African Press International (API)

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Kenya: Flurry of activity for Ruto as Uhuru skips forums

Posted by African Press International on September 18, 2016

WANJOHI GITHAE -1 | nation news Kenya. Sunday, September 18, 2016

A last-minute decision by President Uhuru Kenyatta not to travel to Canada and the United States for crucial international meetings caught the government hierarchy by surprise and left Deputy President William Ruto scrambling to travel to represent the President.

Mr Kenyatta had on Wednesday travelled to Narok to attend the burial of Maasai kingpin William ole Ntimama and was scheduled to travel to Montreal, Canada, that evening before heading to New York.

The Deputy President, on the other hand, had events lined up from Thursday through Sunday around Mt Kenya region.

Some of the President’s advance teams had already left for Canada and the United States.

In Canada, the President was to attend the Global Fund Replenishment Conference on fighting Aids, tuberculosis and malaria, while in New York he was to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly.

On Wednesday evening, shortly after arriving in Nairobi from Narok, the Head of State placed a call to the Deputy President asking him to prepare to travel to the United States, catching everyone in government by surprise.

Mr Ruto left the country on Friday night and was expected in New York last evening.

The decision was so sudden that traffic police who had lined up from State House to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to clear traffic for the President were told to return to their stations.

State House communications chief Manoah Esipisu last week outlined the President’s expected itinerary in New York.

This included participating in a high-level meeting to discuss movement of refugees and migrants, where closure of Dadaab refugee camp was expected to feature.

When contacted on why the President failed to travel, Mr Esipisu said Mr Kenyatta needed to handle the fast-moving situation in Somalia and South Sudan.

“Following the Igad meeting in Mogadishu, Somalia, last week, there are a series of follow-up sessions that His Excellency needs to personally attend to, given that Kenya is a senior player in the region alongside Ethiopia,” he said.

It is believed Kenya may send more troops to Somalia to shore up security ahead of elections.

“Two, there is the delicate issue of where (former South Sudan vice- president) Riek Machar should be placed. Currently he is holed up in Khartoum but there are ongoing deliberations, and very delicate ones for that matter, on where he should be eventually resettled.

“As you know, South Africa has agreed to take him in but there is a feeling that other options be looked into. That is why it was felt that His Excellency’s involvement in these matters is very essential.

“That is why it was decided that the Deputy President represents him in New York,” said Mr Esipisu. The President would have been away for 10 days.

Eyebrows have been raised within government circles because the first batch of the President’s advance team comprising security, communications and protocol personnel left Nairobi for Canada and the United States on September 10.

It fell on the President’s Strategic Communications Unit to cover Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohamed, who read the President’s speech in Canada on Friday.

The second team of officials was scheduled to leave on Wednesday but their travel plans were called off after word filtered out that Mr Kenyatta would not travel.

The abrupt decision by the President came hours after he defended the Jubilee Government and in particular Mr Ruto at Mr Ntimama’s burial from attack by the opposition.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga had sought to give the impression that the President and his Deputy were reading from different scripts as Jubilee Party leaders.

He narrated how the late Ntimama had confided in him (Mr Odinga) that when it came to saving the Mau water tower, he was better off dealing with the President than the DP.

When the President rose to speak, obviously agitated, he told Mr Odinga off.

It is against this backdrop that aides to Mr Kenyatta say he needed to assure the DP of his support and send a message to both local and international political players that they were together.

They say this explains his decision to send him to the world’s biggest gathering of Heads of State — the United Nations General Assembly.

“There was a need to pass a message to both the Deputy President’s constituency and international actors who have always wanted coalitions in Kenya so that they can drive a wedge between the various arms, that this was a united government.

“And how else could he send that message but by sending the DP to the UN where he will meet world leaders,” the aide to President Kenyatta said.

Apart from attending the General Assembly, Mr Ruto is scheduled to take part in several other meetings.

While in New York, he may bump into Cord co-principal Moses Wetang’ula who flew out for the UN meeting last night.

The DP will also attend the US-Africa Business Forum which aims to enhance collaboration between American and African companies.

The Head of State was also scheduled to address the US Council on Foreign Relations on Kenya’s role in Africa, as well as attend the Business Council for International Understanding meeting to provide an update on Kenya’s economic plans.

At the briefing last week, Mr Esipisu said: “President Kenyatta will continue his work to strengthen trade and business ties between the United States and Kenya. It is an important discussion, considering that 60 per cent of Africa’s population is between the ages of 15 and 25 and is expected to double in 2045.

There has been growing attention on Kenya’s infrastructure and energy sectors by US companies. We expect they will pursue deliverables during this meeting.”

Mr Ruto will now take part in those sessions. He is also expected to join President John Mahama of Ghana to headline talks on shaping a 21st Century work force.

On Friday, the President was represented by Devolution CS Sicily Kariuki at the Central region ASK show in Nyeri. He is yet to be seen in public since Wednesday.

On September 8, Mr Kenyatta also skipped the East Africa Summit meeting in Arusha, the first time in recent times a Kenyan Head of State had failed to attend the regional meeting. Mr Ruto attended the summit.

The Deputy President had lined up various public activities this weekend in Laikipia, Isiolo and Meru counties.

Mr Ruto delegated Leader of Majority Aden Duale to represent him at a function he was to preside over in Doldol, Laikipia North, on Friday.

But he was forced to altogether cancel another event in Isiolo County later that Friday.

Mr Ruto was expected in Meru on Saturday after the meetings were postponed from Friday due to a busy schedule.

There was heavy anticipation on the ground due to friction over the arrangements.
This is after unknown people pulled down a banner announcing the fundraiser to be presided over by Mr Ruto and hosted by Igembe Central MP Kubai Iringo.

The banner at Kangeta town was removed on Tuesday night.

African Press International, (API)

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