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Ruto's new populism complicates Uhuru, Raila BBI strategy

Ruto turned tables against Uhuru and Raila camp and Naivasha meeting threw a spanner in the works

In Summary

• The thinking was that anti-Ruto forces were using the rallies to portray the DP as against President Kenyatta's bid to unite Kenyans.

• Messaging from Raila camp rallies have largely centred on 2022 succession politics and expansion of the Executive to create a Prime Minister and two deputies, the Ruto allies came up with populist pro-mwaninchi proposals.

Deputy President William Ruto and Former Prime Minister and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
ANTAGONISTS: Deputy President William Ruto and Former Prime Minister and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Image: FILE:

Two weeks ago, Deputy President William Ruto had appeared cornered and his allies feared the stage had been set to isolate him in the push for the BBI report.

ODM leader Raila Odinga, with some troops of President Uhuru Kenyatta aided by Cabinet secretaries, had organised two successful rallies in Kisii and Kakamega counties to drum up support for the Building Bridges Initiative report.

After watching what transpired at the Kakamega rally and noting the head of state's hardline position that BBI was unstoppable, the DP — who had called the BBI rallies a waste of public resources — summoned his think tanks.

 
 

His advisers, including Constitutional experts, political analysts and top politicians from around the country, are understood to have said it was prudent that Ruto's camp join the pro-Uhuru and Raila camp rallies.

The thinking was that anti-Ruto forces were using the rallies to portray the DP as against the bid by President Kenyatta to unite Kenyans.

The surprise entry of Ruto and his lieutenants — initially seen as rebels of the handshake initiative — could now force Uhuru and the former Prime Minister back to the drawing board.

Ruto’s game plan turned the tables on Uhuru and Raila camp, as the meeting organised on Monday in Naivasha appears to have thrown a spanner into works.

While the messaging from Raila camp rallies have largely centred on 2022 succession politics and the expansion of the Executive to create a Prime Minister and two deputies, the Ruto allies came up with pro-mwaninchi proposals. They spoke to the people's daily problems.

“We strongly believe in keeping mwananchi and their issues at the heart of the national discourse such as the current BBI process. We fully support BBI I in all its elements as presented at Bomas,” the Ruto allies said after the one-day Naivasha retreat.

They resolved that they will present to the Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji-led taskforce a raft of issues, including a minimum of 3.5 per cent of the national revenue to be allocated to the Judiciary fund.

 
 

Another 15 per cent of the national revenue would be entrenched in the Constitution for an Economic and Social fund.

Five per cent would be used finance what the DP's allies called the Guaranteed Minimum Return for milk, coffee, sugarcane, tea, maize and other crops. The fund will help mitigate price fluctuations and bad economic times.

And to support the economic empowerment of the youth and SMEs who have suffered for the past three years, the Ruto lieutenants proposed that another five per cent of the national revenue be allocated to interest-free loans.

In a move to attract the youth, the team proposed that the government would pay a stipend to graduates both from universities and tertiary institutions until they are employed.

Political analyst Gabriel Muthuma observed that the politics of BBI will eventually produce two factions that “may sing the same song while anticipating different outcomes".

He said while there are champions within BBI who have declared they are pro-Wanjiku, it’s clear that the main agenda will be the politics of 2022 and beyond.

“The proponents of change have opened the debate on a change of governance structure as well as creating more top-tier positions. This, they argue, will be a key ingredient to defuse the tensions and violence associated with our elections every five years," Muthuma said.

He added, “The Deputy President, on the other hand, has maintained the Jubilee manifesto continues to guide the administration under the President's Big Four Agenda. The creation of top-tier positions in government has not gone down  well with many Kenyans, particularly given our current economic status.”

Muthuma said that as the push for BBI has picked up momentum, it's necessary to think about the economy and to ensure wastage at both the national and county levels is subjected to scrutiny.

Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua said they will popularise the people issues and measures they came up with in Naivasha.

He said the fact that the Raila camp — which at first said they were welcome — turned around and told them not to set foot in their rallies was clear roof that they have a different agenda. And it's not about uniting and empowering Kenyans, he said.

“The resolutions we made over the weekend in Naivasha is our position; we want to rid this country of poverty, empower Kenyans economically and generate jobs for our youths,” Gachagua said.

He said that with a guaranteed minimum return for farmers’ produce, Kenyans would rally behind their initiative.

“If BBI is about creating more seats for politicians and governors whose two terms are coming to an end, we would oppose it,” eth DP's close ally said.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany said the country was in support of BBI but warned that there were plans to create another version.

“One BBI faction is led by ODM and is for the creation and expansion of Executive seats. The other one is Jubilee and is for poverty alleviation, wealth creation and job generation for the youth,” the lawmaker said.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa'h deplored what he called State harassment and intimidation to support BBI, yet it was clear ODM had hijacked it for 2022 ambitions.

“BBI should not be used to intimidate other leaders. It is a fact we (Mt Kenya leaders) are being threatened but we will not be cowed. We will stand for the truth,” he observed.

The Raila faction says the DP and his troops are using the parallel rallies organised across the country to undermine the President.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said Ruto has been crisscrossing the country, campaigning for 2022.

“If he knows he can stand on his own, let him resign and let the President deliver to Kenyans,” he said.

John Mbadi, ODM chairman and Minority leader in the National Assembly, said Ruto's actions do not have the blessing of the President.

The Suba South legislator said BBI had nothing to do with 2022 succession politics, only the unity of Kenyans.

“He [Ruto] must understand Uhuru leads the Jubilee Party and anything he does should be under the approval of his boss,” Mbadi said.

Kieni MP Kanini Kega who has fallen out with Ruto dismissed the Naivasha meeting and said he resolutions were not binding.

It was not a Jubilee meeting, there is a well laid-down procedure to be followed and which was not followed. They joined us in these BBI rallies but inside them, they had other plans known only by themselves,” he said.

Kega added, “They want to project themselves as very much concerned with the common man and which is not the case.”

Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala (ANC) said they will organise a rally in Uasin Gishu county that will be the genuine BBI rally.

He said that some of the resolutions of the Naivasha retreat were just populist.

“Farmers are suffering because some people stole money meant for buying maize from the farmers. This is a defining moment for this country and we won't allow you to cause confusion,” he said.