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President Uhuru stuck with a DP he does not want

POLITICS
By Jacob Ng’etich | September 8th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta with his deputy William Ruto at JKIA. [File]

President Uhuru Kenyatta finds himself in a political quagmire stuck with belligerent Deputy President William Ruto following the end of their bromance.

The bitter fallout between the two leaders has seen allies of the president try all tricks in the political book to have him exit in vain.

The attempts began in 2020 when the purge on Ruto allies in the Jubilee Party national organs including the powerful National Management Committee (NMC) and the National Executive Council meeting (NEC).

From then on, Uhuru and Ruto have been involved in a political cat a mouse game that culminated in recent call by former asking his deputy to resign from government if he is dissatisfied.

The March 9th 2018 Handshake between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga and now, the political upheavals and attempts to clip Ruto’s political wings have been awash and in every instance, they have not come to fruition forcing strategists back to the drawing board.

The move to kick Ruto out of Jubilee deputy leader’s seat, to attempted impeachment and recent political assaults by the president, his political allies, his Cabinet Secretaries, the party’s top honchos are taking nothing to chance to see him leave.

Lifestyle bombshell

The latest being fresh calls for Ruto to declare his income following a lifestyle bombshell by Interior CS Fred Matiang’i on the properties he owns and his security detail of 257 officers.

But the DP has stuck his ground, several times using the ‘stones’ thrown at him to sometimes build his hustler nation political empire.

Immediately after he was asked by the president to resign, Ruto said he will stick to the end claiming that if he did so, he will have betrayed voters who endorsed him and Uhuru.

The political dilemma for Uhuru is what next with a deputy he no longer wants to see in his government.

Former Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando notes that Uhuru and Ruto are political twins conjoined at the hip.

“The so-called UhuRuto dynamo brain cannot be transplanted! The Constitution protects Ruto against any removal except through impeachment which is not possible now as he controls majority of Jubilee MPs, and has outspoken rebel Opposition MPs too,” said Kabando.

He noted that the more Uhuru attacks Ruto via proxies or directly, the more he becomes ‘recharged, resurgent and resoundingly stronger’ among the rank and file of Jubilee supporters and those fatigued by a compromised, nay, former Opposition.

“If Uhuru says Ruto defected to UDA, he too defected to ODM. Je, si hio sasa ni siasa ya sarakasi, kundule za nyani...cohabiting in different forests? The only way out now is to let the people decide in 336 days. Uhuru has lost the popular grip while Ruto has lost the trappings of power,” said Kabando yesterday.

He added: “The bitter truth is that Uhuru is retiring soon while Ruto has the herculean chance to directly battle with a crafty Raila.”

On impeachment, late last year, Lugari MP Ayub Savula with the support of top Jubilee leadership began collecting signatures for impeachment of the DP,  a third attempt after the calls by Siaya Senator James Orengo and a group of Jubilee MPs allied to Uhuru.

None of the three attempts have gone beyond the political embryonic development at the National assembly.

How this proposed ouster attempt ends up being different, will inevitably boil down to who has the numbers in the National Assembly.

Two-thirds threshold

To move a motion to impeach the DP, the law requires that an MP must garner support of at least 117 MPs (or one-third of the total number of 349).

This is assuming the mover of such a motion has satisfied the constitutional grounds for impeachment.

These include: gross violation of a provision of the Constitution or any other law; where there are serious reasons to believe that the deputy president has committed a crime under national or international law; or gross misconduct.

It would be up to National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to decide if the grounds stipulated meet the threshold.

But the stakes are even higher when it comes to actually voting to impeach the DP, with 233 MPs in the National Assembly required to pass the motion before it is taken to the Senate.

According to the list of names of MPs who have been in Ruto’s meetings at his Karen residence indicate that he has about 156 MPs allied to him in the National Assembly and 20 at the senate from 21 before the death of Nominated Senator Victor Prengei.

There are also MPs from other parties or Independents who are vocal defenders of the DP.  There are 14 Independent MPs, whose loyalties are divided between the two camps.

This group could prove decisive if an impeachment motion were to materialise.

Should the motion then go to the Senate, members would hold confirmation proceedings.

If at least two-thirds of the members vote to uphold the charges, the deputy president would cease to hold office.

“Like Siamese twins, the President and his estranged deputy were born together in a joint election and are joined at the hip. Like the twins, their process of involuntary separation would be painful and bloody. That is why they have chosen to live together in a strained marriage,” says lawyer Guandura Thuita.

He notes that Article 147 of the Constitution decrees that the DP is the Principal Assistant to the President and is to perform duties as assigned by his boss and is to act as President on any period that the president decides.

However, Thuita says since the last presidential election, none of the duo seems to enable the fulfilling of those functions.

“The DP by his conduct hasn’t been the principal assistant and the President appears to have played along and appointed Dr Matiang’i as the principal assistant. The President never seems to assign his Deputy any functions both domestically and internationally. Even when the President is absent in the country, the deputy apparently never acts,” said Thuita.

He admits that it is an uncomfortable status for all.

“On impeachment, two-thirds of all members of the National Assembly and Senate are required to impeach the Deputy – a tall order considering the massive support the Deputy attracts in both houses and his financial resources which he seems ready to unleash to achieve goals,” says Thuita.

The framers of the Constitution Thuita notes, may not have envisioned an impasse such as that between Uhuru and Ruto. He says considering the hurdle placed by the courts on casual amendments to the Constitution, it may difficult to rectify this aspect in law.

“It is now a game of wait-and-see who will blink first – the President or the Deputy. Only time will tell,” he adds.

But State House Political Affairs Director Machel Waikenda said divergence is normal and that leaders can disagree, but Kenya must move forward.

“Still, we must espouse a united administration that shuns individuality and puts the interests of mwananchi first,” he said yesterday.

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