Storm in Cabinet: Ruto dared to quit for ‘divisive’ State House bid

President Kenyatta chairs a Cabinet meeting at State House, Nairobi, on October 8, 2020. Deputy President William Ruto (second right) was in attendance.

Photo credit: PSCU

What you need to know:

  • A source said the meeting essentially marked a “drawing of the red line” over “rebellious” activities by the DP, who was roundly condemned for fighting his own government.
  • Last evening, the DP announced cancellation of another meeting planned in Kisii today as he defended his ‘empowerment’ drives.

Deputy President William Ruto was put on the defensive over polarising premature political campaigns and recent utterances against State agencies during a stormy Cabinet meeting on Thursday in which some members dared him to resign. 

Sources said some Cabinet colleagues pressed the DP over what they described as divisive campaigns in which he attacked public officials and his allies demonised some of his colleagues in government.

Killed in chaos

The Cabinet session at State House, described by sources in attendance as the most tense in recent times, and which came on a week in which two people were killed in chaos ahead of a fundraising meeting attended by the DP in Murang’a on Sunday, exposed the dangerous escalation of the rift in government.

A source said the meeting essentially marked a “drawing of the red line” over “rebellious” activities by the DP, who was roundly condemned for fighting his own government. Some CSs reportedly dared him to quit instead of rocking the boat from within.

The DP reportedly insisted his missions to empower youth, women groups and small businesses was not politicking, a defence he stressed again publicly while announcing the cancellation of his meeting planned in Kisii today, hours after police broke up another he had scheduled in Nyamira on yesterday.

However, President Kenyatta, who reportedly let those present to ventilate, is said to have wondered why the DP’s allies were attacking his ministers, singling out Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.

Some of the DP’s allies have openly derided Office of the President chiefs as “harambee prefects”, with Dr Matiang’i and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho often targets of their attacks.

Political acrimony

The heated exchanges arose as Cabinet members discussed the directives the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) announced on Wednesday to check the rising political acrimony.

In the end, a Multi-Agency Team on Public Order, which includes security agencies, was established to be convened by the Interior ministry, effectively tasking Dr Matiang’i to lead it. This further expands his powers having been handed oversight of government programmes last year.

Cabinet approved the rules announced on Wednesday by NSAC to check political violence, which include notifying police of public meetings three days in advance.

Instructively, police yesterday broke up a gathering in Nyamira that was awaiting the DP, signalling implementation of the tough rules that didn’t spare the second-in-command, who is increasingly appearing like an outsider in government.

The DP announced postponement of the Nyamira meeting, but condemned as “unnecessary” police action to disperse the crowd.

He tweeted: “After consultations with MPs Kemosi, Mose, Nyamoko, the bodaboda sacco and church leadership who had invited us, we have postponed the two functions in Nyamira county to Thursday next week. The disruptive dispersal by police of Kenyans engaged in economic empowerment is unnecessary.”

Cancellation

Last evening, the DP announced cancellation of another meeting planned in Kisii today as he defended his ‘empowerment’ drives.

“We’ve agreed with DG Maangi, MPs Miruka and Osoro to postpone the Ogembo youth and Kenyenya women empowerment programmes from tomorrow to Friday next week. Church building, bodaboda sacco, women sacco and youth empowerment drives, just like kazi mtaani, is development not politics,” the embattled DP wrote.

Cabinet approved the establishment and immediate execution of the Multi -Agency Team on Public Order to “institutionalise the prescriptions and directives issued by the NSAC.”

The team will be convened by the Interior ministry, and draws membership from representatives of the Office of Attorney-General, National Intelligence Service, National Police Service, ICT Ministry, ICT Authority, National Cohesion and Integration Commission and Communications Authority.

Using social media

“The primary term of reference for the Multi-Agency Team on Public Order shall be to monitor, document and enforce compliance with the prescriptions and directives with respect to the conduct of all public meetings and processions; the permitted processes for media broadcasting, publishing and reporting; and the responsible conduct of persons using social media,” a statement released by State House after the meeting read.

NSAC, through a public address by the Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua, on Wednesday, announced the rules regarding the preservation of public order and security in the conduct of public gatherings and processions, media reporting and responsible conduct by social media users.

NSAC took the action following Sunday’s violence in Kenol, Murang’a, in which two died during chaos ahead of the DP’s arrival for a church event.

The official State House statement acknowledged concerns over rising political tensions featured at the Cabinet meeting.

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