INDECISIVENESS

Ruto flip-flop on BBI causes troops to fire in different directions

Political analysts say the DP has failed to provide leadership to his lieutenants on BBI

In Summary

• DP Ruto and his allies have been campaigning on the auspices of the BBI not being a priority.

• Group has held that the country's urgent needs are among them, response to Covid-19 and the high cost of living.

Deputy President William Ruto addressing journalists after meeting his allies at his Karen residence in Nairobi on December 2, 2020.
Deputy President William Ruto addressing journalists after meeting his allies at his Karen residence in Nairobi on December 2, 2020.
Image: DOUGLAS OKIDDY

Deputy President William Ruto's indecisiveness on the BBI Bill saw his troops firing in different directions during the historic vote in the National Assembly on Thursday night.

For the entire period when the Building Bridges Initiative took the turn for the constitutional amendment, the second in command remained vague telling his supporters it was not a priority.

DP Ruto and his diehard lieutenants have been citing the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic as posing a test on the timelines of the legislation.

This saw his allies in the Senate and National Assembly keep off crucial meetings such as one in Naivasha where the additional 70 constituencies’ allocation was decided.

Political pundits hold that Ruto has not properly provided leadership to his team, as he has been wavering, is neither hot nor cold, hence the vote patterns in the House on Thursday night.

During voting in the third reading, the Ayes were 224, Nays 63, while two abstained. At least 320 of the 349 members participated in the vote at the second stage where 235 supported the bill, 83 for No while two abstained.

His erstwhile rivals on Friday said the vote could be concluded as the death of the Tangatanga philosophy.

Majority leader Amos Kimunya, Minority Whip Junet Mohamed, Majority whip Emmanuel Wangwe and his deputy Maoka Maore, and Jubilee Parliamentary Group secretary Adan Keynan said so.

The pro-BBI MPs said the overwhelming Thursday night vote in support of the BBI Bill may as well spell the death of the Hustler Movement.

The leaders further hold that the vote which went well towards midnight had “demystified claims by the Ruto wing has the numbers.”

They held that Ruto’s should be worried having bagged no vote from Nyanza, Coast, and performed dismally in areas where he has claimed massive support such as Central.

The pro-BBI lawmakers said the support by 235 members in the third reading of the bill should worry state officers, being the number required to uphold an impeachment motion.

 “Yesterday, according to me was the death of Tangatanga politically. The choice was between wheelbarrows and prosperity; between this bottom-up something and unity,” Junet said.

“We had been intimidated by people who have been claiming they have numbers only for this to come out as a hoax…a hoax in the sense that the numbers we registered are a reflection of what this country is made of,” Maore said.

For his part, Kimunya said: “The good thing we now know they are the minority and are not thinking on behalf of the people. The two-thirds majority that was experienced here tells you the will of the majority.”

Ruto, in a tweet on Friday, said the National Assembly voted on the Constitution Amendment Bill and so will the Senate, being that the country is a democracy.

In what can be judged as a warning shot to the early celebrations, Ruto said the people's turn is yet to come and they too will vote and "we will march on".

"We should respect everyone's decision and accept democratic outcomes; all views make us stronger together," Ruto said.

About 10 MPs pulled a surprise with their support for the BBI bill having campaigned against the amendments to the Constitution 2010.

They were Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, Msambweni’s Feisal Bader, Lunga Lunga MP Khatib Mwashetani, Nominated MP David Sankok, Joash Nyamoko of North Mugirango, Malava’s Malulu Injendi, Ugenya MP David Ochieng, Kilgoris MP Gideon Konchella and Chepalungu’s Gideon Koske.

