Ruto tells off Raila on selection of commissioners in IEBC row

President William Ruto

President William Ruto (right) and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua (left) are welcomed by Tharaka Nithi governor Muthomi Njuki (centre) at Kibugua Stadium in Chuka for a church service  on March 12, 2023.

Photo credit: Pool

President William Ruto has told off Opposition leader Raila Odinga on his demands to have the ongoing process of selecting electoral commissioners stopped.

Dr Ruto said the seven-member selection panel that will pick the chairman and six commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was established in line with the Constitution.

He said the Law Society of Kenya, religious leaders, the Parliament, the public service, and political parties brought their representatives and that his work was merely gazetting them.

 He spoke during an interdenominational prayer and thanksgiving service at Kirubia Stadium in Tharaka Nithi County yesterday. He insisted denied having vested interests in the IEBC as claimed by Mr Odinga.

Mr Odinga is demanding that the current process of selecting IEBC commissioners be stopped and all political parties allowed to choose the poll referees. He has accused Dr Ruto of trying to steal the 2027 elections.

“Kenya does not belong to one person. We must end the culture of stealing votes and that is why we want IEBC commissioners to be selected by all political parties,” said Mr Odinga in Narok yesterday. President Ruto accused Mr Odinga of promoting impunity, saying, no one is above the law.

The Head of State rubbished the planned mass protests by Mr Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, stating that they will not make him lose focus or compel him to make decisions that are against the will of the people who voted for him.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua and governors Muthomi Njuki (Tharaka Nithi), Kawira Mwanganza (Meru) and Mutahi Kahiga (Nyeri) claimed Mr Odinga was using demonstrations and other threats to force Mr Ruto to invite him to join the government.

“I urge the President to resist any effort by Mr Odinga to have a share of the government and I am seriously guarding this government to ensure that he doesn’t enter through back door,” said Mr Gachagua.

He said although President Ruto will serve all Kenyans, he will not give jobs to those who opposed his election.

Governor Njuki recalled how the previous administration mistreated politicians who supported Dr Ruto. He vowed to defend the government and ensure that Mr Odinga does not get his way in.

“During campaigns, we were being mistreated and despite Dr Ruto ensuring the construction of this Kirubia Stadium, he was not allowed to step in it,” said Mr Njuki.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said he was committed to ensuring peace in the country and would not allow any person to break the law.

Prof Kindiki thanked President Ruto for appointing him as the first cabinet secretary from Tharaka Nithi County since independence.

Members of Parliament Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu), Gitonga Murugara (Tharaka), Kareke Mbiuki (Maara), Patrick Munene (Chuka/Igambang’ombe), Susan Ngugi (Tharaka Nithi County Women Representative) and Tharaka Nithi Senator Gataya Mwenda urged Mr Ruto not to allow any negotiations with Mr Odinga.

Mr Ichung’wah, who is also the Majority Leader in the National Assembly, assured the President that they will support him against the push by Mr Odinga.

“He is organising demonstrations to push his way into government while pretending to agitate for improvement of the economy while at the same time asking Kenyans to shun some products produced by other Kenyans,” said Mr Ichung’wah.

Former Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungi and Tigania East MP Mpuru Abuuri, who supported Mr Odinga in the last campaigns, announced their defection to President Ruto’s camp.

The leaders further accused Mr Odinga of misleading Kenyans by asking them to take to the streets to demonstrate instead of working.

President Ruto said immediately he took power, he embarked on four things that needed fixing in order to save the country “which was on the wrong trajectory”.

The first was to stop borrowing loans a trend that had ruined the economy. He claimed former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government had planned to borrow Sh300 billion without any reason, a decision that he reversed.

He added that he had managed to bring to and end extrajudicial killings by police amid reports of bodies being retrieved from rivers.

He said had brought to an end theft and misuse of public resources through purported subsidy of fuel and foodstuff, noting that, according to the Auditor-General, Sh34 billion and Sh8 billion was stolen by the former government on the pretext of fuel and maize subsidies.

Dr Ruto said the previous government had misused public servants by forcing them to engage in campaigns and pledged that, in his administration, they will only perform the duties stated in the constitution.

On development, President Ruto said he is focusing on improving the economy through agriculture and that, in his first budget, he will allocate money for building dams to promote irrigation. Dams to be built in Tharaka Nithi County include Kithino, Ruguti, Maara and 20 others in a bid to end water shortages.

He said all counties will receive Sh100 million and will be required to set aside another Sh100 million too for the establishment of aggregation and value addition parks on 100 acres for agricultural produce.

The President also announced that Chuka County Referral Hospital had been elevated to a Level Five facility as have been Chogoria PCEA Hospital and Komarock Hospital Kathwana. The gazette notices to that effect had already been published, he said.

He said there were plans to redesign the killer Nithi Bridge along the Meru-Nairobi highway to curb accidents, while the government will expand Kirubia Stadium and build modern open-air markets in Chogoria, Marimanti and Kathwana towns.

Governor Njuki urged President Ruto to consider giving jobs to former governor Samuel Ragwa, former Chuka University Vice Chancellor Erastus Njoka and former Tharaka Nithi Women Representative Beatrice Nkatha among others.

Ms Ngugi and Mr Murugara urged the President to ensure that people who will be moved to allow construction of the proposed Sh425 billion High Grand Falls Dam are adequately compensated and updated on the progress.