Hours after Tuesday’s presidential tongue lashing at State House, the storm turned against allies of Deputy President William Ruto at the National Assembly, including the inimitable Leader of Majority Aden Duale.
Duale and 16 Tanga Tanga allied MPs were last evening holding onto little hope as their Kieleweke counterparts turned the heat on them with blessings of State House.
As the anti-Duale chorus swelled, the 16 committee chairpersons and their deputies, considered to be disloyal to President Uhuru Kenyatta, received terse notices of their impending ouster from newly crowned Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe.
By last evening, Kieni MP Kanini Kega claimed to have gathered at least 118 signatures to kick out Duale, who on Tuesday evening told a TV show he was ready to leave.
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“I am making good progress, now at 118, way past my target of 108. And these are physical signatures, not expressions of interest. Remember we only need a simple majority since this is a matter of lack of confidence,” he said.
At the Tuesday parliamentary group meeting, Jubilee Party kicked out Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali (Mumias East) and his deputy Cecily Mbarire (nominated) but retained Duale.
Wangwe assumed office immediately, even before the National Assembly ratified the changes, writing to about 16 committee chairpersons and vice chairpersons, all supporters of Ruto. He notified them of the party’s intention to discharge them from their respective committee duties.
Those notified of their intended removal are Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Kimani Ichung’wah, Aden Haji Ali (Agriculture Committee chairman), Robert Pukose (vice chairman Energy), Justice and Constitutional Affairs Chairman William Cheptumo, his vice Alice Wahome, Joyce Chepkoech (vice chair Labour), Khatib Mwashetani (vice chair Lands) and Sports Committee Chairman Victor Munyaka.
Others are Moses Kuria (vice chair Transport), Delegated Legislation Chairperson Gladys Shollei, Fred Kapondi (Constitution Implementation and Oversight Committee vice chair), Lomenen Ekomowa (vice chair Cohesion), Elizabeth Chelule (Broadcasting), Catherine Waruguru (vice chair, Members Services Committee), Administration and National Security Vice Chair John Walukhe and Trade Vice chair Cornelius Serem.
The letters sent to the MPs and copied to Speaker Justin Muturi and House Clerk Michael Sialai had a uniform template:
“The Jubilee Party which nominated you intends to discharge you from the committee. You are given seven days to respond before you are discharged from the said committee,” reads the letter.
Ichung’wah was polishing the 2020/21 budget estimates ahead of next week’s reading of the budget when the letter landed on his desk.
“I can confirm that I have received it and once I am less busy I will respond to it appropriately. Once you receive a love letter, what else do you do? You have to respond to it,” said the Kikuyu MP.
But it was Duale’s plight that confounded analysts. While the State House communication said he had been retained as Majority Leader, other sources said the President handed him to the MPs, to be fried.
On Tuesday afternoon, it is Duale himself who communicated the party changes to the Speaker.
But later that evening, he appeared in a TV show crestfallen and seemingly resigned to fate.
Yesterday, Kega told The Standard contrary to the narrative spread out, Duale was the only Jubilee leader who was not voted for or against at the State House event on Tuesday. He said this means there is a good latitude to remove him altogether.
“If he does not resign, we will remove him by the strength of the numbers that we have so far. I will be presenting my list to the party for consideration and action. The fact of the matter is that the coalition has no confidence in him, and he is even beginning to appreciate that himself,” Kega said.
Tough battle ahead
Cherengany MP Joshua Kutuny said he had already signed the list, but added that the bigger battle is who would replace him. Some want Eldas MP Adan Keynan, others Kimunya and yet others are rooting for Kega himself.
“With Kanu having joined the Jubilee coalition, we now require a threshold of only 120 MPs to oust the majority leader,” said Kutuny.
However, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, himself an anti-Duale man, claimed he was not aware of the collection of signatures.
“If the President, as the party leader, wanted to remove Duale, he would have done so during the PG meeting. Since he did not, any other action would be a futility,” said Ngunjiri.
Yesterday’s events happened as details emerged of how President Kenyatta outwitted DP’s men and women at the Tuesday meeting. Despite MPs arriving as early as 8:30am for the meeting scheduled for 9am, the President did not show up until 11am.
Despite using the waiting period to caucus and organise who will say what, after three years of waiting, it was all in vain as the president did not give any of them an opportunity to utter a word.
Jubilee Party Deputy Secretary General Caleb Kositany said what happened at State House was not a PG because if it was, there would have been some discussions. There was none.
“We had waited for three years for a PG and we hoped to discuss a lot with the party leader. We waited for over two hours and when the president came he did not give anyone time to express themselves. It is very sad for the party we built democratically,” said Kositany.
Towards the end of his 30-minute dressing down, an acclamation system of election was conducted to make the House changes. In settings such as State House, it is highly unlikely for a president to lose an acclamation vote.
Uhuru had deliberately skipped reading Duale’s name on his list for acclamation, but sent a statement a few minutes later that included the name of the Garissa Town MP as the Majority Leader.
Attempts by Tanga Tanga MPs to attract the president’s attention were dismissed. Yesterday Kositany said the the script had been drawn in advance.
[Additional reporting by Wilfred Ayaga]