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Magic 8: The MPs who will make or break Ruto

By Roselyne Obala and Moses Nyamori | May 21st 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Deputy President William Ruto a past press briefing in April. In a close game of numbers, it would take fewer than 10 legislators to determine his fate should an impeachment motion be brought against him. [File, Standard]

As a resurgent President Uhuru Kenyatta oversees the purge of rebels allied to his deputy from Jubilee Party ranks, the threat of impeachment hangs over William Ruto like the Sword of Damocles.

Those in the DP’s camp – better known as Team Tangatanga – believe that once President Kenyatta has regained control of the party, he will seek to expel the source of his vexation.

Sources hint that grounds for removing DP Ruto from office have already been drafted.

The DP will reportedly be charged with undermining the war on corruption, engaging in early 2022 presidential campaigns, reorganising the government’s development agenda, fighting government policies and its officers, and resisting unity efforts, among others.

Ouster attempt

How this proposed ouster attempt ends up being different from previous threats to impeach that never got off the ground will inevitably boil down to who has the numbers in the National Assembly.

To move a motion to impeach the deputy president, the law requires that an MP must garner the support of at least 116 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 Speaker Justin Muturi to decide if the grounds stipulated meet the threshold.

But the stakes are 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.

Ruto’s camp can currently count on the support of 124 MPs to scuttle the ouster bid.

The list of names is based on MPs who joined DP Ruto in writing protest letters to the Registrar of Political Parties to challenge contentious Jubilee Party appointments

The rest belong to other parties or are Independents who are vocal defenders of the deputy president.lThis is assuming that some will not wilt under the immense pressure inherent in the exercise, or not be partial to behind-the-door dealings.

If only eight legislators flip, the motion would be passed on the floor of the House.

Uhuru’s camp is in the process of crafting coalitions with various political parties to shore up its numbers, but even with this, it would be able to marshal only 225 MPs – eight short of the numbers required to turn the Senate into the next battleground.

However, there are 14 Independent MPs in the House whose loyalties are divided between the two camps. This group could prove to be 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 voted to uphold the charges, the deputy president would cease to hold office.

Last week’s purge at State House gave insight into Uhuru’s plan to stamp his authority in the Senate by going after Ruto’s men and women in strategic positions.

Jubilee kicked out senators Kipchumba Murkomen and Susan Kihika as majority leader and chief whip, respectively.

Kanu’s Samuel Poghisio took over as majority leader after the independence party signed a coalition agreement with Jubilee. Ms Kihika’s assistant, Irungu Kang’ata, took over her seat.

The threat to expel senators nominated by Jubilee who snubbed the parliamentary group meeting is a clear indicator that the party will brook no dissent and members must toe the line.

The ouster of Tangatanga sympathisers from the leadership of parliamentary committees and other House positions is expected to continue, with party loyalists picked as replacements.

Banking on support

The onslaught is headed to the National Assembly where Uhuru, who has 50 Jubilee MPs he can count on, will be banking on support from ODM’s 76 members.

In this game of numbers, Uhuru has extended an olive branch to Kalonzo Musyoka, whose Wiper party has 23 MPs, and Musalia Mudavadi whose Amani National Congress would give him an additional 14 MPs.

The president already has 10 new foot soldiers in his ranks after signing a post-election pact with Kanu leader, Senator Gideon Moi.

“The DP’s goose is cooked. You should choose your battles wisely. You cannot be a deputy and be calling shots like the boss. Let’s now see his numbers when we are done with the clean-up,” a senior Jubilee official told The Standard.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu said the DP should be cited for violation of the Constitution in discharging his duties as the principal assistant to the president.

“He has directly and indirectly undermined and betrayed the president,” said Mr Wambugu in a social media post that sources said was intended to “test the waters and trigger debate”.

According to the MP, Ruto’s allies have been linked to corruption and opposing the Building Bridges Initiative spearheaded by Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

“While the president was clear he would fight corruption, his deputy was using his cronies to defend themselves, claiming the war on corruption was being politicised,” he stated.

Wambugu said Uhuru had repeatedly warned politicians against early campaigns but the DP had chosen to ignore him.

“To add insult to injury, he concentrated in the president’s own central Kenya backyard to spite him. He then went around propping up local politicians with harambee funds, and promising others the 2022 DP position for support despite Uhuru’s warning.”

Reached for comment, Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju said Uhuru’s focus is to ensure his legacy agenda is executed properly.

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, a close ally of Ruto, however, scoffed at the impeachment plans. He mockingly suggested that Jubilee could proceed with the motion if it would resolve the challenges facing Kenyans.

“We believe in democracy not coercion,” said Mr Ichung’wa.

Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny, a fierce critic of the DP, said the focus of the president “is to sweep clean the leadership in Parliament and regain control before giving direction on the next course of action”.

He added: “We are not on impeachment now. We will cross that bridge when we get there. Our agenda is to sanitise both Houses so that the president’s agenda is executed well.”

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