Could Thursday’s press conference mark the beginning of the end for Majority Leader and Garisaa Township Member of Parliament Aden Duale, or could it just be a blip on his already controversial political career?
That was the question on everyone’s lips after 16 MPs, notably from President Uhuru Kenyatta's party, The National Alliance (TNA) and his deputy William Ruto's United Republican Party, called a press conference to demand that Duale "step aside" over allegations made in Parliament that linked him to Al-Shabaab.
Duale has strongly protested his innocence and even tweeted: "The war on terror is not about individuals or #Duale to resign. We need to unite as a country and fight terrorsts as one. #JKL"
Nevertheless, the allegations refuse to die and have now triggered a storm in the ruling Jubilee coalition, where sharp divisions emerged Thursday as MPs fought to outdo each other in either vilifying or defending Duale, who has in the past stoked public backlash with controversial comments about the war on terror.
He has especially outdone himself when vilifying leaders of the opposition CORD, especially former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, even saying he was ready to take a bullet for Uhuru and Ruto.
He has also crossed swords with Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto who has been demanding more cash for county governments, at one point telling him in front of party leader William Ruto: "These funds belong to Kenyans, they do not belong to your mother."
No stranger to controversy, Duale also courted public condemnation with utterances in Eastleigh that were interpreted as insensitive to terror victims, when he seemed to justify attacks in other areas other than the city neighbourhood that was then under lock down in a security operation.
More recently, he came out to deny that he called for talks with Al-Shabaab during an interview with a radio station.
But while he has weathered the storm in both instances, the storm that Duale and fellow leaders from North Eastern region have kicked up by announcing a 30-day period to name financiers and sympathisers of terrorism, following the massacre of 148 people in Garissa, has caused divisions even within the governing coalition.
In what would have been comical were it not for the seriousness of the allegations during a dramatic day in Parliament buildings, the two camps changed places at the Media Centre as they sought to address journalists on their respective positions.
While one group was unequivocal in calling for censure of Duale and the abolition of the 10-day amnesty for sympathisers, recruits and suspects of Al-Shabaab to surrender, the other was angry that their colleagues had "fallen into the terrorist's trap of dividing Kenyans" and that the Majority Leader was being attacked.
Thursday, the Chairman of President Kenyatta's TNA Party Johnson Sakaja (nominated), Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurweini) and Maison Leshoomo (Samburu) led the first group of at least 16 MPs who demanded that Duale and the leaders of Northern Kenya be forced to give information.
The MPs asked Duale to quit his position at the helm of the ruling Jubilee coalition in the House. They said they will not welcome any task force or committee to investigate the April 2 attack at the Garissa University College and opposed the Government's amnesty to Al-Shabaab.
They said Duale and the 34 MPs from northern Kenya, plus the three governors of the counties of Wajir, Mandera and Garissa, should either table the list of suspects, sympathisers and recruits or quit their leadership positions.
"They have taken far too long with the list they promised. We hope they don't think Kenyans will forget. They should all step aside until they give us the full list or we take action as parliamentarians. We have been too casual with issues for far too long," said Sakaja.
The group also dismissed the presidential pardon offered through Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery to Kenyan Al-Shabaab recruits, suspects and sympathisers. They asked President Kenyatta to drop the amnesty and deal ruthlessly with the suspects.
"We want the President to be very firm, very unorthodox and very merciless. That is all we ask of him. In times like this negotiations and clemency are very alien terms.
We are hearing about clemency, those administrative actions that we don't want to buy or to understand because they have no place. The enemy either surrenders or is vanquished. We don't want to hear about ten days," said Kabando.
As the MPs breathed fire against the Majority Leader, Duale called a news conference in his office and dismissed calls for him to quit. He said he was neither a sympathiser of Al-Shabaab nor a terrorist suspect.
"My conscience is very clear. I am not a terrorist. It is possible the member for Mavoko wanted to use the word "terrorist" in his maiden speech, that is why he called me a terrorist," said Duale in his response to the MP for Mavoko Patrick Makau who called him a "terrorist" during debate in the National Assembly on the attack on Garissa University College where Al-Shabaab gunmen killed 147 students and police officers.
He said Northern Kenya leaders were working around the clock to make sure that sympathisers are arrested.
But Sakaja's group insisted Duale and all the leaders had to be dealt with in the President's triple purge against drugs, graft and terrorism.
As soon as news spread of the verbal onslaught on Duale, another group of nine MPs led by Majority Whip Katoo ole Metito, his deputy Jomo Washiali (Mumias East), Jamleck Kamau (Kigumo), Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu) and Ali Wario (Bura) led another group to a Press conference, also in Parliament, and condemned their Jubilee colleagues.
"It is not fair to begin accusing any person, least of all our leaders unless there is evidence to the contrary," said Kamau.
They singled out Sakaja for a stinging attack, because they said he was "playing cheap politics" because TNA had not mandated him to speak.
"TNA has not sat as a party to decide that Duale has to go. Whatever Sakaja said was said out of anger and it will not help the problems we are facing as a country," said Wario.
Ichung'wa was very angry with Sakaja and told him that he had a "political hangover" now that his chairmanship of TNA was threatened with the formation of the new Jubilee Alliance Party.
"We do not want to fall prey to the machinations of Al-Shabaab. We must look at the bigger picture. We do not want to start pointing fingers at individuals at this time.
Duale and his colleagues promised to give us names of those people who they think could be aiding terrorism in this country, the best we can do is allow them to give as those names, so that the Government can use the intelligence," added Jamleck Kamau.
Metito added: "We have confidence in our leaders in this House, those outside the House and no one should be victimised."
The Sakaja group had already vowed to make sure that every person suspected of terrorism is forced to quit positions of influence. They urged the Government to confiscate the property of terrorists and use the money to compensate the victims of terrorism in the country.
Sakaja warned the President and his Deputy William Ruto that MPs will not be party to any illegal or political games in the fight against terror.
"No longer as Parliament are we going to be used to rubber stamp or even to deodorise inefficiency even within Government," said Sakaja.
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