How BBI Bi*l vote burst DP Ruto’s numbers bubble

Thursday, May 13th, 2021 00:00 | By
Deputy president William Ruto donates goats to Muslims ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations, in Karen, Nairobi County yesterday. Photo/DPPS

Eric Wainaina and Rawlings Otieno

The overwhelming vote in support of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill in the National Assembly and Senate has triggered debate over the 

“high numbers” Deputy President William Ruto claims to control in Parliament with critics pointing out that it may have exposed his soft underbelly.

Having differed with his boss, President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, it also brought to the fore the possibility that the two Handshake partners could easily marshal sufficient troops to impeach the DP.

This even as Ruto’s supporters put on a brave face that the BBI vote  in the National Assembly last week and at the Senate on Tuesday had nothing to do with the DP’s political muscle in the two Houses.

Ruto’s allies have consistently dared his opponents to table an impeachment motion against him, claiming they have sufficient numbers to block any efforts to censure the country’s second in command.

But speaking to People Daily yesterday, National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi and Nominated MP Maina Kamanda said the BBI vote was a demonstration that Ruto’s numbers in the House was mere propaganda and lies.

“Many people have fallen for Ruto’s propaganda and machinations about his perceived numbers and even the media have fallen for it. Where are his numbers? You must count real numbers,” said Mbadi.

The Suba South MP said the BBI vote was no mean feat, pointing out that even during the Grand Coalition government President Mwai Kibaki and Raila could not marshal the requisite numbers to form a local tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.

“Getting more than two thirds to endorse any Bill is no mean task. But this is now a testimony that the members believed in the cause.

Getting two thirds has eluded us in many occasions including the two thirds gender rule. If UDA is popular, then it’s only popular in some parts of the Rift Valley but certainly not in Parliament,” he said.

Kamanda, a fierce critic of the DP, said the fact that Ruto’s allies, notably Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, Patrick Wainaina (Thika) and Laikipia Senator Joseph Kinyua, voted in favour of the Bill was an indication that Ruto cannot sit pretty in the face of an impeachment trial.

“This is what we have always told him that he does not have the numbers he keeps talking about. 

In central Kenya, he only has a few noisy and errant MPs who are candidates for rejection in 2022.

He now understands the meaning of our slogan that you can rent a Kikuyu but you can never buy one,” Kamanda said.

He added: “If we wanted to impeach him, he now sees how easy it would be. And as we move towards 2022, he will be having no people in his base other than those from his North Rift base.”

A total of 235 of MPs voted in favour of the Constitutional Amendment Bill( 2020)  against 83, while 52 senators voted in support against 12 leaders allied to  Ruto who rejected it.

But Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, former Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata and their Kericho counterpart Aaron Cheruiyot, who are Ruto’s die-hard supporters, said the DP’s camp was unshaken by the BBI vote.

“It is my considered view that the vote had nothing to do with the level of support for William Ruto inside or outside the National Assembly or the Senate.

The vote was for support or rejection of proposals to amend the Constitution of Kenya.

For me, I gave my reasons why I found some of the proposals unconstitutional and others unnecessary. It never mattered to me who had supported or initiated the proposals.

I would have rejected them even if they had been brought with the blessings of my friend William Ruto,” said Kindiki.

Senator Cheruiyot said the outcome of the vote did not represent the actual distribution of numbers in the Houses, claiming MPs were coerced to support the Bill while others backed it as it stood to benefit their constituents.

“They (some of them who supported) said that they found it difficult to reconcile what was being proposed with their conscience because they know what is good for Kenya. 

They know what is at fault, the threats that lie therein. You know how that process has been guided. 

It is about certain people’s way or the highway. People are doing this with guns on their heads. You got to understand them,” Cheruiyot had said after the vote.

Kang’ata downplayed the BBI outcome, saying Ruto was still popular in Mt Kenya region: “The outcome of the vote shows Ruto is the most powerful politician in Kenya who commands 83 MPs.

Raila has 57 and Uhuru has 53. There are also those that have been intimidated by the government including Senator Isaac Mwaura and other nominated MPs. Were it not for intimidation, his numbers could have doubled.”

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri  Wambugu, a fierce Ruto critic, argued that  the DP assumed that he could have his cake and eat it by staying in government and oppose it at the same time.

“That is when he lost. Until he changes and stops trying to straddle both sides of the political discussions and policies that are initiated by his boss, the President, he will continue in the state he is in; of having lost. Consistently,”  he told People Daily.

Ruto, in a recent TV interview, expressed confidence that he commands solid support in Parliament.

“Yesterday, I met here with 140 MPs. The people of Kenya elected them leaders. None of these competitors of mine, whether it is Baba, he cannot put together 140 MPs.

Maybe he can try 80,” he boasted. It is notable that MPs associated with Amani National Congress, Kanu and Wiper Party have variously  rallied support for Ruto’s impeachment and could gang up with the Uhuru-Raila camps to enforce his censure. Limuru MP Peter Mwathi said Ruto’s numbers were “imaginary”.

“Majority of the MPs who follow him have been there for personal gain but from their voting pattern, they have shown that they put the interests of the country first.

I would advise him (DP) to sit down and rethink his political equation. His calculation of numbers will give him more rude shocks,” the MP said.

Macharia Munene, a professor of History and International Relations at the United States International University (USIU) said the outcome of the BBI vote was not a surprise.

“It demonstrated that Uhuru and Raila command a huge crowd and that they can achieve whatever they want if they combine their efforts.

It demonstrated that the two have the power to keep their troops in place, and that they are unstoppable.

The DP could have the numbers, but that can only happen elsewhere but not in Parliament,” Prof Munene said. 

Political analyst Dismas Mokua said that the passage of the BBI by both Houses confirmed that Ruto had not made inroads in Kenya save for parts of Rift Valley and Central Kenya and politicians whose activities were “anchored in fake news, alternative facts and lies”.

“Politicians fear punishment by voters. That is why they voted in favour of BBI because failure to do so is political suicide.

The outcome confirms that the Ruto campaign has been a bubble and BBI has burst the bubble. That Ruto has numbers is all sizzle and no steak,” Mokua said.

His counterpart Javans Bigambo avers that Ruto ultimately met his Waterloo on the floor of Parliament.

“Beyond the exposure of his underbelly, even though he didn’t personally put up a spirited fight against the BBI, he has expressly frowned upon it, and this shows how slippery his political path ahead is. His parliamentary boogeymen failed him. His team failed to make persuasive arguments in Parliament,” said Bigambo

Historian Amukoa Anangwe argued that the so-called Ruto’ numbers in Parliament was s a figment of imagination.

“The reality is Ruto enjoys only a minority support in both Houses and this has dwindled because of the Uhuru/Raila “Handshake” and the questionable loyalty of Ruto’s foot-soldiers. Should an impeachment motion against Ruto be filed, it may sail through,” he said. 

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