CRISIS TALKS

Why Uhuru visited Ruto amid impeachment threat

Jubilee's parliamentary leadership summoned for separate session

In Summary

• Multiple sources tell Star meeting centred on taming internal tension threatening Jubilee

• Meeting comes against backdrop of  DP's open rebellion against government as his rivals threaten to impeach him

President Uhuru Kenyatta when he visited hid deputy William Ruto at his office on March 26, 2019.
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he visited hid deputy William Ruto at his office on March 26, 2019.
Image: PSCU

President Kenyatta yesterday held a crucial meeting at Deputy President William Ruto’s Harambee Annex office in a deliberate move to calm the swirling political storm in Jubilee Party.

The president crossed over from his Harambee House office during lunch hour for a meeting with his deputy.

The meeting comes against the backdrop of weeks of Ruto's open rebellion against the government and a day after his rivals said they would impeach him.

During the 'working lunch’, Uhuru first met Ruto together with Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua before Jubilee's parliamentary leadership was summoned for another session.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali and Defence and Foreign Relations committee chairman Katoo Ole Metito attended the second meeting.

The meeting with the parliamentary leadership was seen as crucial in steadying the wobbling party, which is on the verge of disintegration over internal squabbles.

The President is said to have called Ruto mid-morning and informed him he would pass by the Annex office for a ‘working lunch.’

Details of the closed-door engagement remained scanty, but multiple sources told the Star the meeting centred on taming internal tension threatening the future of Jubilee.

The President is said to have turned down the parliamentary leadership’s request for a Jubilee parliamentary group meeting to iron out emerging issues following vicious infighting.

Duale had exclusively told the Star on Tuesday that they hoped the President would meet them to iron out thorny issues rocking the party.

Instead, the President directed him to hold a Kamkunji - an informal PG meeting - with all the Jubilee MPs to rally internal unity ahead of next week’s State of the Nation Address.

There were fears that some disillusioned MPs could be plotting to heckle the President during the April 4 joint sitting of Parliament, a move that would have further deepened Jubilee’s woes.

The Kamkunji was due to be held last evening to forge unity within the ruling party and prepare ground for the President’s speech slated for next Thursday.

“The President issued instructions that a Kamkunji be held with all Jubilee members and discuss our own internal issues. It is clear that the President and Deputy President have demonstrated respect for members and shown that they are in charge of the party,” a senior Jubilee MP told the Star in confidence.

The President’s meeting is seen as a calculated move to seal widening cracks in his government sparked by the anti-graft war and the handshake deal with ODM leader Raila Odinga.

However, as the meeting happened, architects of the impeachment push against DP Ruto were said to have been preparing grounds for his removal.

An MP aware of the plan told the Star some anti-Ruto lawmakers met at a Nairobi Hotel on Monday night together with two top constitutional lawyers to frame the issues.

“We met and started our preliminary literature review to frame the charges, together with gleaning evidence. It can’t be a one day matter but would take a few more weeks or months,” the ODM legislator told the Star.

The pro-impeachment forces are anchoring their push on gross misconduct and violation of the Constitution.

By openly mounting a rebellion against the President and fighting the war against corruption, opposing government policies and misleading the country, the politicians behind the motion believe the DP’s conduct amounts to gross misconduct.

 

The MP said they intend to cite Ruto’s admission of land grabbing in the Weston Hotel, misleading information on the Sh21 billion dams scandal and many of his contradicting public messages as enough ground to remove him from office.

 

"We want that motion the soonest. The grounds are enough to impeach Ruto. The motion will pass overwhelmingly," Embakasi East MP Babu Owino (ODM) said.

Yesterday, Cherang’any MP Joshua Kuttuny termed the impeachment push a "reality that should not be ignored.”

He cited Ruto's talking at cross purposes with the President, fighting the DCI, making false statements, contradicting the government and misleading the country as some of the issues that can form the bedrock of an impeachment motion.

“The DP has been speaking at cross purposes with the President and made statements that have later turned out to be false. We are dealing with someone who has been misleading the country; in other jurisdictions he would have resigned,” Kuttuny said.

The lawmaker, a fierce critic of the DP, said Ruto’s latest actions have brought to question his loyalty to the country he serves as second-in-command.

“It is not clear whether he is working for the benefit of the nation or to the detriment of the country. The issues are weighty matters that can be very debatable ,” Kuttuny.

Former Kitutu Masaba MP Timothy Bosire cautioned the proponents of the impeachment plan against rushing the motion, saying “they should first lay a firm ground before swinging into action.”

“They should redirect the energies to build the numbers. They should know their team-mates before kicking the ball. An impeachment motion would be very premature for now. Let us wait a little bit,” the ODM treasurer said.

Bosire said investigating agencies should be given time to complete their probe into corruption cases, a process he noted would “unmask who Ruto is for the world to know.”

“Let us leave the DPP to unravel the issues. I strongly believe that the Deputy President will not escape because he must account for his wealth. So far the DCI and the DPP are progressing very well.”

Political analyst Javas Bigambo termed the impeachment push a “tall order” with a higher threshold that must be demonstrated because of the governance and constitutional issues involved.

The analyst said proponents of the motion could be taking advantage of the turmoil in Jubilee to disorganise Ruto’s 2022 game plan.

He said the fact that Orengo, a senior counsel and a political stalwart of Raila's, is championing the impeachment shows the political undercurrents which are gaining momentum like a cyclone.

“When you see Orengo with the motion yet Raila is working with Uhuru, and if the motion will see the light of day and is tabled in Parliament, then it has the express blessings of Uhuru and Raila,” Bigambo said.

He said anti-Ruto forces could be pushing the motion to show the DP that much ground could have shifted from him amid the uncertainty in Jubilee.

“They want to show that the political equation is not in Ruto’s favour following the infighting in Jubilee, the war against graft and the perception that he (Ruto) is being targeted,” he said.

He added: “This is intended to create a new political alignment with the architect keen in establishing who are Ruto’s loyal foot soldiers.”

But political analyst Mark Bichachi told the Star that while the issues around the Deputy President, morally, warrant removal from office, “Kenya’s moral threshold is too low.”

“Looking at it from the Western moral code, there is a lot of ground. But unless the morality perception in Kenya has changed, there is no ground,” he said.