Raila, Ruto take referendum war to podiums, yet again
Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga have clashed publicly—yet again — over “Punguza Mizigo” drive and the “Building Bridges Initiative” as calls for national referendum escalate.
While Raila says the BBI, a product of the March 18, 2018 Handshake between him and President Uhuru Kenyatta, will be the cure for the country’s governance ills and election cycle of violence, the DP yesterday dismissed the referendum push as “a one-man obsession”.
In an apparent rejoinder to Raila’s Saturday call on County Assembly legislators from Nyanza region to set the pace in rejection of the “Punguza Mizigo” Bill, which is sponsored by Dr Ekuru Aukot-led Thirdway Alliance party, Ruto said Jubilee is focused on programmes that would transform the lives of Kenyans and would not be detracted by referendum calls.
“The Jubilee administration will not be distracted by the constant calls for a referendum. The government is steadfast in its programmes, which are aimed at transforming the lives of Kenyans,” he said.
Speaking at Nyanturago Secondary School last Friday during the burial of former Nyaribari Masaba Member of Parliament Dr Hezron Manduku, the former Premier said he and the President had agreed during the historic Handshake to unite Kenyans, fight corruption and arrest perpetrators to curb the vice.
“We are accordingly keen on BBI, which will help to end political animosity in the country and promote unity, and not Punguza Mizigo which is focused on merging constituencies. And the move by the Siaya County Assembly to reject it on Thursday is a plus to us,” Raila said.
And speaking on Saturday, while opening a Sh54 million Technical and Vocational Training College in Ugunja constituency, Siaya county, the ODM leader said BBI “was meant to ensure Kenyans embrace leadership and governance of inclusivity”.
Raila criticised the DP for engaging in premature presidential campaigns against the advice of his boss, President Uhuru.
However, yesterday the DP dismissed the former PM’s push for a referendum as a one-man obsession.
“Instead of wasting everyone’s time with the BBI, he should just go and get his personal views on what exactly he wants from this initiative,” said Ruto.
Stating that the Constitution “was quite alright”, the DP added: “These BBI proponents should stop moving around the country disturbing Kenyans. In fact, this Constitution has no problem, what they need to know is that the problem is with one person who refuses to accept defeat. Let them go to him and seek his opinion so that this country will be peaceful after polls.”
“We will not allow anyone or any political party to come in between Jubilee and its development plans for the country by introducing sideshows that are hollow,” said the DP, who was speaking in Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties at various church services.
He added that there were people in the country “known for their political theatrics and empty noises that were of no value to the people”.
Speaking separately, Devolution Cabinet secretary Eugene Wamalwa, however, sought to douse political heat between the two leaders, pointing out that Constitution amendment was not about Ruto and Raila, “but rather an exercise meant to benefit all Kenyans, especially enabling Wanjiku (the common citizen) to understand the success of devolution”.
The Ruto-Raila ping-pong, escalated over the weekend drawing in allies in heated exchange with mobilisation for and against.
Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika and Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa faulted the 14-man BBI team for allegedly having a “predetermined outcome,” citing the manner in which they went around collecting views.
“If they come to you with a referendum, throw it out completely because in any case they only collected views from a few people who were carefully selected,” said Kihika, arguing that the report might not represent the views of ordinary Kenyans.
Ichung’wa dismissed the proposal to amend the Constitution says: “When we campaigned in 2017, we never promised Kenyans that we were going to change the Constitution to create positions for a few people.”