, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15- Eldoret North MP William Ruto on Wednesday engaged Prime Minister Raila Odinga in a heated debate in Parliament over his latest public utterances over his bid to succeed President Mwai Kibaki.
Ruto wanted the PM to state the government’s position on whether those who campaigned against the Constitution should be barred from seeking the presidency.
He accused Odinga of spreading propaganda to push his presidential ambitions further telling him off for allegedly criticising the prayer rallies that have been held in the country for those targeted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“The Prime Minister is on record even as late as today castigating people who have been praying for those who have been taken to The Hague. Who has stopped the Prime Minister from praying for other people, if indeed he has a heart?” posed Ruto.
Odinga however maintained that he had no apologies to make over the issue as he believed that those who campaigned against the new law should not be trusted to implement it.
He noted that he held that position as a political leader and that it should not be taken as the government’s position.
“Yes I’m a Prime Minister but I am also a party leader. So to answer his question, it is not a government policy; it is a statement of fact and I have been saying that the people who did not believe in this Constitution cannot be trusted to implement it when they are in power,” he stressed.
The Prime Minister further accused Ruto and his counterparts of attacking his candidacy and accusing him of being behind their fate at the ICC.
“If people go and say that a person will never become the President of this country, then that person also has a right to say that people who were opposing the Constitution should not be trusted to implement it,”
Nominated MP George Nyamweya also put the Prime Minister to task over the position arguing that it was misleading.
He maintained that Kenyans were free to hold different opinions during the referendum in line with the spirit of democracy.
“We were given two options during the referendum- yes and no. So maybe it ought to have been said that if you vote no, then you have no Constitution, you are not a Kenyan and cannot enjoy the benefits of that Constitution,” he argued.
Odinga however dismissed the argument saying every Kenyan was governed and protected by the Constitution.
“I believe in the dictum that I may not agree with what you have to say but I shall defend unto death your right to say it. That is why we tolerated everybody during the referendum,” he noted.
He further reminded MPs that it was Parliament that rejected plans to set up a local tribunal and he should not be blamed for the turn of events.
Odinga particularly singled out Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto for coining the phrase “Don’t be Vague; let’s go Hague.”
“Justice Philip Waki inferred in his report that if the country did not set up a local tribunal, the matter would go to The Hague. And he prepared an envelope which was sealed and handed over to Kofi Annan; not President Kibaki or Raila Odinga,” he argued.
The Chepalungu legislator would however not take the accusation lightly. He demanded that the Prime Minister substantiates his claims and show how he coined the phrase.
“He has just mentioned that he was in Switzerland attending a meeting of Heads of State. What was he doing there yet is not the Head of State? Wasn’t he wasting public funds?” asked Ruto.
House Speaker Kenneth Marende however ruled out Ruto’s sentiments saying it was baseless but directed that the Prime Minister substantiates his claim.
National Heritage Minister William Ole Ntimama, on his part, took issue with Ruto (Eldoret North) accusing him of criticising Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo for his position on the ICC.
Kilonzo has maintained that Ruto and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta do not qualify for the presidency as they are both facing crimes against humanity at the ICC.
“I am surprised that the member for Eldoret North can start raising a question on the democratic right of the people because he and his colleague have been castigating the Justice Minister for saying the truth and expressing his democratic right,” he charged amidst applause.
Marende was however forced to cut him short accusing him of not observing the ambit of the Standing Orders.