Uhuru, Raila to counter Ruto countrywide tours

President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga will embark on national tours to preach development and national cohesion.

They will also market their handshake in which they buried the hatchet after the disputed presidential election.

On Tuesday State House spokesperson Kanze Dena did not mention Raila but said the President’s tour was being prepared.

“We will announce the itinerary when it is ready,” Dena said.

She emphasised that the President’s travels will be about development and national unity, not politics.

“For now, they have to acknowledge that politics will not be given priority, instead we will prioritise the development and unity of Kenyans,” she said.

An MP known to be close to Raila told the Star on Tuesday night that Raila was working with the President on the planned tours.

“We are fully aware and are working behind the scenes on a comprehensive programme that will be aligned to the President’s,” the ODM MP said.

Deputy President William Ruto has been crisscrossing the country in the name of development, a move that is widely seen as campaigning for 2022. His travels and those of his Tangatanga Squad have upset the President.

Details of the travel plans and handshake promotion emerged on the day Ipsos released a new opinion poll that showed that the country is overwhelmingly behind the March 9, 2018, cooperation deal.

An average of 80 per cent of the respondents nationally said they support the truce.

Northeastern, Nyanza, Nairobi, and Eastern were shown to be leading in approving the political pact at 92 per cent, 88 per cent, 81 per cent and 81 per cent, respectively.

Rift Valley and Central regions tied at 76 per cent. Western and Coast polled 75 and 78 per cent,  respectively.

The main reason for the support of the handshake, the poll suggests, is that it has brought about peace and unity and eased political tensions in the country.

The poll was conducted through phone interviews between 15-18 of April 2019 with respondents drawn from different parts of the country.

However, a furious Uhuru set the tempo for a widely expected political showdown on Sunday after he launched a broadside at his critics, mostly allies of his deputy and warned he was still the region’s political kingpin.

He termed the Tangatanga group as mikora, loosely translated as and crooks, and promised to go around Mount Kenya to deal with them.

On Tuesday Dena told reporters at State House that aid Uhuru had reached his “elastic limit” in tolerating the rebels.

“The President is a patient man. In every meeting, he has been pleading with politicians to stop politicking and concentrate on the development agenda and uniting Kenyans.

“He gave the first, second and the third appeal to them to stop campaigns and for sure, it has reached his elastic limit,” Dena told a press conference.

The first leg of the national travels, officially meant to launch and commission development projects, will begin in the President’s Mount Kenya backyard where some MPs have dared him to a political duel for castigating the Tangatanga group.

The region has also previously complained that president Kenyatta has focused on other parts of the country at the expense of his own backyard.

Analysts have warned that the thinly veiled tension between Uhuru and Ruto is likely to eventually boil over as Uhuru takes a stronger position to secure his legacy.

Ex-Mukurweini MP Kabando Wa Kabando said Uhuru is telling Ruto in no uncertain terms, “Stop it, let’s work.”

“You don’t need rocket science to interpret his body language,” Kabando said.

However, the dates of the President’s tours are under wraps.

“When we have a concrete plan, we will share,” Dena said.

Some Central Kenya MPs have told off the President over his Sunday rant and dismissed his claims they rode on his coattails to Parliament.

Among them is Kandara MP Alice Wahome and Kirinyaga Woman Representative Wangui Ngirici.

“The President did not help us, instead we helped him. We respect him as the President but he should also listen to us. When his election was nullified, he was always calling us. Why did he not go campaigning alone?” Ngirici asked.

If Uhuru extends his tours to Ruto’s Rift Valley turf, he will have to deal with residents who will be waiting to hear from him if he will support Ruto in 2022 as he had promised in the run-up to the 2017 election.

Since winning his re-election, Uhuru has given Rift Valley a wide berth.

 When asked if there were divisions between the Uhuru and Ruto, Dena assured Jubilee supporters that the two were “tight” and “working together as a team”.

She cautioned Kenyans not to consume “propaganda and false information” that the two Jubilee leaders had fallen out.

“There is propaganda being spread by some people who want to create a split between the President and the Deputy President. You may have seen on Sunday when the Deputy President said he is supporting the President in rolling out his development agenda and he will continue to do so,” she said.

She also distanced President Uhuru from the anti-Ruto movement commonly referred to as Team Kieleweke. It has been traversing some parts of Nairobi, Mt Kenya and Rift Valley, claiming to be popularizing the handshake between Uhuru and Raila.

Dena said that neither President Kenyatta nor State House has given their blessings to the team that has also been campaigning against the DP from succeeding Uhuru in 2022.

“That is just perception and propaganda,” she said.

Dena also announced that President Kenyatta will launch a new programme aimed at creating jobs for young people.

“The President has been working on this since last year when he met MasterCard’s leadership on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. He has since been in regular contact with them, in preparation for the event … what I can say is that he will launch a striking new programme,” She said.

She noted that the youth have been appealing to the President to ensure much quicker progress in jobs creation, in the regulation of their businesses and in the availability of credit.