When you light a candle, you cast a shadow— Ursula K. Le Guin
March 9, 2018 is a day engraved in the minds of Kenyans. Mostly because the country witnessed former foes shake hands and hug away their beef in the glare of cameras.
The world was watching.
The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga spelt a new dawn in Kenyan politics, coming after a heightened repeat of the presidential contest in October 2017.
But two years later, the embers from the pre-handshake fire are still blazing, rekindling old rivalries and building up into a new volcano that could erupt, before, during or after the 2022 elections.
The handshake birthed the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), a nine-point agenda that should supposedly unite the country.
While several meetings, forums and rallies have been held across the country to popularise the agenda since its launch at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, there are underlying issues that cannot be ignored.
The most conspicuous is the bad blood between President Uhuru and his deputy William Ruto (pictured).
What seems to come out mostly is how the Uhuru-Raila truce has closed ranks between some sections of the opposition and the Uhuru Kenyatta faction of the ruling Jubilee Party, with Ruto leading the Jubilee rebellion.
On several occasions, the deputy president has denied there was bad blood between him and his boss but that can be told to the marines.
Last month, Ruto told a crowd at Itierio grounds, Kisii County that he would continue to perform his duties as the principal deputy to President Uhuru Kenyatta despite criticism from his rivals; that it was his responsibility to perform his Constitutional duties without any intimidation from any quarters.
“I earn my salary as the deputy president and will do the work of the deputy president,” he said.
On the issue of the Building Bridges Initiative, the deputy president asked the leaders to remain calm and have some patience.
“Kenya doesn’t need any kingship, bravado and conmanship. Leaders must be ready to listen to both the meekly and weak. We must be ready to build genuine bridges and avoid the ongoing political infighting and chest-thumping.”
That was obviously a broadside aimed mostly at Raila Odinga and his Jubilee allies. Big or small.
But if you thought the Itierio pronouncement was all-telling, as they say in other shores, you ain’t seen’ anything thing yet.
On Saturday the DP was pulling no punches. During the burial of Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei, the security guard at Harambee House who was found dead on February 20 at his house in Imara Daima Estate, Nairobi. Ruto talked of people who were out to ensure he would not be in the 2022 presidential race.
Singling out the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti who he did not name, preferring to use the term DCI, Ruto accused unnamed government officials of boasting that he will not be around for long as he warned the top sleuth to keep away from political intrigues.
“The plotters of these schemes, I want to let you know that unless you kill me, I am not turning back. Kenya is for everyone. Kenya is not for a few people. Threats, plots… all these things… I even know what they have planned but I am ready for it,” he cautioned.
The statements by the country’s second-in-command pushed political temperatures to a new high.
Even before the dust could settle, Opposition leader Raila Odinga tweeted: “We are entering a dangerous but decisive phase of this tragedy. The mercenaries have dug in and are daring for a fight. I believe we should determine the time, terms and conditions of engagement.”
His was a response to a post by Prof Makau Mutua who had challenged DP Ruto to step down, arguing his utterances over the weekend were an attack on President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Back to the handshake and as the country marks its two year anniversary, the spotlight now lies on the three top most men running the show.
So bad is the animus between the pro and anti-handshake camps that BBI rallies in some regions could explode into violence.
The postponed Nakuru round is now scheduled to take place on March 21 at Afraha stadium. It has seen DP Ruto’s allies “softening” their stance, agreeing to host former premier Raila Odinga and welcome any other leader who wants to attend the meeting.
The leaders pledged not to make remarks that could cause chaos in the region considered Ruto’s political turf.
“The meeting will be the mother of all rallies that have ever been held at the historic Afraha Stadium. Unlike the other BBI rallies, ours will be peaceful and we shall not discriminate against any leader because what we want is a peaceful and united country,” said MP Kimani Ngunjiri, a close ally of Ruto’s.
Not long before, on February 1, 2020, leaders allied to Ruto’s camp were harassed at a BBI rally in Kitui.
The MPs, who arrived moments after the rally had started, were barred from accessing the main dais where opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka and other elected leaders were seated.
Again on February 29, Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria and Elgeyo Marakwet Kipchumba Murkomen stormed out of the Meru BBI rally held at Kinoru stadium.
It was not made clear why they left but earlier reports said that they had missed seats.
Will the handshake be a make or break?
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