• The rare brazen move by the DP's political foot-soldiers could be a change of tack to take on Uhuru and Raila, whose unity has rattled them
• A contest with the President will leave Ruto thoroughly bruised as the country’s political bigwigs have closed ranks to support constitutional change
Deputy President William Ruto's allies have dared President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga to a referendum duel.
On Tuesday, they warned that they have the wherewithal to mount a massive campaign against the public vote which they claimed is "predicated on selfish political interests."
A political duel pitting Uhuru and Ruto would be an acrimonious end to the Jubilee marriage that has lately been roiled by vicious acrimony.
After his defeat in the 2005 referendum, President Mwai Kibaki made radical changes to his Cabinet and kicked out Raila’s LDP brigade that spearheaded the winning “No” vote.
Kenyatta might borrow a leaf from his political godfather.
Deputy President William Ruto's allies have dared President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga to a referendum duel. See story https://bit.ly/2YWSKLZ
MPs who spoke to the Star said the DP's camp will mount a vigorous campaign to shoot down the referendum bill if "it is pushed down the throats of Kenyans."
“We don't fear a referendum at all. Let them bring it on,” said Soy MP Caleb Kositany, one of the few politicians in Ruto's coterie. “At the end of the day, we will respect the decision of the majority of Kenyans. Let us meet at the ballot.”
Kandara's Alice Wahome said Kenyans who voted for Uhuru and Ruto in 2017 are intact and would reject the plebiscite, despite Uhuru joining “the official opposition”.
“We haven’t crossed over and we haven’t changed our minds. We keep promises,” Wahome stated.
She claimed that President Kenyatta and Raila might as well have hatched a plot to destroy Ruto's 2022 presidential ambitions.
"Nobody fears a referendum at all. What we are opposed to is a referendum that seeks to enable a few people to get power. We already know, for example, who wants to be Prime Minister and the two deputies," she said.
The controversial MP, however, reminded Uhuru that the Ruto allies were not about to abandon the DP.
The warning shot from the DP's brigade is the clearest signal yet that Ruto could be weighing his options, including a political duel with his boss.
Such a contest will likely leave him thoroughly bruised as the country’s political bigwigs have closed ranks to support constitutional change.
In the Uhuru-Raila axis are political heavyweights Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper), Musalia Mudavadi (ANC), Moses Wetang'ula (Ford Kenya), Gideon Moi (Kanu) and Isaac Rutto (CCM).
The DP’s political gadfly and foot soldier Aden Duale has tactfully changed his tune. He now says to all and sundry he supports a parliamentary system which only months ago he declared could not work in Kenya.
"This is my position and I intend to convince the President and the Deputy President that this is the best way to go in order to have a stable country with reduced ethnic tensions,” Duale told the Star last week.
Ruto was the de facto leader of the “No” campaign in the 2010 constitutional referendum.
He lost by a huge margin to the Raila-Kibaki "Yes" brigade despite a spirited national onslaught against the current constitution.
The “No” team got a paltry 2.7 million votes against the "Yes" team's 6 million.
Ruto used the vote to rally the Kalenjin, a strategy that would later propel him to the regional kingpin.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro on Tuesday told the Star the referendum being pushed is meant to achieve “narrow political gains for a few rich individuals.”
“This is a very unpopular referendum because it doesn't seek to address the problems Kenyans are facing. We will fight to the end against a referendum that creates jobs for a few people,” the vocal lawmaker said.
His Kapseret counterpart Oscar Sudi said the referendum push is driven by only two people - Uhuru and Raila - with the aim of creating positions for themselves after the 2022 polls.
“This referendum is about people creating positions for themselves so that they can continue to rule the country forever. Let me say that Kenyans are not ready for a referendum and will reject it,” Sudi said.
Ruto's lieutenants have intensified their offensive only days after the Building Bridges Initiative task force, which the DP has openly castigated, wound up the process of collecting public views.
The team has until next month to write its report and handover its recommendations to Uhuru and Raila as referendum becomes increasingly inevitable.
The DP claims that the referendum is a scheme, by his rivals, to scuttle his 2022 ambitions to become president by changing the goalposts and introducing a parliamentary system for government.
Ruto's team has launched a scathing attack at the Yusuf Haji-led team, alleging that it never collected views from all Kenyans as they were holding meetings in top hotels.
Ruto says the proponents of the plebiscite were not “objective, genuine, truthful and honest.” He further claims they want to scuttle the President's Big 4 agenda.
"The Jubilee administration will not be distracted from delivering on our manifesto and H.E.'s (His Excellency's) Big 4 plan by those engaged in the raging debate on Punguza Mizigo, BBI or 2022," Ruto said in a tweet on Sunday morning.
The BBI is the product of the March 9, 2018, handshake between the President and Raila. It has been collecting views from Kenyans on what they consider should be changed to make the country better and end the cycle of violence after every General Election.