Rift Valley, Kenya: Deputy President William Ruto and National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, who also belongs to the United Republican Party (URP) are in the crosshairs of disgruntled Rift Valley MPs.
Mr Ruto’s situation was triggered by his defense of besieged Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru while Mr Duale waded into trouble when he made disparaging remarks against controversial Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter.
Ruto’s statement that he and President Uhuru Kenyatta were responsible for recent changes at the National Youth Service (NYS), which have sparked a storm because of the removal of Kiplimo Rugut as director, has apparently done little to calm the rising tide.
Duale, who was nominated by Ruto’s URP for the leadership post in the House, has infuriated fellow party lawmakers for belittling remarks targeted at Mr Keter.
Yesterday, MPs who spoke to The Standard said it was disrespectful of Duale to refer to his fellow MP as ‘bubu’ (dumb). Duale had said that Keter, who has become too critical of the ruling coalition at public rallies, avoided debates in Parliament.
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The MPs asked Duale to apologise to the Nandi Hills electorate and their MP for the remarks he made in Kericho during a function that was also attended by Ruto.
The MPs —Julius Melly (Tinderet), Elijah Lagat (Chesumei), Stephen Bitok (Mosop), Zakayo Cheruiyot (Kuresoi South), Alex Kosgei (Emgwen) and William Kisang (Marakwet West) —told Duale off for disrespecting them.
But Bowen Kangogo (Marakwet East) said Duale had nothing to apologise for, arguing that it was Keter who should seek forgiveness from the Jubilee coalition “for being disrespectful to the Government”.
Mr Cheruiyot accused Duale of disrespecting Kalenjin leaders. “Duale should understand Kalenjin politics are dynamic and stop playing games,” he insisted.
Mr Lagat warned: “Duale should talk to us with respect not with contempt and insults. Every leader deserves to be respected. Nobody should accuse us when we speak the truth. Duale is not a roll-call keeper in Parliament. Keter has made contributions.”
Referring to the recent crackdown on terrorism, Mr Melly argued, “Kalenjin leaders are not dumb and we will not be stopped from raising concerns touching on our people. When Duale’s people had problems recently, he came out strongly and nobody accused him.”
Melly said Duale was insensitive towards Keter, the electorate and people with disabilities, and should apologise. “As an independent leader, I did not like the remark by Duale. He stooped too low,” Melly said, adding that Ms Waiguru’s impeachment process was going on.
Waiguru is in trouble with MPs over the NYS replacement with Nelson Githinji as Director General.
The Deputy President has defended Waiguru, asking the reportedly more than 100 MPs who have signed a petition for the censure Motion against the CS to stop targeting “junior people” and take him and the President head on.
But Ruto’s remarks have not gone down well with leaders from the region and were the subject of a popular regional radio talk show.
Yesterday, Cheruiyot questioned why Ruto told MPs off over the issue. “When you say you are in Government, who are your trusted lieutenants? You have a small window to reconsider your political leadership style,” Cheruiyot warned.
Cheruiyot challenged the DP to come out clean on the issues raised by the MPs if he intends to maintain support from the community.
“You cannot tell Kalenjin MPs to stop asking questions. Those are petty intrigues and will lead us nowhere,” Cheruiyot said adding: “If Ruto was sent by the President to Kericho for damage-control, then it’s wrong.”
Mr Songok said the electorate in Nandi Hills elected Keter to represent them in the National Assembly and it was therefore “regrettable that Duale made disrespectful remarks against him”.
Mr Bitok said every elected leader has a right to express his or her opinion about what is happening but emphasised that politicians should respect one another.
“We should be moderate in how we handle issues so that we don’t cause disunity. We need to sit and solve issues in a friendly environment as leaders,” he said.
Bitok said the dispute should be handled amicably and challenged URP leaders to protect the party and the Deputy President as their party leader.
Bomet Governor Isaac Ruto asked URP to call an urgent meeting to sort out issues that are threatening to tear the party apart. “I want to ask URP to call a meeting urgently so that we can sort out issues affecting it at the moment if it wants to stay on as a party and see tomorrow.”
He added: “Everyone is free to speak his or her mind and some URP leaders should stop their harassment and chest-thumping.”
Additional reporting by Patrick Kibet and Gilbert Kimutai