RUTO DUEL

Uhuru plans Sagana meeting to tame Ruto wave

Saturday meeting will be attended by top state officials from Mt Kenya, aim to counter Ruto

In Summary
  • This would be the second time Uhuru is meeting Mt Kenya leaders in a bid to fortify his apparently shaky his grip on the region.
  • The President first met the leaders at Sagana State lodge in November 2019.
President Uhuru Kenyatta alighting from a Kenya Air Force helicopter
COMMANDER IN CHIEF: President Uhuru Kenyatta alighting from a Kenya Air Force helicopter
Image: COURTESY

President Uhuru Kenyatta has convened a crucial meeting with Mt Kenya leaders to resist DP William Ruto's hustler nation forays and revive the fortunes of BBI.

The meeting on Saturday at the Sagana State Lodge in Nyeri follows  widening cracks among Mt Kenya politicians, threatening to sabotage the Building Bridges Initiative process.

This weekend's meeting would help the President galvanise his support base as the BBI process enters the crucial stage after verification of signatures, paving the way for a referendum.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission could finalise the BBI signature verification before the President's Saturday meeting, ushering in referendum campaigns.

On January 21, the IEBC published on its website for public scrutiny 1.33 million verified signatures in support of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment), Bill 2020 - the BBI bill.

The IEBC deadline for voters to verify their details ended on Monday.

This would be the first time the President will be stepping out forcefully since the BBI report was unveiled in October to ward off Deputy President Ruto's onslaught and fortify his Mt Kenya backyard.

The resident has lately focused on persuading his restive backyard to embrace the BBI, maintaining the Central region is poised to reap major benefits if BBI is adopted despite palpable resistance.

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda .
BBI BACKER: Nominated MP Maina Kamanda .
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

Nominated MP Maina Kamanda, an influential BBI proponent, confirmed leaders will be meeting this weekend.

“I do not want to pre-empt the agenda of the meeting. It is the President himself who has convened the meeting and so all of us will attend and get to hear what the head of state will tell us,” the former Starehe MP told the Star.

The meeting will bring together all elected leaders from all the Mt Kenya counties and those in the diaspora. The aim is to craft a strategy to undermine Ruto's hustler movement, which he says stands up for everyday men and women overlooked by government.

The Star has established that parliamentary leaders from Mt Kenya led by National Assembly Majority leader Amos Kimunya and Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore on Monday held a strategy meeting with select leaders to draw up the list of attendees.

Governors from the region will on Tuesday hold another meeting in Thika to harmonise the lists of MCAs and speakers of county assemblies who will attended the Saturday session.

On Monday, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu admitted there are genuine concerns of leaders from Mt Kenya that would be addressed during the meeting.

There is need for us to siat down and synchronise the BBI campaigns for the regio.
MP Ngunjiri

“There is a need for us to sit down and synchronise the BBI campaigns for the region,” said Ngunjiri, the pioneer of Jubilee's Kieleweke faction that backs BBI.

The vocal lawmaker appeared to expose issues roiling the BBI campaigns in the President's turf, insisting leaders must sit down and draw up a cascaded strategy to market BBI.

“The reason why BBI is getting resistance is because of it being associated with 2022 politics," Ngunjiri said. "My view is that politics is local and BBI campaigns should be steered by local leaders.”

Speaking about the weekend meeting, Ngunjiri said the 'mukutano wa mdosi (the boss's meeting) will give leaders an opportunity to ventilate and agree on campaigns.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.
KIELEWEKE LEADER: Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu.
Image: FILE

When asked about the meeting by Maore, a key BBI proponent from Mt Kenya, remained cagey.

“The agenda of the meeting is known by the convener but as leaders we will meet to discuss important issues affecting the region and do a follow up on the 2019 Sagana meeting,” he said without elaborating.

Political activities in Mt Kenya  have reached fever pitch in the last few weeks as leaders and senior government officials have been holding preparatory meetings ahead of the President's meeting.

Government officials co-chaired by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya and Interior PS Karanja Kibicho have been holding meetings to synchronise the region's development agenda.

This is part of the President's plan to address the region's concerns that 'his people's' mainstays have collapsed under the Jubilee administration while businesses are limping.

During another meeting with leaders from Mt Kenya at Sagana Lodge in November 2019, the President implored the leaders to back BBI proposals.

However, like the 2019 meeting, some of Ruto's vocal allies from Mt Kenya said they were not aware of the scheduled meeting.

Some pro-Uhuru politicians from Mt Kenya regionduring a dinner at Safari Park Hotel on February 25, 2020.
PRO-UHURU: Some pro-Uhuru politicians from Mt Kenya regionduring a dinner at Safari Park Hotel on February 25, 2020.
Image: COURTESY

The DP's Tangatanga movement has ramped up a ferocious anti-BBI narrative in Mt Kenya. It urges the region to reject the push to amend the Constitution, terming it a ploy by the 'dynasties' to retain power, despite what's good for the common man.

The anti-BBI crusade in the President's backyard and the fears that the region could vote against the referendum have stung Uhuru into action to reverse situation.

An opinion poll released by pollster Tifa last month revealed only 36 per cent of Uhuru's supporters will approve the amendments to the 2010 Constitution in a public vote.

By contrast, 66 per cent of the supporters of ODM leader Raila Odinga, Uhuru's handshake partner and BBI compatriot, support the referendum push.

The Star has established that part of the Sagana agenda will be to address jitters within the region triggered by strong objections to BBI teams picked recently to oversee campaigns in Mt Kenya.

Senate Majority Whip Irungu Kang'ata and Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, hitherto fierce BBI defenders, are among leaders from the region who have called for a change of tack to salvage BBI fortunes.

The supremacy tussles among Mt Kenya leaders, which have set back BBI's momentum, could overshadow the Saturday meeting where the President is expected to whip his lieutenants to work in harmony.

Concerns have been raised that Uhuru has been losing his grip on his backyard. The anti-BBI wave that appears to be sweeping the region has been cited as a clear indication the President was not in control..

Ruto, the second in command who fell out with the President over succession politics, has penetrated the Mt Kenya region. He enjoys considerable support as he leads the offensive against a contested BBI.

Through his hustler nation empowerment programmes targeting the youth and women groups, the DP has maintained a formidable political war chest against his rivals, despite warnings he was hellbent on triggering a class war.

(Edited by V. Graham)