Politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto last night retreated to Naivasha to come up with a tactical plan to counter the ongoing Building Bridges Initiative meetings.
The surprise came hours after some MPs from the Tangatanga faction of the ruling Jubilee Party attended the BBI rally at the Mama Ngina Waterfront in Mombasa, where they pledged their support for the meetings led by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party leader Raila Odinga.
MPs who were planning to attend the retreat at the Lake Naivasha Resort told the media that they were uncomfortable with joining the ODM brigade as this would be counter-productive to the DP’s 2022 bid.
They said that accepting the BBI report and its recommendations was not the same as agreeing to Mr Odinga’s leadership of the meetings.
They complained that his party has branded itself as the public face of the BBI campaigns.
Politically, the Tangatanga brigade is convinced that Mr Odinga is Mr Ruto’s main challenger in the 2022 presidential elections.
The differences between the two leaders have defined politics in the last decade.
The Ruto camp links the frustration their man has been subjected to in government to Mr Odinga’s unprecedented March 2018 “handshake” with the President.
On Sunday, Jubilee Party Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany said the meeting is just a follow-up to other meetings that they have had.
“We’re going to put our heads together over BBI,” Mr Kositany said. “The meeting is expected to build consensus on proposals to be submitted to the BBI task force.”
By Sunday evening, more than 120 MPs from Mt Kenya, Rift Valley, Western and other parts of the country had confirmed their attendance, according to Naivasha MP Jayne Kihara.
Baringo North MP William Cheptumo termed the meeting a normal consultation of leaders from the region on BBI, since they have realised the document has brought to the fore a number of issues and some leaders are using it to forge division.
“We’re also going to come up with our timetable for the complementary meetings,” he added.
And Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria said: “We’re going to Naivasha. Over 180 MPs and several governors have confirmed attending. What we know is that this is Jubilee PG and we’re going to start planning our 2022 line-up.”
While some politicians allied to the Deputy President led by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen attended the BBI rally in Mombasa on Saturday and declared their support for a referendum to amend the Constitution and insisted that they were firmly behind the BBI, the move to have their own rallies seeks to control the narrative that they are opposed to the document and, at the same time, get political clout in their own parallel meetings.
“Our presence here is proof that we’re together in this BBI. This should help clear the air on this ‘us versus them’ debate, and that Kenya will walk together in this journey without any fights,” Mr Murkomen said at the Mombasa rally on Saturday.
The media has also reliably learnt that the DP’s allies are planning to have what they have dubbed “validation meetings” in 200 constituencies and collect signatures in each of them to support “friendly” views on some of the changes to the BBI report, as the task force led by Mr Yusuf Haji works on an updated version.
“If Mr Haji is intimidated, and the Raila group is already intimidating them through those ‘huge’ rallies, we can reject the ‘doctored’ report and we have a backup of our views from more than 200 constituencies. We can mobilise the grassroots easily with strong ownership of our position and become winners,” a source said.
“There are pertinent issues that we note are common to all our people irrespective of party affiliation, and that’s why we’ve decided to approach this as a united front,” Belgut MP Nelson Koech added.
Endebess MP Robert Pukose said Mr Odinga was using BBI for political gain. “We’re very sure that President Kenyatta’s motive with the BBI is totally different from that of the ODM leader. The President is truthful to the real agenda of uniting Kenyans, whereas Mr Odinga wants to use the noble cause to advance his political ambitions,” he said on Saturday.
Soi MP Caleb Kositany said that Jubilee leaders are following the BBI keenly and will not be fooled by anyone wanting to misuse it.
In coming out to oppose Kibaki in 2005, right from inside the Cabinet, Mr Odinga led the onslaught and was able to place himself ahead of the pack all the way to the presidential election that followed two years later.
The fear within the Tangatanga group is that, by being the face of the ongoing mobilisation around BBI, Mr Odinga has once again placed himself ahead of the pack, which could create complications for their man should they join the bandwagon.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said they will launch other BBI rallies to complement the already ongoing rallies.
“We shall release an itinerary for a series of BBI rallies across the country,” Mr Cherargei said.
“We want to bring all Kenyans to participate in the entire process and to discuss other problems bedevilling the country. We want to try and forge a common ground on how we can enhance economic revolution in the country,” he added.