Majority leader Amos Kimunya, Minority leader Junet Mohamed, Majority whip Emmanuel Wangwe and his deputy Maoka Maore, and Jubilee Parliamentary Group secretary Adan Keynan during a presser at Parliament Buildings, Friday, May 7, 2021.
Majority leader Amos Kimunya, Minority leader Junet Mohamed, Majority whip Emmanuel Wangwe and his deputy Maoka Maore, and Jubilee Parliamentary Group secretary Adan Keynan during a presser at Parliament Buildings, Friday, May 7, 2021.
Image: MOSES ODHIAMBO

Political analysts said there was also the element of the DP not being keen on rolling out a full-fledged campaign against the bill as that would cause him a burnout in 2022.

Dr Charles Nyambuga, a political commentator from Maseno, told the Star that the voting pattern reflects what lies ahead as the country hurtles to 2022.

He held that the way the likes of Mwashetani voted showed they were pushed by circumstances, which can continue to pressurize them as the clock ticks.

“When the die is cast, it will be different ball-game. They can now dance Lingala but when the die is cast they may go blues,” the don said.

He said those who went against the grain and voted in support of the document want to survive and seen to be on the winning side.

“This is what made Ruto diehard supporters want to jump ship yesterday. You have to move to the majority or perceived majority.”

“The way the election was done publicly was such that you could easily see that this is the winning side. Nobody wants to be on the losing side. Who wants to sacrifice their political position at the expense of a Ruto?” Dr Nyambuga asked.

Martin Andati, for his part, said the vote exposed that the DP’s support in Mt Kenya is built on quicksand, in as much as it can be argued each of those MPs is looking at personal interest.

“Persons like Kimani Ngunjiri know that if the constituency is split, it makes it easy for him to manage. That is what they are looking for and is what will ultimately play out in the national election,” he said.

He said there is no way people can resist a process that promises them more resources at the grassroots – such as the proposed increment of county revenue share to 35 per cent , and add constituencies.

Political Risk Analyst Dismas Mokua said Ruto has to go back to the drawing board and recalibrate his scoreboard.

“Politics is about numbers hence a loss at the county assemblies and national assembly cannot be blamed on politics and intimidation. It is a lame exit strategy.”

He added: “The writing is on the wall that his numbers don’t exist or they evaporated…what happened yesterday is a confirmation of how the county assemblies voted.”

At least 44 county assemblies approved the BBI bill, two rejected and one abstained.

“There are few people who said they were tight with Tangatanga and would vote a no but voted otherwise when the rubber met the road.”

Mokua said there would be consequences for not voting in favour of the BBI – and one may be punished not only for their divergent views but by voters who may read their decisions differently.

“The consequences of not voting for the BBI will come from two parts. Political leaders earmarking anyone with divergent views and that will be interpreted as rebelling, they could be disciplined.

“Voters themselves will discipline people who vote against BBI as they may wonder why one would reject a process that increases revenue to counties,” Mokua said.

We had been intimidated by people who have been claiming they have numbers only for this to come out as a hoax…a hoax in the sense that the numbers we registered are a reflection of what this country is made of.
Igembe North MP Maoka Maore

But Mumias East MP Ben Washiali, a fierce Ruto defender, dismissed the notion saying the vote meant that Tangatanga is democratic.

“What happened in Parliament was because of the undemocratic behaviour of their party leaders. Kenya is a multiparty country on paper. Because of the handshake, we have become one...that is why no one is talking of high cost of living, cost of fuel,” he said.

“Tangatanga is democratic. Those who voted for the bill were dangled constituencies and more money for counties. If you are representing your people with no one holding a gun on your head and a constituency has been allocated, will you resist?” he asked.

“If they did a mistake and voted against the bill, they would have been voted out. They were trying to support their constituent,” Washiali said.

He said the Ruto wing allowed the lawmakers to go vote the way they voted.

“We understood their position. Even if it was me or WSR, you will support a bill that brings more resources to the people. This is not something that takes us back to the drawing board,” the Mumias East MP said.

Most Ruto allies rejected the bill during the vote that largely took a cue from the political alignments in the country, and others citing there was no benefit in the document for their constituents.