For a moment at Bomas on Monday, you’d have thought President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto were back to their bromance of 2013.
The near-matching grey suits, white shirts and red ties harkened back to that time early in their presidency when they announced a half Cabinet and went back into State House chambers holding hands and swinging them.
But this was different. The stage was the launch of the Building Bridges Initiative report. Ruto had preemptively opposed the document championed by his boss.
When he took to the podium just before Uhuru, Ruto picked holes in it, casting doubt on the rationale for five key proposals on the Executive, the Judiciary and police service. He was jeered and heckled but he forcefully made his point.
When Uhuru took to the podium after Ruto, any shred of that bromance was extinguished.
The President castigated Ruto, painting his second-in-command as an impatient leader determined to prematurely grab power from him.
For the first time since falling out with Ruto, the President laid bare the succession politics affecting his administration and which has triggered a bitter falling out with the DP.
“My brother hapa William amepinduka anakimbia nyuma. Mos mos utafika tu. Tufanye shughuli hii kwa taifa. Shughuli ambayo italeta umoja kwa taifa letu,”he said.
Loosely translated the President said; “My brother William has changed direction and is speeding on the opposite direction. Just be patient, you will reach your destination. Let’s engage in endeavours that will develop our country and unite pour people,” Uhuru said.
The DP, who laughed away in his chair as the fully-packed Bomas of Kenya auditorium went into a frenzy, later stood up to whisper to the head of state something on the podium, some of the words were captured by the hot microphones.
“Niliona nimetolewa nine nikasema wacha nipite. (I realised I had been replaced at position nine and decided to go it alone.”
Uhuru retraced his handshake journey with his political soulmate Raila Odinga, shredding Ruto’s claims that he had been kept in the dark throughout the negotiations.
“He (DP) was part and parcel of this and in fact, he helped me identify some of the wazees I just mentioned here. The purpose as we agreed with him (and Raila) was an extension of what we did in 2013,”Uhuru said.
Ruto has been on a campaign blitz to succeed his boss but his fired up hustler narrative campaigns, against what he has framed as political dynasties, have widened his rift with the President.
At the event addressed by top political, religious and special interest groups leaders, the President cautioned politicians against populist tokenism saying it risks radicalising unemployed youth against fellow citizens.
“We have a youth that if not well managed can be a time bomb and can blow up this country. How we manage it, is very important. We cannot manage it through inciting them but by including them in decision-making.
“We must stop this culture of use and dispose and instead develop a programme of how we can systematically and in a thoughtful manner, how we can help our youth to be part and parcel of our future,”he said.
Over 6,00 delegates attended the BBI official launch at the Bomas of Kenya, ushering the rigorous journey that would culminate in a referendum to review the 2010 Constitution.
The event was attended by top the country’s major political leaders among them Raila, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC boss Musalia Mudavadi and Ford Kenya leader Moses Wetang’ula among others.
The President appealed to Kenyans who have divergent views to submit them to the BBI task force for consideration as he rallied support for inclusivity and the youth agenda as contained in the report.
“If we deal with these issues — youth and inclusivity — my prayer is that when we read let us focus ourselves on dealing with those two critical issues that will guarantee peace stability and prosperity for our nation,”he said.
Extending an olive branch to the critics of the BBI report among them the DP, Uhuru said the details were not cast on stone.
In a candid off-the-cuff speech during the launch of the report at the Bomas of Kenya, the President told Kenyans to focus on fixing these challenges through the BBI process and avoid being distracted by political sideshows.
The head of state pointed out that Kenya was a highly tribal nation whose politics of negative ethnicity had created a predictable cycle of post-election violence since 1992.
“The fact of the matter is we are a tribal society and we want to run from that. Let us not cheat one another. I will also admit that I have been part and parcel of negative politics.
“That is why we must address the issue of inclusivity so that every single community will feel they are part and parcel of this country,”the President said.
Uhuru explained the genesis of BBI and how his coming together with ODM leader Raila Odinga was inspired by a need to ensure future generations enjoyed a stable, united and prosperous Kenya.
He said his ‘handshake’ with Odinga was a continuation of his coming together with Deputy President William Ruto in the build-up to the 2013 elections and that he kept his deputy informed during the entire period of his discussions with the former Premier.
The President refuted assertions that Odinga had joined his administration and thanked the former Prime Minister for showing magnanimity when they sat down to chart the best route to a peaceful, united and prosperous Kenya.
“As you know we were competing in 2017 and as such things got difficult. But when we got through to it and we spoke and spoke again. We agreed that we were not here to share positions. We agreed we are coming together with one common agenda of ensuring that what people of Kenya have witnessed in 1992, 1997, 2005, 2007 and 2017, Kenyans shall never ever witness again.
“We did not talk about sharing government and as we stand today he is not in government. He never made any demands at all. He said let us fix what we will be able to enable us to compete without the blood of Kenyans being shed,”the President said.
Raila said the country must go for a non-contested referendum that would unite the country even as he dismissed claims he was seeking the Presidency in 2022 through the BBI process.
“We want a non-contested referendum, let us bring it here, everybody will be heard, we want this to be a unifying process; once that is done, Kenyans will decide who will be their leader in 2022,”Raila said.
Quoting Isaiah 1:18 Raila said: “Come and let us reason together,” adding that the document must be all-inclusive.
But Ruto isolated several sections of the BBI report that he said needed further strengthening and encouraged all Kenyans to participate in the constitutional reform process.
“This is a process where we all can bring our views together. We all have a civic duty as Kenyans to engage and don’t have the luxury to run away. We should try ad have an uncontested referendum,”DP Ruto said.