Ruto calls cri**s meeting over position on BBI

Monday, November 30th, 2020 00:00 | By
Deputy President William Ruto at a past function. Photo/PD/File

Politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto will on Wednesday meet at his Karen residence to take a position on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum.

This even as People Daily established that two opposing camps had emerged among the DP’s allies, with one group maintaining a hardline stance against any talks on BBI while the second faction seems to favour consensus on the document.

Various sources indicated that Ruto may be persuaded to support the recently unveiled BBI Bill, if only to steal the thunder from opposition chief and political nemesis Raila Odinga as well as reserve his energies and resources for the 2022 presidential election campaigns.

Ruto on Friday gave a strong indication that he would support the proposals, saying the BBI referendum Bill captures the needs of the “Hustler nation”.

This was a dramatic about-turn for the DP, who has consistently expressed reservations about the project spearheaded by his boss President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila.

“I’ve a constitutional duty to assist my boss, the President. We have made improvements to BBI post-Bomas.

Now working on consensus for Kenyans to have real choices to decide/vote while avoiding Yes/No, all/nothing division.

We avoided lose-lose, we can overcome win-lose to achieve win-win,” tweeted Ruto.

Emerging new stand

News about Ruto’s planned meeting came as leaders allied to Uhuru and Raila cast doubts on the DP’s emerging new stand on BBI, saying he could not be trusted.

Among those who are said to have taken a hardline position in favour of a No campaign include Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, his Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen, Senator Mithika Linturi (Meru) and MPs Alice Wahome (Kandara) and Kimani Inchung’wa (Kikuyu). 

Those on the moderate side, sources said, include Senators Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), his Nandi counterpart Samson Cherargei, Christopher Lagat (Bomet), and MPs Didmus Barasa (Kimilili) and Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East).

Wednesday’s  meeting to be held at Ruto’s official Karen residence is expected to be attended by at least 150 leaders, including select governors, senators, MPs and MCAs.

The get-together, it is highly anticipated, will offer a platform for the DP to explain his position and formally declare his support for the BBI.

Sources, who spoke to People Daily in confidence said that a team of experts put together by the DP, after the launch of the BBI signature drive at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre last week, will take the leaders through various amendments to the constitutional bill.

The experts, according to sources, are also expected to isolate all contentious issues to enable them to give guidance to their supporters.

“Yes, we are going to meet with the Deputy President at his home in Karen, where we are going to take a position on this BBI,” said a central Kenya MP, who is familiar with the happenings in Ruto’s camp.

Asked about the meeting, Kimilili MP Barasa said lawmakers allied to the DP have been meeting on a weekly basis to distill the constitutional amendment proposals and agree on a position on various issues.

“We hope that in our next meeting (Wednesday), we will have consensus and take a common position,” Barasa, a key ally of the DP said. 

“We are not opposed to the entire document, we are only opposed to the issues that are contentious, and this is the difference between us and the other team.” 

Aldai MP Cornelly Serem, another DP Ruto ally, while downplaying the significance of the Karen meeting, said they (DP supporters) will only be meeting just to take “chai and mandazi”.

“We have not taken a position as DP’s camp but as I told you BBI is not a priority . . .  we have more pressing issues such as coronavirus and it’s real,” Serem said in a phone interview.

Senator Kindiki says a time has come to choose between the country and party loyalty, the future of the nation versus personal interest, expediency and political correctness.

In a series of tweets on Sunday, Kindiki, a former Senate deputy speaker, said millions of Kenyans “from every region, religion, political and social leanings are desperately yearning to break the yoke and get out of the bottomless pit of deceit, greed and breach of trust”.

“The country does not need to mutilate its constitution to prosper and unite. Rather, it requires full and faithful implementation of the Constitution. There are no gaps in the Constitution,” he said

“Inclusivity will be achieved by a full and honest implementation of laws and policies crafted in the Constitution, not by vandalising the Constitution by introducing 640 Members of the National Assembly and the Senate and a Prime Minister.”

He stated that as a patriot and a citizen who has been fortunate to be in a position of leadership at such a time as this, his conscience will not allow him to abandon the millions of Kenyans who are telling leaders daily “that we leaders have completely inverted priorities”. 

“How do I get to support the use of Sh14 billion to fund a clearly unnecessary referendum?” he posed.

“It is my respectful view that almost all the BBI proposals can be achieved by fully implementing and respecting the current Constitution,” he reiterated even as he affirmed his intention to lead a No campaign against BBI.

Abandoned supporters

“How does Kenya, a poor country on the verge of insolvency owing to an ever rising foreign debt spend so much money to push through changes that say nothing on how to arrest the said debt, forestall mortgaging of the country and avoid enslaving the future generations of Kenyans?”

On his part, Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok while calling for a consensus approach said every opinion matters and must be respected.

“Even as we work on solving the political issues, we must not forget that Kenya’s economy currently may not be able to fund an expensive plebiscite amidst the coronavirus pandemic’” he said.

“Our focus should be about helping millions of Kenyans who are faced with the biting effects of the pandemic.” 

He added: “I call on the leaders to engage soberly on this discussion. A win-win situation is achievable.”

Cherargei said as the DP’s camp, they will remain a voice of reason and push to have a non-contested referendum.

“Once, the Bill comes to the House, we must be allowed to debate and subject it through public participation and debate on the floor of the House, to ensure the Bill that goes to Kenyans for a referendum is refined, and captures their aspirations,” said the senator.

“This is an opportune moment, this is not about individuals who want to create us versus them, to do a mock exercise for succession politics in 2022.” 

Political observers have been trying to interpret Ruto’s new found position with some like US based law lecturer Makau Mutua accusing the DP of failing to hold onto his principles.

“He (Ruto) should come out and openly and support BBI — stop yo-yoing to have it both ways. He’s met his Waterloo.

It’s time for him to abandon the “hustlers” and pledge allegiance to the “dynasties.” He’s sold the “Hustler Nation” down the river. Sayonara “wheelbarrows,” said Mutua.

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