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RUNAWAY TRAIN:

Regional leaders battle to control BBI campaigns

Influential political personalities have managed to elbow out perceived 2022 opponents.

In Summary
  • Governors accused of using the BBI rallies to position themselves to be regional heads.
  • MPs cry foul over isolation in the BBI rallies.
Supporters shout during speeches at BBI rally in Mombasa.
BBI TRAIN: Supporters shout during speeches at BBI rally in Mombasa.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

The battle to control regional BBI rallies has exposed jostling among political bigwigs positioning themselves to shine in 2022. It's beginning to appear like a nasty circus. 

On Sunday, National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale told the Star, "the Building Bridges process has been hijacked by the political class creating a lot of confusion.” 

On Saturday, ODM leader Raila Odinga himself called the BBI process an unstoppable train that has left the station and urged everyone to jump aboard. In Kiswahili, he said it was a train without brakes.

 

That sounds like a runaway train, out of control.

It has emerged that governors are embroiled in behind-the-scenes wars with perceived rival regional kingpins over organising the BBI meetings, which often are more like political rallies than what they're supposed to be — 'sensitisation' meetings.

Fearing that governors, playing influential roles in the mobilisation of the rallies, could eclipse them, regional power brokers and MPs have launched a fightback to protect their turf.

With the BBI wave sweeping the country, influential political personalities have managed to elbow their perceived 2022 opponents from the nerve centre for the planning and organisation of the rallies.

Raila Odinga at BBI Rally in Kitui county n February 1.
BBI TRAIN: Raila Odinga at BBI Rally in Kitui county n February 1.
Image: EMMANUEL WANSON

The regional political schemes have denied some politicians opportunities to address rallies, including those in their regions.

All these machinations could impede the BBI agenda, which is supposed to be unity and inclusiveness. The current meetings are supposed to express regional concerns that will be relayed to the BBI team.

Duale, who has not been attending the BBI rallies, said he will not attend any public meeting unless it is attended by both the President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto.

 

Speaking for the first time since the BBI rallies were unveiled, Duale said the right forum to present the views of his Garissa Township constituents is the BBI taskforce itself. No public show, "no baraza". 

The isolation of some politicians begs the question of whether the BBI regional resolutions submitted to the Yusuf Haji-led taskforce could be truly inclusive and representative.

This jostling comes as governors serving their last terms have been exhilarated by the proposal to introduce regional governments — a third layer of government above the counties. Voters don't like the idea of another tier of costly governance, but last-term governors love it.

In some instances, the ego fights are forcing proponents of the BBI rallies to organise what they term complementary meetings to counter their opponents.

Deputy President William Ruto's allies, who have been denied prominent roles in the planning of the BBI meetings, have arranged for 'additional rallies' across the country.

At the same time, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka has planned his own rally in Wote, Makueni county, on February 7, just a week after governors from the region led by Charity Ngilu (Kitui) held a rally in Kitui town. She tried without success to throw out Gatundu MP Moses Kuria but the uproar did cast doubt on the integrity of the rally.

Supporters shout during speechesat BBI rally in Mombasa.
BBI: Supporters shout during speechesat BBI rally in Mombasa.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

The scenarios reveal the political capital associated with the planning of the BBI rallies and why politicians are battling to stay right at the centre of their planning and mobilisation.

“BBI is the future of this country. It is either you are in or out. That is why you are seeing a lot of politicians keen in arranging these rallies,” Charangany MP Joshwa Kuttuny told the Star.

Kuttuny, a key Rift Valley BBI regional mobiliser, said the conversation around the BBI will completely alter the country's 2022 architecture.

From the Eastern region, Western, Coast, Northeastern, Mt Kenya and the Rift Valley, the political class is engaged in a bitter game to control the BBI rallies.

Politicians and analysts say the ongoing battle to seize control of the regional meetings has left some politicians isolated from their organisation.

On Sunday, Kibwezi East MP Jessica Mbalu claimed that governors had taken charge of all the BBI regional meetings and sidelined MPs.

She said MPs and senators, being the representatives of the people, are better placed to articulate issues facing their constituents.

She said political schemes are being hatched by some governors to use the BBI rallies to prop up their preferred 2022 parliamentary candidates.

“Let us not use the BBI to kill the voice of MPs, especially in their home turfs. MPs are representatives of the people, hence, best placed to spearhead the campaigns,” the lawmaker said.

Just last week, a section of Kalonzo's Ukambani lieutenants came out accusing ODM boss Raila Odinga of using theBBI rallies to divide the Wiper leader's political bastion.

“The rally is being organised by Kalonzo but I understand Raila is pretending to appoint [Kitui Governor Charity] Ngilu. Raila should avoid directing us here in Ukambani,” Makueni MP Daniel Maanzo, a close ally of Kalonzo, said.

In the DP's Rift Valley backyard, a faction coalescing around Kanu chairman and Baringo Senator Gideon Moi has been given prominent roles to organise BBI rallies.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos, a key ally of Moi, is the  BBI point mman in the expansive region together with Cherengany MP Joshua Kutuny,Tiaty MP William Kamket and Kanu secretary general Nick Salat.

The team is spearheading the BBI crusade in the DP's backyard in what has triggered speculations of a grand political gameplan to turn the tables on Ruto's in his turf.

“The BBI rallies we shall be unveiling in the coming days would shock some people. The Rift Valley does not belong to anybody and we are going to be part of the process of uniting our country through the BBI,” Kamket said.

The pro-Uhuru and Raila brigade will hold its first rally in Rift Valley on February 22 at the Afraha Stadium.

The Tangatanga faction allied to Ruto has scheduled their first rally in the region on February 8, clearly lifting the lid on the political duelling associated to the BBI rallies.

The Ruto brigade has lined as many as 10 rallies countrywide, despite initially indicating they would be attending the BBI meetings. They then were told they could only discuss regional issues, then were told they were not welcome.

At the Coast, a group led by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and his Kilifi counterpart has been was central in organising the January 25 rally that locked out the DP's allies.

Some of the DP's lieutenants including Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and Nyali MP Mohamed Ali were denied an opportunity to speak during the Coast regional rally at Mama Ngina Waterfront.

In Western Kenya, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya appear to be fighting to control the BBI narrative.

Oparanya, a key Raila ally, was instrumental in planning the BBI rally in Bukhungu Stadium, while Musalia forced his way in with Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang'ula.

During the rally, Oparanya's key allies including Senator Cleopas Malala played a major role; Tangatanga lieutenants kept off.

Attempts by the DP's allies to plan a parallel rally in Mumias were thwarted by police.

They have now announced that they will be in Bungoma on February 14.

“We ask the Interior Ministry to support these popularisation meetings by providing adequate security to allow a smooth running,” National Assembly Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali said.

In President Kenyatta's Central Kenya, the script is the same —  Uhuru's Kieleweke and Ruto's Tangatanga are battling to run the rallies

Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru is seen as the region's BBI pillar with Meru Governor Kiraitu Murungu and Tharka Nithi's Muthomi Njuki joining the fray.

On Saturday, Kiraitu said they will not allow any people opposed to the BBI crusade to abuse the President in his backyard.

“You know I am a soft man. But let me say this, I will not allow anyone trying to undermine the President to set foot in Meru,” he said. 

The BBI forces in Mt Kenya appear to be isolating isolate the DP's lieutenants.