As political temperatures rise by the day, fight for control of numbers in Jubilee has intensified, opening new battle fronts and cobbling of new alliances.
For a long time, there has been a belief that Deputy President William Ruto had the numerical strength in both the Senate and the National Assembly, giving him an edge should there be a contest in Parliament. But this was dismantled this week when the DP’s wing in the Senate failed to rescue their compatriot, Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu. Naivasha retreat
Mr Waititu’s impeachment on Wednesday has dented this theory and emboldened President Uhuru Kenyatta’s side as the battle for supremacy and control of the 416-member Parliament intensifies. The felling of Waititu came three days after the DP’s wing claimed it marshaled more than 150 MPs for a retreat in Naivasha, where they defiantly declared they will hold parallel Building Bridges Inititiative (BBI) rallies is quite telling. Observers credit Waititu’s fall to the alliance of President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, which saw troops allied to the two, midwife an impeachment that was highly unexpected.
Bouyed by this victory, some MPs from Uhuru’s wing of the Jubilee Party divide are now convinced that once the Senate and National Assembly resume from recess, they will have the upper hand. Already, a group of MPs allied to Uhuru have indicated their desire to unseat Ruto’s allies from key parliamentary leadership positions.
The group that has the backing of Raila’s ODM is emboldened by the assured numbers and are now taunting the Ruto allies for a contest. From the meeting of Ruto’s allies at the Lake Naivasha Resort, warning shots were fired over the BBI meetings that were being spearheaded by Uhuru and Raila teams.
There were allegations of a move to impeach the President, purportedly hatched in the Naivasha meeting whose conveners claimed another 20 MPs had sent apologies. But the Kieleweke wing of the faction insists that Ruto’s perceived popularity has been because of his relentless movement and Uhuru’s ongoing visits to Central Kenya would easily reverse his gains. The Kieleweke team, led by Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny, say they now want to clip Ruto’s wings so that Uhuru’s side can take control of committee business.
“Those in Tangatanga have their allegiance elsewhere. We want a leadership that totally has allegiance to President Kenyatta and is committed to helping him achieve his legacy,” Kuttuny told Sunday Standard. Currently, Ruto allies control a significant majority of House leadership positions, beginning with majority leader and chief whip seats in both houses to the 34 chairs of parliamentary committees. House committees The DP’s allies are in control of 19 out of 34 National Assembly departmental, select, financial audit and money related committees, clearly giving him an edge over Uhuru and Raila in Parliament. At the departmental committees, the DP has 11 out of 15, including transport, public works and housing led by Pokot South MP David Pkosing, agriculture and livestock chaired by Mandera South’s Adan Hajji, communication by Marakwet West’s William Kisang, education by Tinderet’s Julius Melly and Energy by Nakuru Town East’s David Gikaria.
Others are environment and natural resources (Nithi MP Kareke Mbiuki), finance and national planning (Kipkelion East’s Limo Joseph), justice and legal affairs (Baringo North’s William Cheptumo) and labour and social welfare (Bura’s Ali Wario). Only administration and national security chaired by Kiambaa MP Paul Njoroge, Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege’s health and Kieni MP Kanini Kega’s trade committees are held by people allied to President Kenyatta.
Defence and foreign relations committee chair, Kajiado South MP Ole Katoo Metito’s allegiance is not clear. Kuttuny said once they resume sittings, they will urge the ruling party to introduce changes in the House. “Their control of the House will be gone soon,” he said. However, Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa dismissed Kuttuny’s threats, calling him a political nincompoop. But Uhuru’s team could be planning bigger political onslaught. Support base Observers say the President’s latest visit of Nyandarua, Kirinyaga and Meru counties and the planned tour of the entire Mt Kenya could reverse the gains of Ruto’s inroads to the region.
Uhuru is keen to reclaim his backyard which many observers say was becoming restive. In trying to claw back the Mt Kenya support base from the jaws of Ruto, President Kenyatta in his charm offensive hopes to also win back some of the MPs who abandoned him for his deputy. Uhuru’s assault began late last year when he hosted hundreds of leaders and elders from Mt Kenya at the Sagana State Lodge. During the meeting, he promised residents that he will take it up with the masses in upcoming county rallies. But Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria argued that Uhuru is “fiddling while Rome burns”. “The region will not be forced into submission and unless the President learns to consult and have mutual respect with local leaders, the tour will not gain much except politicking,” Kuria said.