State House has demanded a brief on the Wednesday night drama in which Deputy President William Ruto and Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho were allegedly involved in an altercation.
A source at State House says President Uhuru Kenyatta demanded explanation on the incident which is said to have happened shortly before his flight touched down from the trip in Kigali, Rwanda.
Ruto and Kibicho who have not been in good terms lately, had gone to receive the Head of State. The PS has maintained a tight grip on the county administration, directing commissioners to clear with him on their engagements to the chagrin of the DP.
A few weeks ago, the Provincial Administration missed Ruto’s event in Nyeri on orders of Kibicho. It is said this was at the heart of their exchanges on Wednesday night.
“The President wants to know what exactly transpired,” said the source.
A senior government official who witnessed the JKIA incident told the Saturday Standard that the altercation between the DP and Kibicho almost degenerated into a fist fight before those around them intervened to cool tempers.
However, yesterday the two dismissed the drama as rumours peddled by the media.
In a statement by his director of communications Emmanuel Tallam, Ruto said the purported incident was fake news. “That JKIA story is fake. It is a creation of rumour-peddlers of fake news keen to sustain a hopeless narrative,” said Mr Tallam.
Need for order
Kibicho also termed the reports as cheap propaganda that did not have head or tail which needed to be treated with the contempt it deserved.
“How can I have an exchange with the Deputy President? That is a cheap allegation that does not hold any sense,” said the PS of the claims first reported by People Daily.
But according to witnesses, it took the intervention of Chief of Defence Forces Gen Samson Mwathethe to calm the situation threatening to turn ugly.
It is not clear if the President mentioned the matter when he met the DP yesterday for a private talk after they hosted EU envoys at State House.
Witnesses said the DP confronted the PS asking him why he had ordered regional commissioners, county commissioners and other national government officials not to attend his meetings. The PS responded saying there was need for order in government. Ruto in turn reminded the PS that he is the DP.
Other government officials present are said to have watched from a distance as the exchange continued before Gen Mwathethe intervened. And when the President arrived, they both welcomed him and pretended all was well.
Two weeks ago, Kibicho ordered that all national Government operations be coordinated from his office at Harambee House.
The rift within the Jubilee government moved a notch higher when Deputy President William Ruto dramatically confronted Interior Principal secretary Karanja Kibicho accusing him of being used to sabotage his tour to launch projects across the country.
The two had met at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at around 8pm on Wednesday where they had gone to welcome President Uhuru Kenyatta back from his one-day visit to Kigali, Rwanda, where he attended an ICT conference.
And for close to 15 minutes, a visibly angry Ruto is said to have engaged the PS wanting to know why he had allegedly instructed county commissioners and police commanders not to provide security at his functions.
A source, who was present during the “lecture”, said the DP cautioned Kibicho not to use his office to coerce administrators on the ground to frustrate his 2022 presidential bid.
Ruto, who appeared not to give a chance to a shocked Kibicho to respond, told him to “keep to his lane” and allow the administrators at the counties to operate without interference.
The DP is said to have cited last weekend’s events in Turkana county where the County Commissioner failed to attend his rallies on alleged instructions from Kibicho.
The source, who did not want to be identified, said the DP arrived at the airport unexpectedly and upon spotting the PS walked straight to him.
“Everyone present including the service commanders were taken by surprise. Nobody uttered a word as the lecture by the visibly angry Ruto continued,” said the source.
The source, said besides the service commanders led by the Chief of Defence Forces Samson Mwathethe and Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, the only politician present was Kieni MP Kanini Kega, who stepped a few steps away from the scene.
Contacted for a comment, Ruto’s spokesperson David Mugoyi, denied that the Deputy President had confronted Kibicho.
Not at airport
Mugonyi said he was not aware that the DP had gone to the airport to welcome the President back to the country. Kanini also denied knowledge of the dressing down of the PS saying he was not anywhere near the airport. Kibicho did not pick our calls nor respond to our text messages.
The incident was a culmination of claims and counter-claims between the two Harambee Houses— Annex and Office of the President, which houses the Interior ministry, with Kibicho recently accusing Ruto’s office of failing to furnish him with the DP’s itinerary in the counties.
He said the impromptu tours were to blame for the absence of senior security officers at some of the DP’s functions.
Kibicho said the allegations that the government had withdrawn security from a church function in Tetu, Nyeri, attended by Ruto were false.
He said the incident in Tetu was caused by poor communication between the Deputy President’s team and the police on the ground, who were informed when it was too late.
He said when police were informed, they rushed to the site and found that the function had ended. Sources said the cancellation of the police uniforms tender, which Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang’i ordered to be given to the National Youth Service, had also contributed to the bad blood between the two offices.
Kibicho has also been involved in a spat with Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko who accuses him of frustrating his administration. Sonko claims Kibicho is using his office to undermine him.
But Kibicho has distance himself from Sonko’s troubles with the National government. “They have paranoia, which needs to be cured. Let them deal with their accusations and accusers. Let them carry their own cross,” said Kibicho.
Mr William Thuku and Mr Moffat Kangi, who are based in his office, will coordinate the operations.