What you need to know:
- Turkana North MP Christopher Nakileau agreed, saying an expanded Executive could help Dr Ruto to poach people from Raila, Kalonzo or Mudavadi’s corner and form a coalition.
Dr Ruto insisted that focus should be on improving the welfare of the ordinary citizens and not the clamour for more leadership positions such as prime minister and deputy prime minister.
Deputy President William Ruto may have already signalled his intention to shoot down proposals to change the Constitution, but some in his think tank are now of the view that he should go slow on it as he may end up being a beneficiary of the same.
His dilemma also emanates from the fact that owning the ‘NO’ camp not only accords him an opportunity to test the campaign juggernaut he’s built since 2013 when Jubilee first came to power, even though doing so could earn him new political allies in government who may not be happy with the post-Handshake politics of Raila Odinga and President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The Sunday Nation understands that the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) secretariat wound up its operations on Wednesday and has been told that the much-awaited report will be released any time from now. A source indicated that State House had asked the task force to prepare handing-over notes and keep its diary open.
The nomination by President Kenyatta of Mr Martin Kimani, a joint secretary in the team, to be the country’s permanent representative to the United Nations, confirms that the outfit is now in the wee hours of its assignment.
A source at the BBI technical committee said the team went on a retreat between October 4 and 5 to work on a pre-launch, launch and post-launch programme “that will be as inclusive as possible”, indicating that the Tangatanga wing of Jubilee, which has been vocal against the report, could be roped in for the launch, and therefore take the sting off its tongue.
The plan is to have the Deputy President play a leading role at the launch, could follow the same format as in December 2019, when the first BBI report was launched. That would mean a handover ceremony to the principals, followed by a formal launch ceremony at the Bomas of Kenya — albeit with reduced attendance due to the challenges posed by Covid-19.
Allies of the Deputy President were left frustrated in December 2019 when Dr Ruto appeared more of a spectator during the launch of the first report. His close political ally, Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, was booed at the event.
Dr Ruto and his foot soldiers have already said they will oppose the BBI report. They argue that the initiative has been used by President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga to isolate him in government. In Kisii on Thursday, the Deputy President said Jubilee development programmes had stalled “because we have been told there is a very important project... the project of BBI, which is geared towards creating three or four jobs for some few people”.
One of his allies, Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki, also said told the Sunday Nation that they will vote BBI down “unless it is rich with novel, radical, realistic and practical solutions for empowering the masses, lifting millions of our people from poverty in the shortest time possible and tackling inequality.”
“I will wait for it at the Senate, and later follow it to the grassroots or wherever else they take it, and I will faithfully do what will defend the public interest no matter what: without fear, favour, malice or malevolence. May the best ideas prevail in the contest that is about to commence,” said Prof Kindiki.
The motivation by the planners to have the Deputy President actively involved during the launch, we established, is to banish the perception that he is not part of BBI, and also to win his support and that of his lieutenants, including the vocal Prof Kithure and Mr Murkomen.
But, while the planners worry about having the Deputy President in the ceremony, for Dr Ruto and his allies, the headache is on which route to take once the report is launched. If he is involved as the organisers hope, the thinking is that it will be difficult for him to openly oppose the same report he helped launch.
This will reduce any serious divisions across the country and open the way for the BBI proposals —on policy, administrative, legislative and constitutional reforms — to sail through with minimal political noise. On the other hand, if he decides to oppose the report, Dr Ruto will be taking on the President in a more direct way and could further alienate himself from government.
Were he to lose in the presidential contest and emerge as number two — and the proposal to create the office of official opposition in the expected referendum comes to fruition — this would be the second time the DP is reaping where he didn’t sow, to put it metaphorically.
Despite leading the ‘NO’ camp in the 2010 referendum that ushered in the new Constitution, today he is the second-in-command and cannot be whimsically sacked by President Kenyatta like it used to happen to vice-presidents in the old order. Today, to send a DP packing, one must get the nod of two-thirds of lawmakers in the bicameral Parliament.
While speaking on Thursday at Sironga Grounds in West Mugirango Constituency, Nyamira County, Dr Ruto insisted that focus should be on improving the welfare of the ordinary citizens and not the clamour for more leadership positions such as prime minister and deputy prime minister.
“They say we should change the Constitution to have a prime minister, we say we should change the debate and start talking about the younger citizens. When they come up with the affairs of the leaders we will tell them we want the affairs of the people. If they come up with the affairs of the authorities we will tell them we want a job for the young citizen,” he said.
But Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, one of the key figures in DP Ruto’s camp, and who is pushing for a coalition with Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi and Ford-Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, thinks an expanded Executive would help the DP’s State House bid.
“He will be in a position to reach out to more leaders to build a coalition together and share responsibilities, bolstering his bid,” said Mr Barasa. “We are waiting to see what recommendations are in that report. If they are good for Kenyans it does not matter how it will be passed as long as it is within the confines of the law.”
Turkana North MP Christopher Nakileau agreed, saying an expanded Executive could help Dr Ruto to poach people from Raila, Kalonzo or Mudavadi’s corner and form a coalition.
“However, it will not solve the problem of election-related skirmishes as these stem from the current winner-takes-it-all arrangement,” warned Mr Nakileau. “Going forward, we need to be disciplined regarding the electoral process.”
Dr Ruto’s Director of Communication Emmanuel Talam said the Deputy President will make the final decision on the BBI report after it is unveiled and he goes through it. That implies that the DP’s already stated position on the matter is open to change.
Additional reporting by Onyango K’Onyango and Wanjohi Githae.