Wetangula under siege as political ground shifts

 National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula. [John Muchucha, Standard]

If the unfolding political events in the Western region is anything to go by, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula is a man under siege.

From the pressure of folding his Ford Kenya party to join the ruling UDA to the emergence of Tawe movement in Western which is being propagated by Trans Nzoia Governor George Natembeya to pressure of having his ally Susan Nakhumicha resign as Health Cabinet Secretary over the doctors' strike, Wetangula is not sitting pretty.

Prior to her appointment as the Health CS, Nakhumicha vied for Trans Nzoia Women Representative on Ford Kenya party ticket in the 2022 General Election taking the third position after garnering 32,497, Democratic Action Party-Kenya (DAP-K) candidate Phanice Khatundi got 65,641 and UDA’s Lilian Chebet Siyoi emerged the winner after garnering 102,488 votes.

With Embakasi East MP Babu Owino threatening to file an impeachment motion against the CS before the National Assembly, Wetangula could be between a rock and a hard place, as he will have to decide on the fate of his ally.

Owino claimed that his motion, which has already received the support of 111 MPs, is based on two grounds: gross violation of the Constitution and incompetence saying the doctors' strike, which began on March 15, has crippled Kenya's healthcare system and denied scores of citizens their basic right to healthcare.

And while Nakhumicha is a national figure thanks to her position, she is also embroiled in Trans Nzoia local politics and has from time to time had an altercation with Natembeya in what pundits believe she is angling to dislodge the first-term governor.

Last month, the CS hit out at the governor over the state of the health sector in the county.

"The hospitals I have are Level 6 and it is the governor's responsibility to improve these hospitals, tell the governor to ensure they have enough medicine and if he will not I will come here myself and do something for these people. It is important that leaders become responsible and the government has given the governors county funds on time. The president announced that the government has released Sh32 billion to counties and that is to allow them to deliver services to Kenyans." she said in Matisi Ward

In a rebuttal, Natembeya called out Nakhumicha for overstepping her mandate and told her to steer clear from politicking and focus on her ministerial duties.

He further accused the Health CS of misplaced priorities saying she should instead work on solving the critical problems in the health sector.

"We have a serious problem in the Ministry of Health because there are many problems which ought to have already been solved and they are still stuck," the governor said in Kitale town on Saturday.

"She said that she is able to build a hospital in Matisi because she represents the health sector, so why Matisi, or is Matisi the entire nation? She would have gone to Turkana, West Pokot but she should know that the law does not allow a CS to come directly and install a facility in counties. Even if she builds a facility here she must speak to me. The moment you become a state officer you put politics aside," he added.

While President William Ruto is keen on having the Kenya Kwanza affiliate parties dissolve and join UDA, Ford Kenya has maintained that it will not heed the calls and instead will remain as an independent party.

Bungoma Senator David Wafula, last month maintained that the Ford-Kenya party will not fold to join UDA as proposed by UDA Secretary General Cleophas Malala.

He said the current party leadership would not allow Ford Kenya to fold, arguing that there was no agreement in Kenya Kwanza for the dissolution of affiliate parties.

“It was the first party to defend devolution in the country and to us it is a political inheritance and we can’t toss, dump and destroy our inheritance because of our stomachs, we would like to assure Kenyans that our party was there, it is there and it will remain,” he said.

He reiterated that the party had its pillars across the country and they could not just wake up one day and contemplate dissolving the party.

Political pundits believe Wetangula’s woes could be stemming from his hard stance against the dissolution of Ford Kenya with others claiming UDA may be scheming to plant his checkmate to control Western politics.

According to political analyst Dr Barrack Muluka, party leaders Musalia Mudavaidi (Amani National Congress) and Wetanglua (Ford Kenya) will commit political suicide if they agree to fold their parties.

“I have worked with Musalia and he is a good man and gentleman of Kenya’s politics in the style of Mwai Kibaki but the Western region has not been with him but has largely been the with Raila Oidnga and to some extent a section of it going with Wetangula but when he was appointed Prime Cabinet Secretary there has been a possibility to the extent that he will be his own man and stand for President in 2027,” Muluka said.

He opined that the Western region viewed the government as an interregnum, an interval or pause between two periods of office, and that there was a feeling by locals that there ought to be a new government in 2027.

“If you will be in the shadows of the President, even if he makes you his running mate you will be doomed. The death of ANC comes with the exit of Mudavadi and the same case is with Wetangula,” he said.

Natembeya on the other hand has intensified its charm offensive mission in the Western in an apparent bid to upstage Wetangula and his party’s influence in the region.

On Tuesday, during an interview on Spice FM, Natembeya said his movement was keen on urging his community peers to reject 'bad things' which he claimed to have been orchestrated by the ‘bad leaders from the Western region.’

“There is a culture of predominant leaders who believe when you join leadership you must get behind them and we have remained backwards for over 30 years and this is what we are seeking to correct because poverty has been orchestrated by somebody so as to control them,” he said.

He claimed that Wetangula bargained for National Assembly Speaker position 'using a funny explanation’ and that he delivered Bungoma to President Ruto yet has never bargained anything on behalf of the community.

“Wetangula came with a funny explanation that he delivered Bungoma with the 200,000 that voted for Ruto and bargained for himself for his post, we want the leaders to come together and bargain on behalf of the community. If the President wants the Luhya vote he can go to Raila who has over 20 MPs while Ford Kenya, DAP Kenya and ANC have five out of over 40 MPs so the dormant political figure is ODM and we want to change all this as a community we can bargain for ourselves as a community and not as individuals,” he said.

Muluka said speculations was rife that the Tawe movement was being bankrolled by the President but if Wetangula stayed put, he would not lose his influence.

However, Malala has refuted the claims saying the tiff between Wetanglua and Natembeya was a local affair and UDA could not seek to upset the Speaker, a party leader of Kenya Kwanza affiliate outfit.

"We would not in any way seek to create disharmony in any of our party affiliates, but since I come from Western and being an elder brother between the two by the dint of governing the ruling party, I have invited the two leaders together for a truce later this month,” the UDA secretary-general told The Standard on phone.