Kenya: William Ruto Allies Split on Way Forward - BBI

26 February 2021

Deputy President William Ruto's political camp is split on their next step after the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Constitutional Amendment Bill was passed by the majority of county assemblies.

Some of his allies want the DP to maintain his current neutrality and avoid either supporting or opposing the BBI. Others want him to support the Bill in the referendum and benefit from it while another faction is pushing him to lead 'No' campaigns and are ready to oppose it in case the DP does not do so.

The Deputy President has been cagey on what direction he will take after his call for consensus was brushed off and assemblies in his political backyard supported the Bill despite his opposition.

The first camp that includes Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany wants the focus to be solely on the DP's 2022 State House bid. They argue that a 'Yes' or 'No' campaign will take the DP's eyes off the main prize.

The Soy MP insists that the BBI is a project of the Handshake principals -- President Kenyatta and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga.

Self-destructing document

The United Democratic Alliance (UDA) chairman, former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama, is of the same opinion, as is Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua, who said they don't want to spend cash fighting a President who is on his final term and would rather focus on their race.

"BBI belongs to Uhuru. And we don't have to fight it. The people already oppose it. BBI campaigners were chased from my constituency on Thursday, yet I was not even there. It's a self-destructing document," the MP added.

While agreeing with Mr Gachagua, Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang'ata said people have already imposed a 'No' tag on the DP.

"Nevertheless, I think we need to meet as a parliamentary caucus and take a position going forward," said the former Majority Whip. The second camp has the likes of Endebess MP Robert Pukose, who want the DP to support BBI at the referendum to make it easier for him to form an alliance.

"I feel that the BBI will be beneficial to our camp, if adopted, because the expanded executive will allow the DP to bring many allies on board," he said.

Tangatanga loyalists

His sentiments were echoed by Keiyo South MP Daniel Rono, who said the DP needs as many allies as possible, who will be easier to attract if he has positions to offer.

Turkana North MP Christopher Nakileau told Nation that, even though many Tangatanga loyalists have opposed the proposal, they should change their mind.

"Some of us who had thrown our weight behind the expanded executive proposal still support it because we believe that DP is likely to benefit from it. He'll be in a position to reach out to more leaders to build a coalition, thereby bolstering his State House bid," Mr Nakileu said.

The last camp wants the DP to oppose the plebiscite. The most visible proponent of this view is Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa. They feel it will help him eat into the former PM Raila Odinga's constituency, especially those that feel that BBI is a burden. Mr Barasa is even willing to lead the 'No' campaign. The camp got impetus yesterday when Nandi County became the second region to shoot down the BBI Bill.

"Even if MCAs passed the BBI, they cannot talk on behalf of over 45 million Kenyans. That is why someone like me will lead the 'No' campaign. We cannot overburden people because of political selfishness of some leaders."

For Prof Egara Kabaji, a political analyst, those going to lead the 'Yes' campaigns for the constitutional review, which is likely to take place in June, are likely to share the spoils and that will encourage coalitions.

"Coalitions are definitely going to be there and those backing 'Yes' will immediately after the plebiscite start planning on who will be the President and prime minister and the deputies.

"Forget about these things they are telling us now about 35 percent to the counties; they'll go into 2022 polls knowing who will be what," the don said.

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