Fear of violence and a push to have President Uhuru Kenyatta attend the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) rallies have led to the cancellation of a major Rift Valley meeting.
The meetings in Nakuru and Eldoret would have been dominated by allies of Deputy President William Ruto.
The South Rift BBI team led by Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui and the North Rift one under his Elgeyo-Marakwet counterpart Alex Tolgos agreed that just one rally be held at Afraha Stadium.
“The Nakuru BBI sensitisation rally that was to be held this weekend will now be on March 21. It will be the only rally in the Rift Valley,” Governor Kinyanjui said in a press release on Tuesday.
Afraha Stadium is close to Jubilee Party’s heart as it is where the political union between Mr Kenyatta and Mr Ruto was cemented in 2012.
It was the venue where the two declared victory when cases against them at the International Criminal Court collapsed.
Mr Tolgos had on Monday morning said the Eldoret meeting would be on March 21.
“When we sat down on Monday evening, we decided to hold a single meeting in Nakuru. For now, there will be no major BBI meeting in Eldoret,” he said.
The rallies have been held in Kisii, Kakamega, Mombasa, Kitui, Narok, Garissa and Meru counties.
President Kenyatta has not been at the meetings. Reports emerged of a drive to have him attend the Nakuru one.
“Since Nakuru is the country’s political bedrock, President Kenyatta might attend the rally,” a source in the planning team said.
National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, Jubilee Deputy Secretary-General Caleb Kositany and Mr Ruto’s other allies say they will only attend BBI rallies organised and attended by Mr Kenyatta and the DP.
Although the two governors maintained that they made the changes to give room to inclusivity, it emerged that the Eldoret rally was called off largely over fears of chaos.
Mr Tolgos dismissed the claim, saying anyone who would have been at the Eldoret meeting is free to attend the Nakuru one.
“We have been clear with the Tangatanga group. If they don’t want our rallies, they should organise theirs. We also welcome them to ours but they should respect us,” the county boss added, referring to a group in Jubilee associated with Mr Ruto.
He said the Nakuru rally would come up with a document to be presented to Eldoret residents during a meeting at the town hall.
The governors were picked by Mr Kenyatta to spearhead BBI meetings in the North and South Rift regions.
“The meeting will attract ordinary people and leaders from more than 10 counties. We call for sobriety and tolerance for the benefit of Nakuru residents,” Mr Kinyanjui said.
The rally was to be held at Afraha Stadium this weekend and was to be attended by leaders from Nakuru, Baringo, Bomet, Narok and Kericho counties.
The new development means the rally will have to include leaders from Nandi, Uasin Gishu, Elgeyo-Marakwet, West Pokot and Turkana counties.
“We want the Rift Valley BBI rallies to be inclusive. Leaders should feel free to give their views for the good of the region,” Mr Kinyanjui said.
During the funeral service for Mr Lawrence Nginyo Kariuki in Tigoni, Kiambu County, yesterday, Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga said BBI is unstoppable and will end tribalism and corruption in Kenya.
“The (March 9, 2018 handshake between him and Mr Kenyatta) and BBI will change the course of Kenyan politics. BBI will stop tribalism and corruption. We are not going to look back,” he said.
Leaders allied to Mr Ruto called for inclusivity, with Belgut MP Nelson Koech saying the rallies have been hijacked by politicians.
“BBI was born in Bomas. It crawled in Kisii. It stood in Kakamega. It walked in Kitui. It was knocked down in Narok. It was killed in Meru and it will be buried in Nakuru,” he said yesterday.
Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen said the rallies have become forums for insulting Mr Ruto.
“The speakers Raila called to the podium insulted the DP,” he said, referring to the handing of the microphone to Cotu chief Francis Atwoli, politicians Musalia Mudavadi, Kalonzo Musyoka, David Murathe, Peter Kenneth and Gideon Moi during the Meru rally.