Cri­sis talks to save Uhuru, Ruto union

The talks are ex­pected to bring down ris­ing ten­sions within the Ju­bilee Party

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JUSTUS WANGA [email protected]­tion­media.com

Be­hind the scenes ef­forts to re­store unity in the rul­ing Ju­bilee party and re­duce ten­sion be­tween Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and his Deputy Wil­liam Ruto have kicked off in earnest. There is fear that the grand­stand­ing could bring the gov­ern­ment to its knees less than two years af­ter the last elec­tion. Ef­forts by mod­er­ate party mem­bers, a sec­tion of church lead­ers and busi­ness­men with prox­im­ity to power are borne out of fear that the on­go­ing war of words could crip­ple the econ­omy and ig­nite eth­nic ten­sions, three years to the next elec­tions.

Asi­lent three-pronged push to ease ten­sion be­tween Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and his Deputy Wil­liam Ruto has kicked off in earnest, amid fears that the cur­rent stand­off could crip­ple gov­ern­ment op­er­a­tions.

In­ter­est­ingly, the forces push­ing for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion in­clud­ing mod­er­ate party mem­bers, some church lead­ers and busi­ness­men with prox­im­ity to power are mo­ti­vated by dis­tinct agen­das. While the el­ders and church lead­ers are con­cerned about na­tional har­mony, the other camp com­pris­ing of busi­ness­men and those deal­ing in gov­ern­ment ten­ders feel that the ris­ing tem­per­a­tures are un­der­min­ing their in­ter­ests.

On Fri­day, Bishop Mau­rice Crow­ley of the Ki­tale Catholic Dio­cese, also the Apos­tolic Ad­min­is­tra­tor of El­doret, led other re­li­gious lead­ers in a closed-door meet­ing with Mr Ruto at his Su­goi home in Uasin Gishu as part of the me­di­a­tion ef­forts.

“The fu­ture of this coun­try de­pends so much on what our lead­ers do. We will work with the gov­ern­ment to im­prove gov­er­nance and foster de­vel­op­ment,” the Bishop said in a dis­patch re­leased by Mr Ruto's press team.

The Sun­day Na­tion has learnt that other than bring­ing more re­li­gious lead­ers on board, the team is keen on get­ting au­di­ence with Pres­i­dent Keny­atta to urge him to rein his foot sol­diers. They would also share with him con­cerns ex­pressed by the DP'S camp.

The re­li­gious lead­ers said they would con­tinue sup­port­ing the unity be­tween Pres­i­dent Keny­atta and Mr Ruto for it had re­sulted in more de­vel­op­ment and unity among var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties in the coun­try.

But even as the church lead­ers push for re­newed ties be­tween the two and a thaw in po­lit­i­cal tem­per­a­tures, a close ally of the DP con­fided in the Sun­day Na­tion that he is not keen on any ‘peace talks' in the “fore­see­able” fu­ture.

“The DP strongly be­lieves that it is too early to en­gage in such talks. He feels it is good to let those within Ju­bilee op­posed to his ticket un­leash all their ar­se­nals and when they ex­haust them, we can then sit on the ta­ble and forge a united front to­gether. He be­lieves that in the end, wa­ter will find its level,” the con­fi­dante said.

It is turn­ing out that the bat­tle of egos be­tween the pres­i­den­tial duo may well be the death of the once vi­brant and united party.

While Mr Keny­atta seems pre­oc­cu­pied with his legacy, his prin­ci­pal as­sis­tant is con­cerned about putting in place mech­a­nisms to help him as­cend to power in 2022.

Mr Si­mon Mbugua, the East African Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly (EALA) mem­ber, urged the Pres­i­dent to rise to the oc­ca­sion and stop the on­go­ing di­vi­sions in the party from de­gen­er­at­ing into a full-blown cri­sis.

“These things are hap­pen­ing be­cause the Pres­i­dent is silent. He should speak out. This noises are not good for his legacy and Big Four Agenda,” he said, point­ing out that Mr Ruto must be en­dorsed as Pres­i­dent Keny­atta's heir for all to go well.

Mod­er­ate party mem­bers who are of the view that ac­tions by the two ex­treme camps may run the ship aground have al­ready reached out to the Pres­i­dent and his deputy. They would not speak on record for fear of be­ing seen to be seek­ing po­lit­i­cal mileage.

“Talk­ing to you on record would make them (Pres­i­dent and his deputy) think that we are just out to gain mileage,” one of them cau­tioned.

As part of the larger ef­forts to reach out to Pres­i­dent Keny­atta, the mod­er­ates are seek­ing au­di­ence with his cousin and con­fi­dante, Ngengi Muigai.

“Peo­ple are un­nec­es­sar­ily whip­ping emo­tions. There is no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the height­ened po­lit­i­cal emo­tions in the coun­try. Peo­ple should just be calm. Suc­ces­sion fever should not dis­rupt our plans, pro­grammes and projects,” Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity leader and a Ruto ally Kipchumba Murkomen holds.

Away from the pub­lic ut­ter­ances to the con­trary, Mr Ruto is said to be un­happy with the man­ner in which the war on cor­rup­tion has been con­ducted. He be­lieves it has largely tar­geted his al­lies in gov­ern­ment.

