President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday came close to publicly backing his deputy William Ruto for the top seat in 2022, calming fears that his March 9 handshake with ODM leader Raila Odinga would eventually leave Mr Ruto in the cold.
Amid subtle prompting from local leaders over claims that the handshake had caused friction between him and his deputy, President Uhuru Kenyatta blamed the media for the reports.
“What I told you here last time is the same: newspapers will write things. Let us look at what we are doing. What is important is your lives. Let them write what they want but I don’t care. I will still sleep at night,” said the President.
Mr Kenyatta spoke at Kapsabet showground in Nandi where he helped raise money for construction of a commercial building for the Anglican church.
Rift leaders who spoke were keen to hear whether the President would support his deputy’s quest to succeed him once he retires in the next four years.
“We are still believing in the 10-year plan. We do not question what you tell us. We will support the Big Four agenda and once your term ends your deputy will take over.
We still trust the 2012 pact is still intact,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, who has been a leading voice against the sidelining of the DP in government.
Nandi Governor Stephen Sang said he believed the pact was still alive.
“The last time you were here, you indicated clearly that once you are done with your second term you will let you deputy take over. We have no reason to doubt that,” Mr Sang said.
During campaigns in Kapsabet last year, President Kenyatta was categorical that he would support his deputy once he finished his term.
The President was visiting his deputy’s Nandi stronghold in the Rift Valley for the first time since the election amid growing claims of a widening rift between them caused by the ‘handshake’.
The only other time the President was here after last year’s polls was at the military training school in the outskirts of Eldoret town in his role as commander-in-chief of the defence forces.
So strong have suspicions of a schism been that a six-hour delay in arrival led to fears the President had skipped the event. It turned out that the President had a tight schedule.
After seeing off Namibia President Hage Geingob, who was the chief guest during the Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kakamega on Saturday, the President also attended a service at St Andrews PCEA Church.
Here he reinstated a letter of interim authority to Presbyterian University of East Africa and reiterated his message of integrity in national examinations. He eventually arrived in Kapsabet at 3.30pm, long after 9.00am when he was expected.
Mr Ruto said he supported the March 9 Building Bridges initiative between the President and Nasa leader Raila Odinga, saying it would unite the country.
President Kenyatta said uniting the country would ensure the realisation of his legacy goals — affordable housing, universal healthcare, industrialisation and food security.
“We will support you in all your endeavours. You told me when we met (in 2012) that even if we don’t win elections let’s leave a united Kenya. You will leave a legacy of a united country. We are proud to be part of your team,” Mr Ruto said.
President Kenyatta said uniting Kenya and achieving the Big Four would create jobs for the youth. “We cannot achieve this without peace and unity. Peace for development, unity for progress. I thank you for supporting this quest for unity,” he said.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen said the falling out was a creation of the media.
“You will be remembered more for bringing together all tribes of Kenya than anything else. It did not start this year but in 2012 when you agreed to work with your deputy,” Mr Murkomen told the President.
Mr Kenyatta promised tough action against cartels in the grain sector. “Instead of taxpayers money being paid to genuine farmers
it is given to some traders importing maize from Mexico or other countries. This must come to an end. We will not pay brokers anymore, we will pay the farmers who have shed sweat,” he said.
By Daily Nation