Mr Mokua.

He pointed out that the DP can argue that he has listened to what the 'ground' is saying since county assemblies are saying that they voted 'YES' as a result of public participation.

"He can reason that he did not want to influence the county assemblies vote and he is happy with outcome. That he will give county assemblies unlimited support or claim victory by saying that his lack of opposition is what made BBI a success. He can say that pro-hustler content is part and parcel of the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2020, and hustlers are the prime beneficiaries."

Lost the battle

Mr Javas Bigambo said that it is obvious that Dr Ruto has lost the battle at the county assembly level, and will lose it in Parliament too.

"This cements his knack for consistency as a politician who historically braves all odds. His hope then is to take the war to the referendum campaign field, where serious flexing of political muscles will take place."

Mr Kositany, however, argues that the multiple choice referendum still remains their choice to allow Kenyans choose the good things in the Bill and reject those that don't make sense. The DP's communication director Emmanuel Talam insisted that Dr Ruto holds that the constitutional review should not be a source of division.

"The DP's position is that the Constitution review should not be a source of division since the constitution is for everyone not a few people," Mr Talam said.

Dr Ruto was in the No camp in the 2005 referendum -- which catapulted Mr Raila Odinga to his closest shot yet at the presidency, landing a prime minister post after a disputed 2007 poll.

In 2010, he joined the church to lead another No campaign that placed him on the path that led him to a coalition with Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, which went on to win the 2013 presidential elections.

Expanded executive

Arguing that the BBI-backed expanded executive will not cure the winner-take-all problem, Turkana North MP Christopher Nakileau, an ally of Dr Ruto, however, said the proposed line-up could be to the DP's advantage.

"An expanded executive will be advantageous for Ruto to poach people from Raila, Kalonzo or Mudavadi to form a coalition which can make him win come 2022," said Mr Nakileau, a point Dr Ruto had made in his Nandi dialect in the clip that has now surfaced online, complete with subtitles.

Dr Ruto has refused to take an outright No stand in the BBI process, instead calling for a multiple question referendum that he argues should be held alongside the 2022 General Election.

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How county assemblies voted

YES - 38

Siaya

Homa Bay

Kisumu

Busia

West Pokot

Trans Nzoia

Kajiado

Kisii

Vihiga

Nairobi

Laikipia

Samburu

Embu

Narok

Nyamira

Taita Taveta

Murang'a

Bungoma

Kitui

Makueni

Nyeri

Lamu

Nyandarua

Kirinyaga

Garissa

Machakos

Mombasa

Nakuru

Meru

Tharaka Nithi

Kakamega

Kiambu

Marsabit

Kwale

Migori

Isiolo

Bomet

Tana River

NO - 1

Baringo

Public participation - 8

Mandera

Turkana

Wajir

Kericho

Elgeyo Marakwet

Nandi

Uasin Gishu

Kilifi

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