Kenya's messy and noisy second Senate set to hold its final sitting

A screenshot of when Senators took on each other over the Coalitions Bill.

The Senate is expected to hold its final sitting on June 21 starting 10am and thereafter adjourn indefinitely following a motion tabled on Thursday evening by Minority Leader James Orengo.

Outgoing senators, who are part of the 12th Parliament, took oath of office on August 31, 2017 with a promise of a smooth ride as the majority outnumbered the minority by a big margin.

In the 47 counties, parties under the defunct National Super Alliance (NASA) - ODM, Wiper, Ford Kenya and ANC - secured 18 seats while the ruling Jubilee Party got 24 seats.

Kanu had two elected senators while Party for Development and Reforms (PDR) and Chama Cha Uzalendo had one each, and one independent member.

While sharing 20 nomination slots at the Senate, Jubilee took 10, ODM seven, while ANC, Wiper and Kanu got one slot each.

The House, however, started hitting turbulence days after the infamous March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and the then opposition leader Raila Odinga of ODM.

The handshake was blamed for the subsequent changes in leadership as those already in position were removed and replaced in messy debates some of which attracted legal battles.

The opposition was the first casualty after Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula, a NASA co-principal, was ousted as Minority Leader.

A March 15, 2018 debate on his ouster had the backing of 20 out of 27 NASA senators.

The decision was, however, suspended until the following week when it was upheld at a NASA Senate Parliamentary Group meeting that saw him replaced with Senator Orengo (Siaya).

While the ANC senators supported Wetang'ula’s removal, their party leader Musalia Mudavadi distanced himself from their decision, saying it was individual and not the party’s position.

“This was a move to embarrass Wetang'ula by some people who decided to dethrone him. If need be, we will remain alone as the opposition as everyone else joins government,” said Mudavadi.

Days after his removal, Wetang'ula lashed out at Raila who had indicated that NASA would hold a retreat to discuss the matter.

“Let Raila and ODM keep their seat and let the game begin. That is not what I bargained for our people. Now we have seen their vote of thanks,” Wetang'ula said.

Today, Wetang'ula and Mudavadi have ganged up against Raila, who is vying for the presidency, as the duo rally the Western Kenya bloc to vote for his rival, Deputy President William Ruto.

The purge and reorganisation of the House leadership did not stop at the minority side. The axe fell on the majority following an infighting that saw the Jubilee Party split down the middle.

There emerged a group allied to President Kenyatta (Kieleweke) and another allied to Ruto (Tangatanga), which saw the president sign a post-election coalition agreement with Kanu and PDR.

In a March 10, 2020 Parliamentary Group meeting attended by Jubilee, Kanu and PDR senators, Uhuru announced the removal of Senate leaders who had been labelled as rebels (Tangatanga).

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) was replaced by Kanu’s Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot) deputised by PDR’s Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo).

Majority Chief Whip Senator Susan Kihika (Nakuru) was replaced by Murang'a Senator Irungu Kang’ata (Jubilee) deputised by the party’s nominated senator Haji Farhiya Ali.

“No vote was carried out as required by Standing Order 19 to remove the Majority Leader and Majority Chief Whip,” Murkomen told the press after the changes.

Kihika took issue with the Parliamentary Group meeting saying that it didn’t meet the minimum threshold in terms of the number of senators in attendance.

“They forged signatures. They had only 11 Jubilee senators against the minimum of 18. It is a requirement that there is notice of invitation, the agenda must be clear and we were not aware of what that meeting was about,” said Kihika.

The duo also disputed the legality of the Jubilee and Kanu coalition deal, terming it invalid and saying that Jubilee National Executive Committee (NEC) had not met to approve the decision.

“The purported argument that Kanu would have participated…in voting us out or a Kanu leader being voted to be a leader in Jubilee; that is preposterous, laughable and the biggest joke you can have in this part of town,” said Murkomen.

Kihika and Murkomen moved to the High Court challenging their removal in a suit that listed Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, the then Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju, Kanu’s chairman Nelson Dzuya and the Registrar of Political Parties as the respondents.

Although the two later withdrew the case, the respondents were in October 2020 ordered by the court to foot half the costs incurred in the suit as would be determined by the deputy registrar.

In January 2021, Senator Kang’ata fell on the same sword as his predecessor after a letter originating from him to the president on the unpopularity of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI)-backed referendum in the Mt Kenya region.

Although the letter was largely dismissed, Kang’ata, who was expected to take a different stand based on his position, later admitted its authenticity and apologised to Uhuru in a January 4 tweet.

In January 2022, Kang’ata found himself in Kihika’s shoes after he was officially removed from the post and replaced by Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi.

Kang’ata immediately defected to Ruto’s camp where he was received with praises for what the DP termed as "speaking his mind and the reality on the ground about the BBI".

On March 13, 2022, Wamatangi joined Ruto camp saying his decision was informed by the voters.