The row over the leadership of House committees has dragged Deputy President William Ruto’s 2022 plans to the centre of a political storm that threatens to split Rift Valley support base.
Plans by the ruling Jubilee Party to oust four of its defiant members – three from Rift Valley – have divided the region’s leadership.
On one side is a group of leaders who want the defiant MPs to relinquish their slots for other regions - outside Rift Valley and Mt Kenya - so as to retain their support for Ruto’s 2022 presidential bid.
But another wing opposed to the idea argues that the DP’s ambition should not deny other leaders the opportunity to serve the electorate.
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Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago, his Nandi counterpart Stephen Sang, and MPs Cornelly Serem (Aldai), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Julius Melly (Tindiret ) and Wilson Kogo (Chesumei) accused their defiant colleagues of spoiling Ruto's 2022 chances, saying he needs support from across the country thus the need to share out positions.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto's leadership line-up for key parliamentary seats was largely influenced by 2022 succession politics, regional balance and gender balance.
“How reasonable is it for a few MPs to insist on holding onto a few committee positions at the expense of Ruto’s 2022 aspirations. The region has worked for 2022 and will not lose all that now for the sake of a few errant MPs,” said Governor Mandago.
Governor Mandago called for dialogue among all Rift Valley legislators, adding that their divisions were threatening Ruto’s ambitions.
Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills MP) was elected Labour Committee chairman, as Silas Tiren (Moiben) was voted as head of Agriculture and Livestock Committee, James Gakuya (Embakasi North) for the Broadcasting Committee and Kangogo Bowen (Marakwet East) was elected the vice chairman of the Environment, Water and Mineral Resources committee, against their party’s wishes.
Mr Keter, Mr Tiren, Mr Mosop and MP Vincent Tuwei (Mosop) hit out at Uhuru and Ruto for muzzling Parliament from doing its oversight role on the excesses of the executive.
The controversial Nandi Hills MP sneered that "Jesus may come in 2021" and expressed annoyance that Ruto’s 2022 ambitions were interfering with the independence of Parliament.
“We have had enough of the executive misusing the legislative arm of the Government to push its own agenda. We are in Parliament to represent the electorate as our mandate requires of us,” said Keter.
And Mr Tuwei said 2022 politics had put the region’s leaders on a coalition path since they were being pushed to toe a certain political line.
“Parliamentarians in this region will not allow one man’s ambitions to ruin this region; we live for the present and 2022 will take care of itself,” charged Tuwei.
Yesterday, Tiren, who has had frosty relations with Ruto since 2013, remained adamant he was elected by MPs in the committee and his constituents and would not be pushed around for political expediency.
“I respect DP Ruto and I shall accord him all the support, but I was also elected by the people of Moiben to represent them in Parliament and I wonder what I will tell them if I step down from this position which actually touches on their lives directly because they are farmers,” he said.
He went on: “I am a very quiet person who does want not trouble but at the same time I hate being taken for granted. If you rattle me then I will come to make myself clear.”
But Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju and other party leaders downplayed the rift as a normal disagreement expected in any political party.
Mr Tuju said the party was already pursuing internal dispute resolution mechanisms to avoid any fallout within the party.
“The matter has been brought to the party headquarters for internal dispute resolution systems,” he said.
“This is a free country and it is the essence of democracy that people can have different points of view but as things stand there is no crisis in the party,” he added.
Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chairman William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and Hilary Koskei (Kipkelion West) said sharing of the positions would not be influenced by 2022 succession politics but there was need for inclusivity and regional balance.
“The sharing of positions was done in good faith because if the party was to allow for free elections in the committees, there was a likelihood of having all seats taken by one or two communities. It was intended to achieve inclusivity and regional balance,” said Cheptumo.
Koskei, a Ruto’s ally in the South Rift, argued the four MPs should relinquish their positions so that other areas that also voted for Jubilee can feel accommodated.
“It was the desire of the President and his deputy that each county gets a position but we must be able to share the available slots with other parts of Kenya,” he said.