Since 1902

Senator's outburst reveals Ruaraka land report games

Former Education Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i with Education PS Dr Belio Kipsang at a past press conference. Reports have emerged on how senators voted on the Ruaraka Land saga report to protect them.  [Moses Omusula, Standard]

A statement by a senator has lifted the lid on behind-the-scenes intrigues that preceded rejection in the Senate of the Sh1.5 billion Ruaraka land saga report.

A Hansard report on proceedings on the afternoon of November 27 seem to corroborate claims by Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot that he led Jubilee senators in a mass walkout to defeat the land report that had indicted Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i and Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang.

The walkout was meant to deny the House much-needed numbers and effectively defeat, on technical grounds, the report by the Senate County Public Accounts and Investment Committee (CPAIC).

Records of the House proceedings show that out of the 47 elected senators, only 19 participated in the vote to either adopt or reject the report after their colleagues walked out immediately the division bell rung signalling time to vote.

Fifteen senators voted in support of the motion that would have led to the dismissal of Dr Matiang'i and Dr Kipsang from government while four voted to reject the report.

The 15 senators who voted for the report's adoption were from opposition parties with the exception of Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja from Jubilee.

Only four out of 25 Jubilee senators participated in the vote during the session that was steered by Deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Gideon Moi (Baringo) voted to shoot down the report. 

Mr Cheruiyot was among 20 Jubilee senators who were absent from the Chambers when the House was voting on the crucial decision.

Interestingly, the second-term senator had described the report as "brilliant work on a matter of extreme public interest" when he made his contribution on the floor of the House.

He, however, sought for the amendment of a section that recommended Matiang'i and Kipsang be held responsible to allow for further investigations.

Public funds

"I must commend you and wish that we could perhaps have the same kind of exposé in many of the CPAIC issues. Especially things to do with how public funds are spent in counties so that we get to debate matters to finality and with better information," he said.

But last Sunday, Cheruiyot claimed he was instructed to lobby members to shoot down the report.

"About six months ago, some people brought some issues against CS Matiang'i in the Senate. DP Ruto summoned me to his office and when I went there I found the CS. When we went to the Senate, I led a walkout of Jubilee senators from the chambers and the motion was defeated,” he claimed.

The Ruaraka land report was backed mainly by senators allied to the National Super Alliance. They included Issa Juma Boy (Kwale), Charles Ekal Imana (Turkana), Mohamed Faki (Mombasa), Boniface Kabaka (Machakos), Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay), George Khaniri (Vihiga) and Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni).

Others were Johnes Mwaruma (Taita Taveta), Ochillo Ayacko (Migori), Ledama Ole Kina (Narok), James Orengo (Siaya), Fred Outa (Kisumu), Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) and Enock Wambua (Kitui).

Yesterday, Mr Kajwang', who is the CPAIC chairman, said the disclosure had vindicated his committee from claims that it was engaged in a witch-hunt targeting some State officers.

“It is true that some senators were whipped to stay out so as to protect Matiang'i and Kipsang. I feel vindicated by the claims that I did my job and tabled a report in the Senate,” said Kajwang’.

Mutula claimed that Cheruiyot was not honest with his assertions, arguing that the senators were not protecting Matiang'i.

“What Cheruiyot is not telling the country is they were protecting Kipsang, and that Matiang'i just happened to be a beneficiary of their action,” he said.

Sakaja described as 'curious' the way his colleagues behaved on that day.

“I was not approached but I could see members being mobilised. The matter touched on my county and I voted with my conscience. It is terrible that serious matters can be reduced to interests,” he said.