NAIROBI, KENYA: CORD leader Raila Odinga has accused Deputy President William Ruto of blocking President Uhuru Kenyatta from reaching out to and working with , adding that the President means well for Kenya.
Raila made the scathing attack on a late night television show on Tuesday but Ruto Wednesday took the fight to Raila’s backyard in Kisumu where he addressed a public forumKatiba Day, the fourth anniversary of the promulgation of the Constitution. He claimed the former Premier is leading a campaign to mutilate the country’s supreme law.
SpeakingPresident Kenyatta said he had no problem working with him, Raila accused a group of hardliners in Jubilee led by Ruto of working overtime to block any meaningful dialogue between the Government and the Opposition.
The CORD leader spoke hours after attending the burial of former Cabinet minister Njoroge Mungai, during which thesurprised many by saying he was ready to work with Raila to develop Kenya.
But speaking in Mombasa Wednesday, Uhuru asked Raila not to incite people against leaders opposed to CORD’s referendum campaign.
When asked if he shared Uhuru’s sentiments, Raila said: “What he (Uhuru) said is not new. You remember when I came back from the US in May, I offered anwhen I said the way forward is dialogue and the following day, on Madaraka Day to be specific, he (Uhuru) responded and said he was ready for dialogue. So I said hurrah! But then a day later the situation changed. He means very well, but he leads a Government with hardliners who are a major drawback. I am not even sure if he is going to control those hawks.”
Raila said the ‘hawks’ know themselves.
He added: “Some of them call us ‘watu wa vitendawili’ (people of parables). Some of them are people who contradict themselves. When we were fighting for the Constitution, they were raising a red flag.”
When asked if one of the hawks he was referring to was Ruto, Raila said he was surprised when the Deputy President wrote a piece in a local daily criticising the virtues of the Constitution that he said would be a disaster four years ago.
Wednesday, Ruto accused Raila of plotting to mutilate the Constitution to fit his personal interests, adding that the CORD leader and his allies rejected issues that were raised before the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010.
“What destroyed the Independence Constitution was parochial, partisan and political expedience carried out without due consideration. The same people calling for a referendum admitted to Kenyans that the document had gaps and that the gaps would be filled progressively. Why referendum now?” Ruto asked.
Wednesday Ruto’s communications director Emmanuel Talam, responding to this writer’s queries on Raila’s claims, said his boss would “look for an appropriate forum to respond to the ODM leader”.
But there was no shortage of the DP’s allies ready to hit back. First off the block was Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who said: “CORD are running a divisive campaign and they are now trying to isolate President Uhuru so that they can rally against Mt Kenya region at the referendum and in his narrative, William Ruto is the stumbling block. It is a scheme that has been there for long. He is bitter that Ruto left ODM, and it’s not that he likes the President, but he knows that the person who made the difference was Ruto.”
Next was Ainamoi MP Benjamin Langat who said Raila’s utterances were not a surprise and claimed the former PM “is reeling from the loss of the 2013 General Election.”
“We know he is yet to recover from the humiliating defeat and he thinks it is Ruto who cost him victory. Such ancan be understood from that angle but he should stop blaming Ruto and blame himself for the loss,” Langat said.
However, Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, while welcoming President Uhuru’s gesture to the Opposition, said Uhuru would have to bear the responsibility of running the country.
“The principal and cardinal responsibility of running the country lies within President Kenyatta in spite of all these crowds who are shouting,” he said.
In July, at the height of calls fordialogue by CORD, Junet and National Assembly Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo accused the DP of leading URP to fight the implementation of “every proceeds of the new Constitution” and blackmailing Uhuru by suggesting that talks would threaten his Government.
Senator Murkomen said there were concerted efforts to isolate Uhuru from Ruto, saying Raila’s remarks are part of the wider plot.
“You have even seen lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi write about URP and Ruto being the stumbling block to reforms and this narrative is not new to us,” he said.
But Raila scoffed at critics of his ODM party over the botched February elections, saying the Orange outfit is the only party that has attempted an electoral process to pick office bearers, adding that critics have no moral.
“Some of the parties that are saying ODM cannot hold elections are themselves still under caretaker committees,” Raila said.
He once challenged ODM party rebels opposed to CORD’s referendum push to quit and seek a fresh mandate from their electorate to prove their popularity.
“Those talking of fighting from within should be brave enough to quit and seek re-election. I am not a hypocrite. I quit Ford Kenya and went through a by-election and was re-elected. I am not a coward,” he said.