The hand­shake be­tween Pres­i­dent Keny­atta and op­po­si­tion leader Raila Odinga is an­other point of de­par­ture. There is no deny­ing that the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the DP and the Pres­i­dent started chang­ing, at least in the eyes of the pub­lic, the mo­ment Mr Odinga came into the pic­ture.

The lat­est in DP'S bas­ket of wor­ries is the fierce crack­down on his per­ceived al­lies from Cen­tral Kenya. The hasty re­treat by the likes of Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria at the weight of the deep state have served to in­fu­ri­ate him fur­ther.

Mr Ruto had re­port­edly gagged his loyal MPS from the Rift Val­ley, di­rect­ing them not to re­tal­i­ate to a flurry of po­lit­i­cal mis­siles that have been thrown in his di­rec­tion since for­mer Ju­bilee vice-chair­man David Mu­rathe de­clared that he (DP) should re­tire to­gether with the Pres­i­dent in 2022. His lieu­tenants from Cen­tral had been charged with re­turn­ing fire but the ap­proach seems to have col­lapsed, at least for now.

Get­ting those from the Pres­i­dent's own back­yard fir­ing on his be­half was also a ploy to demon­strate that his sup­port was fast tak­ing root in Mount Kenya.

Yes­ter­day, a Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary in-charge of an in­flu­en­tial docket ex­pressed fears that the econ­omy was be­gin­ning to take a beat­ing as a re­sult of the height­ened pol­i­tics.

“There is no money. The econ­omy was just be­gin­ning to get over ef­fects of the pro­tracted cam­paigns ahead of the last Gen­eral Elec­tion be­fore we re­versed the gears. This is not sus­tain­able,” the min­is­ter said.

It also emerged that cap­tains of in­dus­try had on Tues­day sent a dis­patch to the Pres­i­dent regis­ter­ing their con­cerns over grow­ing ten­sions. They were wait­ing to meet him once he re­turns in Nairobi from his work­ing hol­i­day in Mom­basa.

The past few weeks have not been easy for Ju­bilee MPS. While they have al­ways treated the pres­i­dency as a ho­moge­nous en­tity, the emerg­ing cracks have cre­ated two camps, one of those os­cil­lat­ing around the Pres­i­dent and those root­ing for the DP.

So emo­tive has the sit­u­a­tion be­come that last week, only 12 MPS from a What­sapp group of 92 turned up for a press brief­ing in sup­port of Mr Keny­atta. The rest had ear­lier de­manded to know the con­tent of the brief­ing be­fore de­cid­ing to at­tend. The other group chose to play safe, not want­ing to be as­so­ci­ated with ei­ther side.

The rag­ing war has put most Ju­bilee law­mak­ers in an awk­ward po­si­tion. Align­ing one­self with DP was au­to­mat­i­cally in­ter­preted as an af­front on the Pres­i­dent and vice versa. The push and pull has also gave a new lease of life to for­mer MPS in Cen­tral Kenya like Martha Karua and Pe­ter Ken­neth brought on board to check­mate their ri­vals in 2017, who have been seen as cast­ing their lot with the DP.

A few days af­ter Kirinyaga Gover­nor Anne Waig­uru came out de­mand­ing for party elec­tions to re­place in­terim of­fi­cials in­clud­ing Mr Mu­rathe, Ms Karua, her op­po­nent in the last elec­tions, came out of the wood­work to de­clare that re­spect for the pres­i­dent was not ne­go­tiable. The gover­nor soon beat a hasty re­treat, pledg­ing her to­tal sup­port to the pres­i­dent.

At the same time, a group of leg­is­la­tors from the Rift Val­ley led by MPS Os­car Sudi (Kapseret) and Nel­son Koech (Belgut) are plan­ning a brain­storm­ing ses­sion in Am­boseli Na­tional Park to re­view the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment against the sit­u­a­tion Mr Ruto finds him­self in to­day. The meet­ing will re­view the lat­est po­lit­i­cal events, the de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tion­ships be­tween the an­tag­o­nists and also ex­plore an ap­pro­pri­ate re­sponse in how the two sides will re­late go­ing for­ward, es­pe­cially in Par­lia­ment.

“You haven't seen any­thing yet. The next wave of at­tacks will be tough un­til we achieve our aims,” Nom­i­nated MP Maina Ka­manda who is al­lied to the pres­i­dent's side said on Fri­day.

All MPS elected in the Rift Val­ley and oth­ers who are loyal to the DP have been asked to at­tend the meet­ing.

Back in the party, the anti-ruto on­slaught is ex­pected to go a notch higher this week. As part of the Stop Ruto Move­ment, for­mer MPS from cen­tral have been mo­bilised to pro­vide com­pe­ti­tion to sit­ting MPS who have al­lied them­selves to the DP and those who re­main am­biva­lent and refuse to take po­si­tion on the is­sue.

FILE | NA­TION

Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta and his deputy Wil­liam Ruto dur­ing the launch of Ju­bilee Party at Kasarani Sta­dium in Nairobi on Septem­ber 10, 2016.

PHOTO | DPPS

Deputy Pres­i­dent Wil­liam Ruto (sec­ond right) and Ki­tale Catholic Dio­cese Bishop Antony Crow­ley (sec­ond left) with other re­li­gious lead­ers dur­ing a meet­ing at the DP’S Su­goi home in El­doret, Uasin Gishu last week.

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