Critics drop harsh stance against the president to save their positions as nominated MPs or committee slots in Parliament.
Deputy President William Ruto’s camp had marshalled 22 senators in the failed bid to block the ouster of Kipchumba Murkomen and Susan Kihika from Senate leadership, but only managed seven votes in the removal of Kithure Kindiki as Deputy Speaker.
At least 15 senators shifted alliance within a span of one week, leaving Ruto’s ally, Prof Kindiki, to endure a humiliating defeat in the Senate where President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga rallied 54 members to eject the Tharaka Nithi Senator.
The dwindling numbers in Dr Ruto’s camp exposed the soft underbellies of his loyalists in the face of a crackdown by Uhuru, with the planned June 2 Parliamentary Group meeting for National Assembly expected to further shake the DP’s pillars of influence in the 349-strong House.
Ruto’s Tangatanga wing has boasted of at least 116 members in the National Assembly, going by the number of MPs who wrote protest letters to the Registrar of Political Parties to resist Jubilee appointments in solidarity with the DP.
However, some of the DP’s vocal backers have since softened their harsh criticism to avoid losing their posts as nominated MPs or committee slots in Parliament.
Mr Murkomen and Ms Kihika, who had gone to the High Court to challenge the coalition agreement between Jubilee and Independence party Kanu, have also withdrawn the matter in a well-coordinated tactical retreat.
“Take notice that petitioners have withdrawn suit against the respondents herein and wholly pursuant to order 25 rules 1 of the Civil Procedure Rules and the Constitution of Kenya,” the notice filed by H&K Law advocates read.
Yesterday, Murkomen defended their colleagues who did not vote with them to defeat the Motion, saying it was a tactical retreat.
“Our friends made a tactical retreat and we allowed them. We agreed to lose the battle but win the coming war,” said Murkomen.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, a sworn supporter of Ruto, surprisingly accused the media of creating a supremacy battle between Uhuru and Ruto on who has the numerical strength in the two Houses.
“The issue of who has numbers is a creation of the media. Uhuru and Ruto have never been into a contest of numbers. The question of DP losing numbers in the Senate is completely misplaced, not a reality. There has never been any contest between the president and his deputy on issues before the House or anything else,” claimed Mr Mithika.
Interestingly, Mithika, who was one of the vocal Ruto allies against Kindiki’s impeachment, did not vote. He left Kindiki, Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Kihika (Nakuru), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Christopher Lang’at (Bomet) and John Kinyua (Laikipia) in the losing battle.
In defence, Mithika said he asked Speaker Ken Lusaka to allow Kihika to vote on his behalf because they had sensed defeat in the afternoon sitting.
“I was not elected by the people of Meru to go to the Senate and become an automated voting machine. I make independent decisions on matters before the House,” he added.
It is instructive to note that Linturi led close to 100 MPs allied to Ruto in a Press conference in Parliament, where they challenged the President to call for a snap election, boasting that they commanded the numbers.
Another Ruto ally, Senator Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia), also softened his stance against the President after backing the Kindiki ouster Motion. Mr Mbito, who is also Senate Health committee chairperson, appealed to the DP to reach out to the President.
“You cannot afford to work against the government. Uhuru is the boss up to 2022. Whoever comes in after, be it the DP, we will make the decision then,” said the Senator. “We can’t afford to work at cross-roads with the boss. It’s up to the DP to find ways to mend fences with his boss.”
Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said the voting pattern was about individual interests and survival.
“Committee chairpersons jumped ship to save themselves from the axe. They knew what was to come next after they failed to show up at State House. They threw Kindiki under the bus, leaving him with only seven votes, including his. Never trust the mob,” he said.
Jubilee Deputy Secretary General Caleb Kositany claimed members were coerced and intimated to back the Motion.
Pro-handshake lawmakers, however, said the outcome of the Senate vote was an indication that Ruto had “imaginary numbers” in Parliament.