, ELDORET, Kenya, Jan 27 – Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta said on Friday he is now a free man having relinquished the Finance Ministry docket, and will have more time to traverse the country seeking votes in his quest to succeed President Mwai Kibaki.
Speaking at a peace rally at the Eldoret 64 stadium a day after stepping aside from the plum job following pressure from the civil society over his ICC indictment, Kenyatta said he would not drop his presidential ambition and warned those agitating for this to respect the wishes of Kenyans.
“Today I want to tell members of the civil society and the media thank you for agitating for my stepping aside. I stepped aside and now I am a free man. I will have enough time to tour the country,” Kenyatta said, vowing that he must be on the ballot in the next general election.
“It is not a few people or the civil society to decide who will be in the ballot for the presidency. It is Kenyans, and people must respect the wishes of Kenyans,” he added telling his competitors “let us meet in the ballot, you should not be scared.”
Kenyatta and Ruto see those objecting to their candidacy for the top job as part of a wider scheme by their competitors to lock them out of the general elections in a quest to take over the country’s leadership.
“I want to tell our competitors to stop those games and conspiracies. If they are true democrats they should be ready to face us in the ballot box. We are ready to face them ourselves,” Ruto, who was indicted on Monday alongside Kenyatta, Francis Muthaura and journalist Joshua arap Sang said.
Kenyatta did not dwell on the ICC cases only saying; “We leave the cases to our lawyers to handle them. Ours now is to unite Kenyans.”
“Thank you for your prayers, we leave everything to God,” Kenyatta said, speaking publicly for the first time since the indictments were announced – and a day after he quit office.
Radio journalist Sang also indicted by the Hague-based war crimes court appealed to Kenyans to assist him financially as he prepares to argue out his case.
“The money I have is only enough for me and my family… I appeal for your assistance. I will appreciate the little you will offer because there is a lot of money required,’ Sang said.
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, speaking at the peace rally announced that the government intended to ask for a deferral of the cases from The Hague.
“Like the AG said, the government will be sending a letter to ICC asking for a deferral of the cases,” said Musyoka, whose shuttle diplomacy failed before the cases against the four were sent for determination.
The VP said he was “deeply concerned and always irritated” by remarks made by unnamed persons that he wanted to be a beneficiary for the race to State House once Kenyatta and Ruto were kept off the scene because of their cases, or if they are jailed.
“It irritates me completely! How can I be the one to celebrate? I want to say here today that there is no way I can be happy to be the President of the Republic of Kenya while my two colleagues Uhuru and Ruto are jailed,” he told a jubilant crowd. “I want to compete fairly and I can assure you that if anyone of them wins the nomination, I will step down for him, and I am sure they are equally ready.”
Other leaders who spoke at the venue included Chirau Mwakwere, Cyrus Jirongo, Eugene Wamalwa, Cecily Mbarire, Kiema Kilonzo among others.
They all urged Kenyatta and Ruto to remain united to take the helm of leadership of the country.
Kenyatta and Ruto are set to address another peace rally in Kiambu on Saturday followed by other public meetings in other parts of the country.
Residents interviewed in Eldoret also said they wanted the two leaders to remain united.
“I am very happy to see them (Uhuru/Ruto). They have suffered a lot of humiliation after the (ICC) indictments. We want to tell them to remain united, this ICC thing will come to an end,” Robert Kipchilat, a United Republican Party supporter said.
Another supporter of Ruto’s URP Kemboi Rotich said; “If they remain united I am sure they will win the Presidency in the elections.”
For Kirwa John, another resident of Turbo who attended the rally; “Let the best man win. I cannot say who I support at the moment because the election is still far.”