- MPs who attended the meeting said the President avoided politics and said that would come at a later date.
- Oka principals including Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetangula and Gideon Moi did not attend the session although they had been invited.
President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday moved to take firm control of his succession plans, signalling his looming open campaigns for ODM boss Raila Odinga.
For the first time, the President assembled the pro-handshake troops at State House for a rare meeting also attended by Raila, opening the lid on his succession game plan.
The meeting was significant coming days after the pro-handshake MPs successfully pushed through the National Assembly a key coalition bill anchoring Uhuru’s succession matrix.
The Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021 triggered a major political standoff in Parliament during the festive season as allies of Deputy President William Ruto fought to defeat it.
However, troops allied to the President and Raila put up a spirited battle to bulldoze the crucial bill that is seen as the political fulcrum of the anti-Ruto movement.
During Thursday’s State House meeting attended by over 170 MPs Uhuru exposed the significance of the proposed law in the context of his succession race.
The President termed the bill good in improving the country’s governance system and regretted that some leaders were demonising the amendment for short-term political gain.
“And the political parties amendment that we are trying to push through which some people have tried to demonise as they demonised BBI. The bill is giving us an opportunity to be able to formally work together across political parties in the interest of the nation,” the President said.
Principals in the One Kenya Alliance including Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, Moses Wetang'ula and Gideon Moi did not attend the session although they had been invited.
But Ford Kenya secretary general Chris Wamalwa, a key Wetang'ula ally, while admitting that the Oka chiefs were invited, said he was sent to represent them.
"The meeting was on a short notice and the Oka principals had prior plans. They sent me to deliver their apology to the President and so I did," he told the Star.
The State House meeting came hours after Uhuru’s impromptu visit to Kisumu and Naivasha on Wednesday and ahead of Raila’s rally in Thika on Saturday.
Pro-Uhuru MPs are expected to attend the rally in what would signify a major radical shift in the region’s politics as they begin marketing Raila.
Uhuru was captured in camera on Wednesday in Naivasha saying he will soon return to the ground to give them direction.
The DP, who has fallen out of favour in the Uhuru succession plans, had spiritedly opposed the bill and ordered his troops to shoot it down in the National Assembly, assembling nearly 140 MPs for the war.
Ruto has claimed that the bill is part of an elaborate machination by his opponents to actualise their grand scheme to block his presidency in the August 9, General Election.
However, the pro-handshake MPs outfoxed Ruto soldiers at the ballot with over 150 MPs voting to approve the bill despite chaotic scenes that marred the sittings.
The move by the President to convene a State House meeting with his allied MPs to thank them for the approval of the bill exposed the significance of the proposed law in his August 9 plans.
The President has left no doubt that he prefers Raila as his successor but has never assembled troops at the House on the Hill to whip them in the direction of his plans.
On Thursday, the President told the MPs that they must ensure that the bill sails through in the Senate, where it has been committed to the committee stage.
Uhuru has reportedly directed Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi, who is also the Majority Whip, to shelve a planned committee trip to Turkey so that all members would be in the House.
The report is expected on the floor of the Senate on January 25 for Second Reading.
A dispatch from the Presidential Strategic Communication Unit said the President lauded the MPs for their sacrifices that saw them cut short their festive season.
He did not hide his joy for crushing Ruto’s troops in Parliament as he hosted the pro-handshake troops at State House.
“Let me say how wonderful it is to be with you at the beginning of the year and be able to share a meal.
"Let me take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the commitment you've shown especially by those of you from the National Assembly during this holiday period,” Uhuru said.
He went on: “We all know that it was a very difficult holiday period because of Covid-19 but you turned out in huge numbers. You left your homes, you left your families and came out in huge numbers to pass pieces of legislation that are going to be a game changer.”
The President urged the Senate to emulate the National Assembly in passing the bill and other laws before them, to ensure the country attains its development goals.
In his remarks, Raila commended MP’s for passing the bill and urged the Senate to swiftly pass it for the benefit of all Kenyans, saying constitutional making is work in progress.
“I just want to say, like it has been said before, that law and constitution making is always work in progress.
"Even the democratic constitution of Unites States of America is still work in progress and they have got several amendments which they always put to use. This include the Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment,” he said.
He went on: “So, really, it is not a crime for somebody to see something wrong in our Constitution or in our law that we need to change. It always makes things better.”
National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya and Senate deputy speaker Margret Kamar also attended the meeting.
(Edited by Bilha Makokha)