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Senate standoff as Raila, Uhuru and Ruto allies flex their muscle

By Roselyne Obala | October 6th 2021


Senate in session [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Showdown looms in the Senate after allies of the Deputy President William Ruto opposed changes to the committees’ leadership populated by members in President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s camp.

The hardline position taken by Tangatanga senators has grounded some committees business due to quorum hitch.

The proposal is contained in a Motion sponsored by the Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot).

For instance, the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations chaired by Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang' lost three members after two died while one was de-whipped during the Jubilee Party purge on allies of Ruto last year.

They are the late Machakos Senator Boniface Kabaka, the late Nominated Senator Victor Prengei and Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura, who was de-whipped and expelled from Jubilee following the recommendations of the disciplinary committee.

Kajwang’ said his committee cannot deliberate on a matter concerning the transfer of function as stipulated in Schedule Four of the Constitution due to quorum hitch.

“I urge the leadership to prioritise the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations so that other issues of moving people from one committee to the other can take as much time as the House wishes,” he said.

Last week, the Senator admitted that the committee is not functional and cited Senate Standing Order 191 on composition of select committees.

Former committee chairman John Kinyua (Laikipia) noted that the Senate’s core mandate is devolution and therefore the standoff is hurting the House's activities.

“Our work is to protect the interests of our counties. From where I sit, if that committee which I was chairing is not functional, it means that this House is almost grinding to a halt. I request Poghisio to fill the committee as he tries to consult on others," said Kinyua.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula has asked Majority and Minority Leaders and their Whips to consult. “That is the work of Whips. This House has cultivated some tremendous public confidence and respect. For us to degenerate into altercations, quarrels and shouting at each other over committees is beneath our dignity," he said.

"They cannot go to the committee they have been assigned because the House has not approved the movement. So, it cuts both ways. Devolution committee is suffering, other committees are also suffering."

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei called for consensus. “If they try to bring it now, we will respectfully shoot the same Motion down,” said Cherargei, an ally of Ruto who was also de-whipped as the Justice and Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee chair.

Poghisio yesterday pleaded with members to give the leadership time to consult. "This is a matter of interest to Senators and I assure the House that the changes proposed are geared towards enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in the committees," he said.

Poghisio sought to reconstitute the 12 Standing Committees, including election of chairperson and their vice. They are Agriculture, which is chaired by Njeru Ndwiga, Devolution (Kajwang'), Education (Alice Milgo), Energy (Ephraim Maina), Finance and Budget (Charles Kibiru), ICT (Gideon Moi), JLAC (Okongo Omogeni), and Labour and Social Welfare (Johnston Sakaja).

Others are Lands (Mwangi Githiomi), National Cohesion (Naomi Shionga), National Security and Defense (Fred Outa), and Tourism (Ali Abdullahi).

Minority Leader James Orengo (Siaya) urged for a bipartisan approach and suggested a Speaker’s Kamukunji this week.

“If the Senate Majority Leader and I are given time until Tuesday afternoon, the job will be done. There is a difference between this House and the other one,” said Orengo.

Unlike the National Assembly, which has a team to deal with committee composition,  the Senate relies on consensus.

The Majority Leader also noted that some members are in many committees. “There are members who want to be in four or five committees and they hardly appear in any of them. I want us to look at that,” he urged.

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