Uhuru battles for retirement perks just like Kalonzo, Raila did in 2014

Kalonzo Musyoka, Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga dance during an Azimio rally held at Jacaranda Grounds in Embakasi, Nairobi on March 12, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s frustrations over delayed release of his Sh1 billion budget brings to mind 10 years ago when he blocked former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka from accessing their retirement perks.

The old adage ‘what you sow is what you reap' aptly captures Uhuru's situation. Or better still, the Biblical teaching in Luke 6:38: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

Uhuru then refused to sign into law a Bill that would have seen Raila and Kalonzo access their benefits even after his troops in Parliament rejected his advice and approved it on April 30, 2014.

The two, who were members of the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD), were denied millions of shillings in retirement benefits, a fleet of State-maintained cars, VIP protection and a retinue of qualified employees of their choice.

The former President believed assenting the Bill into law would mean shooting himself in the foot as the monies would be meant to fund private political ambitions, which Uhuru and his handlers interpreted as a political suicide.

Raila criticised Uhuru for the move, maintaining that while the third President Mwai Kibaki, who was his co-principal in the grand coalition government between 2008 and 2013, had served his two terms and hence had retired, his office of the Prime Minister was only for one term.

“They have refused to give me my dues for the term I served as Prime Minister when my counterpart who was my co-principal got everything. They even went to Parliament to cancel the very minimum in the Bill. The money is not meant for political activities because I should get 80 per cent of my salary,” Raila lamented.

It was then that Uhuru wrote a memo to Parliament that gave rise to amendments of the Act, a move that led to the CORD leaders' turn to the High Court and in 2020, the three-judge bench to nullify Section Four of the Act which informed Uhuru's administration to deny Raila and Kalonzo their perks.

The Act spelt out active participation in politics, removal from office for violation of the Constitution and conviction for an offence as grounds to deny one the perks.

“A declaration be and is hereby issued that Section 4 of the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and designated State Officers) Act, 2015, is unconstitutional on grounds that it offends the doctrine of separation of powers and the common law principles of ambiguity, uncertainty, vagueness, unreasonableness, double jeopardy and retrospective application,” the judges ruled.

Now the former President has found himself in a similar situation as he accuses his successor President William Ruto of frustrating his entitlement to close to Sh1 billion that has not been disbursed to his office in financial years 2022-2023 and 2023-2024.

Just like Uhuru’s position in 2015, President Ruto’s spanner boys led by National Majority Leader Kimani Ichungwa and Speaker Moses Wetang'ula have in the past wanted Uhuru to quit active politics for him to enjoy his benefits.

"Uhuru Kenyatta, this is free advice... The law says when you retire, after six months no politics. Please abide by the law," Wetang'ula said on April 30, last year, in a church function attended by Ruto at Makutano in West Pokot.

Despite being the Jubilee Party leader, Uhuru is also the Azimio coalition chairperson.

But his spokesperson, Kanze Dena, on Monday said the court dispute surrounding the leadership of the party has made it impossible for him to hand over.

"If you remember clearly after the inauguration, there was an NDC (National Delegates Conference) that was held by the Jubilee with the purpose being to begin the process of handing over the chairmanship, but as you know things went as they went and the matter is currently in court," she said. 

Dena was, however, quick to point out this should not be the basis for the government to subject him to the treatment he is currently receiving, noting that the retired Head of State has lately kept off political matters.

Political pundits and leaders nonetheless maintain that despite Uhuru’s conduct when he was the President, two wrongs do not make a right.

“The precedence should just be stopped by the strict adherence to the law. The decent thing is to abide by the law and the Constitution,” said National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.

Analyst Charles Nganga said: “While it is important for leaders to understand that power is transient. It is also equally crucial for leaders to understand that they should not do to others what they would cry if the same is undone to them. The best thing for President Ruto is to abide by the law and reject overtures to punish his predecessor.”