Antony Mwangi and Alvin Mwangi @PeopleDailyKe
That Jubilee Party was rattled by the March 9 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga is not in doubt.
Matters are likely to hit fever pitch if the referendum is held with Uhuru appearing to support it while his deputy William Ruto is uncomfortable with it.
The ruling party members are no longer at ease as disquiet sweeps across its political rank and file over what they see an “invasion” to scuttle its the power arrangement and 2022 succession plan, which was to see Ruto as the heir apparent of Uhuru, who is serving his second and final term.
The product of the handshake —which has thrust Raila into the heart of government to the discomfort of DP supporters — is the Building Bridges Initiative, which is currently collecting views on likely a referendum to change the governance structure and cure the winner-take-it-all nature of politics.
And this is the sore point for Ruto allies, who now read malice and allege a scheme to scupper Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid. Yesterday, while speaking in Lamu county, Ruto who was accompanied by 15 legislators waded into the debate and warned of plans to merge some devolved units to create federal system of government in the referendum.
He said devolution, which was meant to bring powers to the Kenyans at the grass roots, has worked well, adding that the handshake should not be used to divide the country, in the wake of the push for a referendum to set up a federal system of government.
“We are focused on making devolution work better by channeling more resources to counties. We cannot fault devolution so that we go back to a centralised system of government,” Ruto said during the opening of Pate Girls Secondary School.
The President has already expressed support for the referendum to ensure all Kenyans are accommodated in the government to enhance unity and end the cyclic poll violence in the country.
Ruto said Kenyans made a decision to have a decentralised system of government, and plans to have to change cannot be supported, adding that instead of some people targeting some counties such Lamu for merger, the government was working towards having more resources channelled towards counties.
“We are focused on making devolution work better by channeling more resources to counties. We cannot fault devolution so that we go back to a centralised system of government,” he said.
And in Nairobi, the handshake tremors were being felt by party National Assembly members, who called on President Uhuru, the party leader to convene an urgent National Delegates Conference (NDC) to discuss the changes brought about by the entry of Raila into the government.
Led by Kimilili MP Didmus Baraza, they said the NDC is critical because “as things are at the moment, we are not doing well.”
He told a press conference at Parliament Buildings that Uhuru should define Raila’s role in his government claiming the opposition leader’s mission seems to undermine Ruto. “We were shocked to see protocol being ignored and Raila given the chance to introduce the President a role, which is performed by the Deputy President who was present,” he said.
“The coming of Raila has complicated things within Jubilee and majority of us who are expected to champion the interests of the party are stranded not knowing where out allegiance is”.
The outspoken legislator said as elected leaders of the ruling party, there is need to clearly define Raila’s role in the government for all Kenyans to understand it.
“Raila’s presence is today the cause of gossip, rumour and speculation and therefore it’s time the Head of State made it clear whether Raila’s role in government is in line with Chapter 9 of the Constitution,” said Baraza.
“We want to be clear that the handshake served to calm down political heat and obvious hate that had spread around the country, but it has compromised the role of the Opposition instead”.
Addressing the residents, Ruto assured that Lamu, though small in size, is here to stay. “No one will break Lamu. It is here to stay,” he added.
Several MPs among them Stanley Muthama (Lamu West), Shariff Athman (Lamu East), Khatib Mwashetani (Lunga Lunga), Kassim Ali Sawa (Matuga), Jones Mlolwa (Voi) and Michael Kingi (Magarini) said they will oppose any move to take Kenya back to an “old system of governance that had centralised resources in Nairobi”.