What you need to know:
The fallout between President Kenyatta and his deputy has played out in the public since the 2018 ‘handshake’ between the president and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The hardened positions have seen the president progressively drop Dr Ruto’s allies from the cabinet and other key positions in the public sector
Deputy President William Ruto has poured out his heart to the church, listing issues that he wants discussed in the proposed reconciliatory meeting with his boss even as the State House has remained cold on the clergy’s proposal for conciliatory talks.
The DP, in a detailed letter dated September 16, wants the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops to spearhead negotiations on the delayed appointment of a chief executive for the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC), who will be critical in refereeing next year’s General Election.
He also wants the church to lead negotiations on the overdue legislations that are required for a smooth running of the 2022 polls, the affirmation of August next year as the election date, the proposed constitutional amendments and what he terms as ‘political intolerance’ that has seen the eruption of violence in his political rallies across the country.
“I appreciate with humility your concerns about the state of my relationship with His Excellency the President in the context of peace and tranquillity in the country,” states the DP in the candid letter. “I want you, the Most Reverend Bishops, to know that I am willing, ready and available to participate, without any conditions whatsoever, in any forum that you may find necessary to address and resolve these concerns.”
The fallout between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy has played out in the public since the 2018 ‘handshake’ between the president and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
The hardened positions have seen the president progressively drop Dr Ruto’s allies from the cabinet and other key positions in the public sector, while the DP has formed a formidable political party, UDA, to form his vehicle for next year’s elections.
President Kenyatta has remained mum on the church leaders’ call for conciliatory talks with his deputy. State House spokesperson Kanze Dena yesterday told the Nation that she had no comment on the reconciliation efforts by the clergy.
Dr Ruto, in the letter, promises to mobilise MPs allied to his Hustler Movement to speed up the legislative process that is required ahead of the 2022 General Election, noting that it will help in ensuring that the polls are efficient, democratic and transparent.
In an apparent reaction to talks regarding possible postponement of next year’s polls, he says any plan to delay the elections needs to be discouraged, noting that the date is enshrined in the Constitution.
President Kenyatta in August said that he has no plans to continue being in office when his second and final term in office comes to an end next year, even as some politically influential allies such as the Cotu secretary general, Francis Atwoli, have publicly broached the subjected of an extended term.
Mr Kenyatta has repeatedly dismissed talk that there plans to postpone the 2022 General Election, insisting that he is ready to respect the Constitution.
“How many times have I told you people that I am very grateful to the almighty God and people of Kenya for the opportunity they have given me. I am more than happy to serve out my term and finish my programs. I believe this is part of my agenda. To be able to bring people together and to be able to ensure that we have a peaceful, stable and united country and that is why I have been keen on it,” said President Kenyatta in an interview with editors.
“I have not had such talks and I have no comment on it but if indeed what the court even ruled on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) is anything to go by then they are telling us that we cannot have a General Election because we do not have a constituted Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC). Let us wait and see what unfolds. For me, I am ready for an election under the prescribed time as I have said several times and that is the schedule I am working with,” he added.
The DP’s term in office is protected in the 2010 Constitution making it difficult for him to be fired by his boss as has been the case in the past.
Dr Ruto, in the letter to the clergy, revisits the proposed constitutional amendments arguing they pose long-term problems for the nation.
“Deviating from the pathway set out by the constitution and the rule of law poses a serious threat to peace, national unity and stability. We must always honour these foundational principles so as to evolve our democracy,” he says.
The DP expresses fears with the rising political temperatures, noting that he has been victim of violence in his campaigns across the country.
“I equally agree with you on political intolerance. I regret to share observations which indicate that, for a while now, this intolerance has found violent expression. In Naromoru, Nyeri County, Kisii, Taita Taveta County and Kenol in Murang’a violent attacks were waged, unrestrained by heavy security presence, in a manner suggesting unacceptable complicity,” Dr Ruto says.
In yet another clear indication that he is a deputy president with clipped powers, Dr Ruto laments that political mobilisation currently going in the country risks watering the gains achieved through his working with President Kenyatta.
“The entire premise of the formation of our administration was a return to brotherhood, cohesion and peace as a foundation for broad-based socio-economic transformation of Kenya. We realised that as leaders, the President and I hailed from communities whose frequent politically-instigated antagonism has vexed the nation for decades, and that we had an opportunity to change it and, indeed, to reconcile and unify all communities of Kenya,” he recalls.
‘Big Four’ agenda
Though he has not seen eye to eye with his boss for months now, he says the he holds nothing against him, adding that he supported the President in both the 2013 and 2017 elections unconditionally.
Isolated in government and staring at what would be an anti-establishment stab at the top seat next year, Dr Ruto says that he respects the Head of State’s decision to restructure the government.
“I have (also) respected the President’s decision to configure his administration as he considers most suited for the best expression of his vision and delivery of the government agenda,” DP Ruto says.
The country’s second-in-command and his lieutenants have been on record saying that the handshake disregarded the government’s ‘Big Four’ agenda, even as legislators allied to the President have repeatedly dismissed him.
According to Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who was fired as Senate Majority Whip for associating with the DP, Dr Ruto is not desperate for the reconciliation with his boss but appreciates that President Kenyatta is not his competitor in the 2022 polls.
“Having disputes with the President does not serve his strategic interests despite mistreatment that the DP has received from the State. Secondly, DP is a peaceful man who believes that an outgoing president has to be treated with dignity,” he told the Nation yesterday.
MPs allied to President Kenyatta are now accusing the church of brewing discord between him and his deputy.
The legislators claim the church is not sincere about its push for rapprochement of the duo.
Deputy Majority Whip in the National Assembly and Igembe North MP, Maoka Maore, claims the pulpit has been used to undermine the Head of State.
"The clergy should not allow their pulpit to be the forum for lies, insults and mockery against the President. Let them keep their peace before we call them out," said Mr Maore.
Nyeri Town MP, Ngunjiri Wambugu, another ally of the Head of State, said the church has to take responsibility for having been part of the drift between President Kenyatta and his deputy.
“Leaders seeking to reconcile the two now aren personally involved in the reason we are here. The church generally has been the playfield where this hatred has been brewed by providing the platforms and forums where Ruto has mobilised his allies to insult and undermine his boss. They didn’t speak out when it was happening or even correct Ruto,” Mr Wambugu said.
Limuru MP Mwathi Mungai also pointed an accusing fingers at the church.
"The church has been harbouring this guy (Ruto) in churches where he attacks his boss and they were busy clapping. All this discord was being done within the precincts of the church," he claimed.