• Bishops are on a mission to end animosity between Uhuru and Ruto and restore calm sought by most people and international investors.
• President and deputy have not been seeing eye to eye since the March 2018 handshake and their relationship has deteriorated, it's now in tatters.
Vested interests within and outside government are threatening to scuttle the frantic bid by clerics to reconcile President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto.
The Star has established influential state officers, political players and power brokers from both sides of the political divide are out to scuttle the unity efforts urged by the international community.
Then there are the pro-handshake crusaders who believe Uhuru-Ruto reconciliation would deal a blow to their succession plan and the Building Bridges Initiative.
On Wednesday, the Star reported some prominent clerics have held lengthy separate talks with both the President and the DP and a joint press conference to announce a ceasefire could be in the offing.
The reconciliation bid is spearheaded by a team of bishops, including Silas Yego (AIC), David Oginde (CITAM) and Anthony Muheria (Nyeri Catholic Archdiocese).
They have met the estranged President and DP for initial meetings. Another meeting with Uhuru was expected again on Thursday.
However, the bishops have encountered hurdles as the political elite speak openly against any reconciliation. What's in it for our side? they ask.
“Our work to make sure this man [Ruto] does not ascend to power in 2022 is on, reconciliation is a figment of some people's imaginations,” veteran politician Maina Kamanda declared.
Kamanda described Ruto as a vindictive politician whose heart harbours a lot of vengeance and anger, threatening the country's social fabric in 2022 and beyond.
The fear in some government circles is that the infighting between Uhuru and Ruto has gone far too long.
Some state officers, however, including Cabinet Secretaries, are marked men in Ruto’s circles and could be on the chopping board in case of a truce
Ruto, for instance, has repeatedly accused Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti of being used to undermine his office.
The DP also has a strained relationship with Interior CS Fred Matiang'i and his PS Karanja Kibicho.
At Jubilee headquarters, Ruto has been engaged in a battle with secretary general Raphael Tuju and party vice chairman David Murathe.
Ruto has openly called Tuju and Murathe busy bodies, conmen and brokers who have hijacked the party.
In an unprecedented move two weeks ago, Tuju announced they had kick-started the process of removing Ruto as the Jubilee second-in-command.
“…the NMC has recommended to the NEC that the DP ceases to be Deputy Party leader after he opened the so-called Jubilee Asili offices that is reserved for him and his allies until such a time that this development of Jubilee Asili is discussed at the NEC,” the secretary general said.
On the other hand, there are allies and strategists of Ruto who think there is no need for a truce 22 months to the 2022 General Elections.
The DP's team believes Ruto already enjoys sizable support across the country with his 'hustler movement' narrative.
They see the push for reconciliation spearheaded by a section of Uhuru’s inner circle as a way of cornering Ruto and his troops into supporting BBI.
Ruto has also been trying to duck the Jubilee baggage in his campaigns, projecting himself as an 'outsider' in government and promising benefits if elected president.
Another roadblock for clerics is how to navigate the thorny issue of Executive Order no 1 of 2019, issued by the President who directed that most duties handled by Ruto be given to Matiang'i, his 'super minister'.
The move meant to clip Ruto's wings caused friction in government and fuelled animosity in the Cabinet.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech said time is running out for reconciliation and all they want is respect for the Deputy President as they also respect the President.
“Since the handshake in 2018, the things we have seen in this government of President Uhuru are too disheartening to think about. They have humiliated the DP, harassed his friends, the economy is bad, he and Raila are pushing for the unpopular BBI in attempts to amend the Constitution and this government has become a graveyard of the careers of top civil servants who have been victimised,” Koech told the Star on Wednesday.
Senate Majority leader Samuel Poghisio said reconciliation should not be forced. He said both the President and the DP know when the rain stated beating them.
“Reconciliation is possible but it should come from the leaders. They'd best understand what went wrong. Did the differences come after the handshake or before? Those are the issues that need to be resolved,” he said.
Poghisio alleged the problem could be Ruto whom he said “put all his hopes in his being the outright presidential candidate in 2022",
ODM chairman John Mbadi said Uhuru had not wronged Ruto in any way but discouraged early campaigns and prioritised the unity of the country.
“You only reconcile people who have wronged one another in one way or another…but where someone’s ambition is unchecked, we just need to call them back to order,” Mbadi told the Star.
“They [religious leaders] just need to tell Ruto to listen to the President and join him in the unity bid. And also make sure he stops early campaigns and the political messaging of dynasties and hustlers,” he added.
The National Assembly Minority leader said Ruto was targeting Uhuru with the dynasty campaign. “Unless these guys are masqueraders, they should tell the DP to tone it down,” he added.
But governance expert Prof Kaburu Kinoti said all was well between Uhuru and Ruto until the handshake between the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga. The DP had been excluded from consultations.
The would-be reconcilers should trace the genesis of the animosity to the Raila-Uhuru deal, he said
“It is fatally wrong to accuse Ruto of campaigning now yet he was behaving like so even during their first term in office,” Kinoti said.
Uhuru has frequently accused Ruto of early campaigns that are likely to derail his legacy development projects. He has resented the profiling of his family as a dynasty and the abuses hurled at his family by Ruto allies.
The DP, on the other hand, has taken issue with what he calls the selectivity and 'weaponisation' of the graft war. He resents being sidelined in key decisions in government and at Jubilee headquarters
His allies have frequently taken issue with Cabinet Secretaries and Principal Secretaries allegedly out to malign and undermine the Deputy President and his office.
Ruto's allies have also raised concerns over social media blitz orchestrated by some mandarins within the government out to tarnish the name of DP using grotesquely dark graphic images and hashtags.
(Edited by V. Graham)