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Why Uhuru, Ruto previous reunion efforts collapsed

THE STAR 09/17/2021

It is understood they exchanged bitter texts, some of which were read by their allies.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto outside Parliament after the National Prayer Breakfast on May 27. View pictures in App save up to 80% data.
RIVALS: President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto outside Parliament after the National Prayer Breakfast on May 27. Image: DPPS

John Cardinal Njue and other clergymen tried to reconcile President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto last year but failed, the Star has learnt.

Multiple sources close to the President and the DP said National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi initiated the first attempt in January last year after relations between the two deteriorated.

“Muturi met with Cardinal Njue for hours where he briefed him on the widening rift between the two leaders. His request was that since the Cardinal enjoyed a good relationship with the two, only he could help bring the two leaders back together, a source aware of the effort said."

Njue is reported to have accepted the request and gathered a few other clergymen who met the two leaders separately.

“The meeting did not yield much and in April last year, Cardinal Njue told Muturi that he had failed.

On Thursday, the Cardinal did not confirm or deny reports of his reconciliation efforts, saying he could not remember much.

“I do not remember the details. It has been a long time since I left the leadership of the Catholic Conference of Bishops. They are better placed to answer your question,” Njue told the Star. 

Speaker Muturi, a presidential hopeful himself, declined comment.

“I have nothing to say,” he said.

Last week, however, Muturi alluded to unsuccessful reconciliation efforts he undertook.

“I tried my best and did not succeed,” Muturi said in his Siakago home.

Although both President Kenyatta and Ruto have never explained exactly why their relationship fell apart, it is understood they previously exchanged bitter text messages. Some have been read by their allies.

“From the messages that I was shown, the differences between the two are personal and very deep. It will take a miracle for them to be ironed out," one source said. His opinion was echoed by others.

On Thursday, Ruto said he is ready to bury the hatchet with President after Catholic Bishops offered to broker a truce.

But a group of Uhuru allies laughed off the efforts, saying the clergy remained mum when Ruto laid siege to the President.  

"Where were the bishops when the deputy terrorised the President in 2018-19 when we started the Kieleweke team to ease the onslaught?" asked Deputy Majority Whip Maoka Maore.

He went on, "Now that the mask/deception is so exposed, the clergy shows up! Very strange fellows. Return to sender. There has been insurrection and incitement in Mt Kenya against the President. The clergy were busy creating the forums."

Speaking at his home in Nairobi, Ruto said he is ready to face Uhuru unconditionally.

The second in command blamed his falling-out with Uhuru on what he termed gossip fed to the President by outsiders who joined government. It was an apparent reference to ODM leader Raila Odinga and his brigade.

Ruto said the reconciliation should be fast-tracked to avoid plunging the country into further crisis and deepening hostility.

“It should be done as soon as now because I do not have issues with my boss. We were voted for as a unit to lead and take forward this country,” Ruto said.

He went on, “They joined the government but with a different focus that ended up diverting our attention from the Big Four agenda that was poised to transform Kenya.”

Uhuru and the former Prime Minister shook hands on March 9, 2018, ending months of demonstrations and political tensions in parts of the country following the disputed repeated presidential election.

On Wednesday, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops began calls for Uhuru and Ruto to end their feuds, saying they were ready to bring the two to the table.

“In a young democracy like ours, it is important there is unity among the top leaders as this gives confidence to the people,” the bishops said during a press conference in Nairobi.

They said the public antagonism between the two was not only a threat to national security and stability but also can cause anxiety in the run-up to the 2022 General Election.

“It is an open and sad reality the President and Deputy President of the Republic of Kenya are not reading from the same script. The public exchanges being witnessed are dangerous for the prevailing peace and tranquility in the country and cannot be taken lightly,” they said in a statement.

According to Ruto, “political middlemen” who had joined government were to blame for straining his working relationship with the President.

Last month, Uhuru had publicly asked Ruto to resign.

In an interview with editors from a group of television stations, the President did not hide his displeasure with the criticism of his administration by Ruto and his troops

"The honourable thing is that if you are not happy with it, step aside and allow those who want to move on to do so, and take your agenda to the people," Uhuru said.

"You can't have your cake and eat it. You can’t on one hand say I am not going and at the same time you don’t agree,” he added.

Uhuru, who for the first time directly asked Ruto to resign from his Jubilee administration, urged the DP to “decide and be principled" about quitting if he is dissatisfied.

"This is so that you don’t confuse people that on one hand you want to praise the government and yet on the other side of your mouth you’re talking another language."

In a rejoinder the following day, Ruto told off the President whose development record he has trashed in his second term. He has accused the President of “turning his attention to the useless BBI” at the expense of the Big Four.

On August 24, Ruto said he would not quit but instead continue pushing his 2022 plans to "empower hustlers through a bottom-up economic model".

He spoke during the burial of Mahoo MCA Ronald Sangurani in Taita Taveta.

“I want to tell those who are against us that they should know that I’m a man on a mission. I have no space to retreat nor the luxury to surrender,” Ruto stated.

Some of Uhuru's allies welcomed the reconciliation bid.

Speaking separately to the Star on Thursday, Eldas MP Adan Keynan and his Ndaragwa counterpart Jeremiah Kioni said reconciliation would be a sign of statesmanship.

“Peace and unity are all that we want all the time. A peaceful environment ensures we have money in our pockets,” Kioni told the Star.

Keynan said reconciliation should be genuine and informed by the need to unite all Kenyans before the general election.

“What is paramount is peace, tranquility and the stability of our nation. If that is the reconciliation we are seeking, then it is much in order,” he said.    

From Friday, DP Ruto is expected to intensify campaigning. He will camp in Uasin Gishu, Kakamega, Kiambu and Kajiado counties to market his agenda for four packed days.

Today morning, at his Sugoi home, he is expected to meet grassroots leaders from Uasin Gishu and later host a delegation from Bungoma county.

Tomorrow, he begins by hosting yet another delegation, then pitch camp in neighboring Kakamega where he will attend an 'empowerment' programme in Malava constituency.

On Sunday, Ruto will be in Uhuru’s Kiambu county where he will attend an interdenominational church function.

On Monday, he will host Ukambani leaders to discuss his economic blueprint for the Lower Eastern region.

The meeting is tentatively scheduled for Amboseli, Kajiado county.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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