Ruto’s strategy to beat order against political meetings

Deputy President William Ruto has had a series of brainstorming meetings at his Karen residence every evening since Thursday, when police crushed his planned public meeting in Nyamira, to map out ways of circumventing the Public Order Act invoked by the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) to lower the political temperature.

Stung by the security agency’s bold move, the DP quickly summoned his trusted lieutenants, who include elected politicians and other advisers, to weigh the options at his disposal.

The Cabinet chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta later met to ratify resolutions of the NSAC, which has placed stricter conditions on all political gatherings in what observers have largely criticised as tailor-made to disadvantage the DP. Section 5 of the Public Order Act permits the local station commanders to use their discretion to decline or allow such gatherings.

Hustler nation

“He (the DP) ignored the advice from some of us who were of the view that we take on the police head on. Those of us who support this particular route argue that any form of aggression by the police against ‘the hustler nation’ only helps our course. We should not shy away from it,” An MP from Kericho County told the Sunday Nation. He spoke in reference to a meeting in Karen on Thursday night.

Dr Korir Sing’oei, the head of Dr Ruto’s presidential campaign strategy team, regretted the turn of events but sought to reassure their supporters that they were working on a roadmap to ensure the ‘push’ continues.

“I don’t see him stopping to engage on issues of socio-economic aspirations of the people. There is a feeling of being constrained but trust me, he will find a way of continuing the conversation,” he said.

He added that what was happening is “consistent with the behaviour of the executive, especially the conservative wing, which feels that its interests are threatened but the country must converse on what ails it”. This is largely understood to refer to the ‘system’ that his boss accuses of erecting roadblocks on his State House ambition.

In line with what appears to be a concerted crackdown on his public engagements, police in Mumias have cancelled two church functions that the DP was meant to attend today.

Security concerns

The events at Indangalasia Catholic Parish in Matungu and St Leo Parish at Shianda in Mumias East were cancelled over what police termed security concerns and Covid-19 restrictions.

Matungu OCPD Bernard Ngungu said they had intelligence reports that some people had planned to disrupt the event.

“Furthermore, Covid-19 directives are still in force and this contributed to the cancellation of the event,” he said.

In Mumias East, Shianda police post commanding officer Christopher Wesonga cited similar reasons while denying the steering committee of St Leo Catholic Parish permit to hold the fund-raiser.

“This would mean DP appearing without warning to peoples’ farms, places of work like car wash premises or carpenter shops or even markets. He can also be in weddings or funerals,” he said.

The challenge will be to know how long the State will maintain the embargo for him not to hold meetings.

And it is in that regard that there is a proposal to challenge Public Order Act in court. We gathered that another meeting is set for Wednesday in Karen.

“After this meeting, we will have a common ground on whether to nurture the Jubilee party or we leave but we still believe that we can revive the aspirations of this party,” a member of his think-tank said.

Aldai MP Cornelius Serem, a staunch DP’s ally, admitted that the Tangatanga meeting with the DP is slated for Wednesday but was non-committal if the agenda is their existence in the Jubilee party, noting it is just ‘a breakfast meeting’.

Political developments

According to Bomet Senator Dr Christopher Lang’at and his Nandi counterpart Samson Cherargei, the meeting will bring together those he described as ‘like-minded leaders’ who are allied to the DP who want to chart a way forward in terms of political developments.

“It is not the DP who called us but it is us who have been requesting him that we need to meet to discuss our political future because there is a handshake here, which has changed the political landscape of this country to an extent that our fund-drives are being frustrated by the police and that is what Wednesday meeting will focus on,” said Dr Lang’at.

A curious statement from US State Department by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo this week offered some hope to the DP’s camp.

The statement on “Upcoming elections in Africa” warned that “repression and intimidation have no place in democracies”.

“We will watch closely the actions of individuals who interfere in the democratic process and will not hesitate to consider consequences – including visa restrictions – for those responsible for election-related violence. As long-time partners to the nations of Africa, we care about the region’s democratic trajectory and are committed to working constructively with international and regional partners,” Mr Pompeo warned. Though several African countries, including Kenya’s neighbour Tanzania, have elections this year and Kenya’s is two years away, it was not lost on DP adherents that the statement could as well have been pointed to Kenya.

Tomorrow, the DP will be hosting a delegation from Luo Nyanza comprising of religious leaders and his handlers will be waiting to see whether the meeting will take place. Convinced that the police may not be prepared to place a blockade at his Karen offices, handlers of the DP said the place will play host to most of public activities in the meantime.

Police permission

Soy MP Caleb Kositany said they will not relent in asking for police permission to meet the people.

“We will dutifully be notifying the police, and if they refuse we will be sharing the news with Kenyans,” he said.

What DP allies seem to agree on is that he won’t be taking on President Kenyatta in public domain despite their strained relations.

“The strong tactics can only apply for a while. There’s an election in 2022 and there will be campaigns,” said DP’s deputy spokesman Emmanuel Talam.

Whereas his competitors for the top seat are gearing for full throttle campaigns like ODM leader Raila Odinga, who hosted Kikuyu elders at his rural home in Siaya yesterday, the DP may have to contend with being marooned in in his Karen home for the foreseeable future.

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