Moses Wetangula recognises Jubilee as parliamentary party

Nominated MP Sabina Chege on October 25, 2023. [Denis Kibuchi, Standard]

After a five-month stalemate over who should lead opposition troops in Parliament, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetangula finally okayed the removal of Nominated MP Sabina Chege as Deputy Minority Whip. 

But in an unprecedented move, the Speaker recognised the former ruling Jubilee Party, as a parliamentary party.

Jubilee has two factions, one led by Chege as party leader and East African Legislative Assembly MP, Kanini Kega as Secretary General, while the rival camp recognizes former President Uhuru Kenyatta as their party leader and Jeremiah Kioni as secretary General.

The new twist came after almost half a year of back and forth, court rulings and threats from different quarters.

During his ruling on the replacement of Ms Chege as Deputy Minority Whip with Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje who was nominated by Azimio, Wetangula said Jubilee had met the threshold to be declared a parliamentary party.

The leadership change comes after months of push and pull between the opposition, the Speaker and the Jubilee faction allied with President William Ruto on one side and the Kioni faction which is allied to Azimio leader Raila Odinga.

“That there currently exists no bar against the decision made by the minority party to replace its Whip. Standing order 20a (5) requires the Speaker to communicate the decision to replace the Whip to the House, in this regard, Hon Mark Mwenje forth replaces Sabina Chege as the Deputy Whip of the minority party,” Speaker ruled.

The saga started on April 6 when Azimio made a communication to the Speaker with an intention to replace Chege with Mwenje, after she indicated that she would henceforth be working with the Kenya Kwanza government.

"In the opinion of the coalition, my submission is that since I informed you of the changes to date, Sabina Chege who has been holding that office illegally whatever benefits she had been enjoying should be reversed and Mwenje should be compensated," said Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi

In his ruling, Wetangula directed Jubilee to be recognized as a parliamentary party, in view of having more than 18 MPs required by the Standing Orders, and 21 MPs supporting Chege.

"…. It is therefore logically followed that the current certainty with requirement to the affairs of the Jubilee party doesn’t abode well for the continuity of the business of the House and the full participation of the members of the party in the House standing Order 20 governs the manner of recognizing political parties designating party leaders and whips," the Speaker ruled.

According to standing orders 20 (a) a party is declared a parliamentary party if it beats the threshold of having at 18 members, citing a letter dated June 13 that had signatures of more than 20 members

"On June 13, 2023, Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama wrote to the Speaker on behalf of members of Jubilee conveying names and signatures of 21 out of 28 members expressing their support of the recognition of Jubilee as a parliamentary party," said the Speaker.

"A small function of the members of the party seems to be aligned with the minority party whereas 21 out of the 28 members have expressed their unwillingness to be associated with the minority party," he added

The Speaker further said that to give effect the provision of article 36 of the Constitution on freedom of association, which gives each member of the House the right to determine with entities they wish to identify with and the right to make political choices the Jubilee party was hereby recognised as a parliamentary party.

This then means that Parliament now recognises Jubilee that is under the Kanini-Kega faction meaning any letters directed to the Speaker from the Kioni led faction will not be recognised.

However, confusion later emerged after Chege was made the interim Whip of Jubilee as the House waits upon the final determination of the matters relating to the party by the competent authorities a position that is not under the Standing Orders.

"Consequently the honourable Sabina Chege by virtue of the written support of 21 members of the Jubilee party in a letter dated June 13, and on account of having the last official recognised by the Jubilee party forming part of the leadership is allowed to perform in the role of interim Whip of that party (Jubilee) in the House," he said

Wetangula further told the two warring factions of the Jubilee party to stop dragging his name into their supremacy battle.

A few hours before the ruling, in a meeting held at the Jubilee Headquarters in Nairobi, Jubilee Parliamentary Group under the Kanini Kega faction had said the “purported” appointment of Embakasi West MP to the position of Deputy Minority Whip is invalid.

"The Jubilee Parliamentary Group had endorsed the resolution of the National Executive Committee on October 23 affirming that Sabina Chege remains the bonafide Deputy Minority Whip of Azimio and the purported appointment of Mwenje as invalid for the reason that the Azimio coalition has not followed any procedural process to make any changes."

The Kioni-led faction is today expected to hold its National Executive Committee meeting at their offices in Nairobi.