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Leadership crisis jolts Senate as bid to strike cash deal fails

By Roselyne Obala and Moses Nyamori | August 13th 2020

The leadership crisis at the Senate deepened on Wednesday after it emerged Speaker Ken Lusaka (pictured) had erroneously adjourned the House sitting.

This development compounds the current crisis that has seen senators fail eight times to unlock the stalemate on sharing of county revenue.

Lusaka had ordered that senators convene today for a ninth time to unlock the standoff, but some members faulted his directive, raising procedural issues.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr Wednesday collected signatures to force a special sitting on Monday instead of today as directed by the Speaker.

“I have requested for a special sitting because the House resolved to sit once a week on Tuesday. The Speaker adjourned the House unprocedurally and you cannot assign yourself the Standing Orders,” Mutula said.

“The Majority leadership must assign the Standing Orders for the sitting since the House was adjourned without its resolutions.”

The senator said they expected a special gazette notice on the special sitting last evening or today morning to provide the way forward on the business of the House.

This transpired as the leadership crisis in parties intensified, given that some senators have openly defied their respective leaders’ positions on the way forward in the sharing of Sh316.5 billion among counties.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga and Wiper’s Kalonzo Musyoka have tried in vain to convince their troops to adopt a common stand on the matter.

Yesterday, some senators took to Twitter to weigh in on the matter.

“The Senate is under siege. There is also a leadership crisis of insurmountable magnitude,” said Mandera Senator Mohamed Mahamud.

“We have been ‘Lusakad’ once again but we shall remain focused. Ooh Senate, where is your soul? Where is your conscience? Where is your spirit?” quipped Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, a Ruto ally.

Going by the latest public exchanges on the controversial proposed formula to share revenue among the 47 counties, party leaders appear increasingly unable to rally their troops to get the vote, exposing a crisis amid cracks in Senate.

The situation is dire given that the Senate, previously referred to as the ‘Upper House’, ‘House of reason’ and ‘nyumba ya wazee’ has now been dubbed a ‘marketplace’ where claims of bribery, intimidation and threats have become the order of the day.

For a record eighth time, the Senate on Tuesday night failed to make a decision on the controversial revenue formula proposed by the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), exposing a major leadership dilemma, with counties fearing that the row will hurt their operations.

Order and decorum

On Tuesday, members rejected Deputy Speaker Margaret Kamar’s guidance of the House for allegedly “being conflicted”.

Lusaka had to task Nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga to steer the proceeding instead of Kamar.

“This is a House of order and decorum. I am ashamed to witness almost a direct altercation between senators James Orengo and Kipchumba Murkomen. Shouting like happens in a marketplace doesn’t make you a better Senate,” said Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura. “This heckling must be tamed.”

Orengo, however, charged that “even the people who are quiet today must be heard”.

“Today we are becoming a kangaroo Senate because only the majority can be heard,” he said.

Even after Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata affirmed that he had instructions from the president to ensure the vote passes, he faced opposition from his own deputy, Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo, whose county stands to lose substantially.

Kang’ata cautioned: “If we pass this motion (senators Johnstone Sakaja and Mithika Linturi amendments) today, counties are going to lose money today and not tomorrow. My motion was proposing to postpone the implementation of the formula for two years.”

The Sakaja/Linturi amendment sailed through 25 against 20, which saw Orengo’s side resort to delaying tactics to block another vote on the amended report of the committee.

“I know that when the vote comes, they’ll carry the day. I don’t mind. So today, in this Parliament where there are senior counsel, where there are statesmen ... you’re stopping someone from speaking on an important issue like division of revenue?”

Like Kang’ata, Orengo faced a rebellion from the Minority side. He, at one time, urged the president to be available for consultation, pegging the loss on a procedural motion on his “unavailability to guide the process”.

Uhuru and Raila allies were accused of conspiracy to whip senators like Kakamega’s Cleophas Malala to snub the sitting and deny the Sakaja team the votes. Raila has urged senators to support the proposal by CRA.

On two separate sittings, where senators failed to unlock the deadlock and Lusaka adjourned the House, the Speaker stood accused of acting unprocedurally. But Lusaka has defended himself and his office, saying he followed precedents, tradition and Standing Orders.

End to stalemate

“Due to technicalities and the requirements for a special sitting, we shall have the sitting on Monday,” he said, adding: “I honestly and deep down my heart want this stalemate to end. My commitment to this issue is unequivocal.”

The divisions in the House have resulted in numerous amendments to the report by the Finance committee chaired by Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru. Senators rejected a suggestion that sees 39 counties gain and eight covered by the Equalisation fund, while the Kibiru report puts counties gaining at 29 from 22.

“The Linturi and Murkomen formula wants to punish Murang’a and Nyeri counties. Why? What wrong have we done to you?” Kang’ata asked

Murkomen responded: “Stop your obsession with me. You are now in leadership. Respect my position as a backbencher and lead.”

Senator Kithure Kindiki called on his colleagues to negotiate with the government to release more funds to counties.

Since 2013, Uhuru has not lost any business in the Senate, including the controversial Security Laws (Amendment), Elections laws (Amendment) and Public Audit law.

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