President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s chief lieutenants in the National Assembly clashed over the reconstitution of House committees, forcing a swift withdrawal of the intended changes on the working groups.
The reconstitution of the committees was intended to officially kick out Deputy President William Ruto-allied MPs from leadership positions after they were de-whipped by the Jubilee Party.
However, the Majority and Minority sides, now in the hands of Uhuru and Raila’s trusted men respectively, were forced into a stalemate that thwarted the ratification of the changes, forcing the Leader of the Majority Amos Kimunya to request Speaker Justin Muturi to defer the matter for further consultations.
At the heart of the stalemate was a deep suspicion by the Opposition that the changes made by Jubilee side to four of the committees were too cosmetic and were likely to affect the outcome of what was envisaged in the changes – a seamless passage of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) process.
The Minority admittedly also got suspicious that though Jubilee had, in the spirit of the handshake, agreed to cede the leadership of two of the committees, the changes made in the same working group could not guarantee the same.
Minority Leader John Mbadi yesterday revealed that although they were ready with their new membership list to the committees, they withdrew the same before the matter went to the floor after realising that the changes made by Jubilee could not guarantee a sure bet of what was intended in calling for the changes.
Mbadi said they had serious reservations about the proposed changes by Jubilee to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) and the Delegated Legislation Committee, two of the committees likely to have an impact on the outcome of the BBI process, and also changes made to the Finance and the Education committees.
“We were ready with our list to effect the changes, but when we looked at the proposed names to serve in the JLAC and the Delegated committees, the two committees that will be processing the BBI report in the House, we realised they included some people who have strongly been opposing the BBI. This made us have a hasty retreat and forced us to withdraw our list,” said Mbadi.
The ODM legislator also revealed that there was a pact agreed with Jubilee that they cede to the Minority the leadership of the Finance and Education committees.
However, Mbadi said when they looked at the list that Kimunya was tabling, they realised that the two were mainly composed of MPs who were allied to the “Tanga Tanga” wing of Jubilee-allied to Ruto.
“We felt that with such membership, we would not be assured that this pact would hold. We had reservations and felt that the Tanga Tanga MPs could stage a coup and take over the leadership of the two committees,” said the Suba South MP, revealing the last minute suspicions that stopped the reconstitution of the committees.
Kimunya appeared to have been caught off-guard by the Minority’s decision and had to request that the order be dropped to allow further consultations.
“We are ready as Jubilee, but I got feeling that there are some consultations that require to be held with the Minority. To carry out the entire re-organisation, we need to consult and give our side an opportunity to reconsider in cases where people feel they have not been considered,” said Kimunya.
He added: “We will take some time between now and next week and when we are ready we will write to you to give us a date to approve the list,” he said before the House proceeded for a one-month recess.
To this, Mbadi responded: “I am very excited. I had some issues that I felt we need to resolve with the Leader of Majority and we have seen it best to consult. This is the spirit of the Handshake”.
In Kimunya’s list, Ruto’s allies who were kicked out of parliamentary committees’ leadership appeared to earn a mild reprieve as they were shuffled to other working groups. The list showed that a majority of the ousted allies of the DP had been moved to other committees, where they will now have to contend and sit as members, unlike in their previous assignments where they were either chairmen or vice-chairmen.
The reconstitution of the Jubilee Party membership, however, left a bitter pill and grumbling among some members, who protested that despite being kicked out of the leadership positions, some of the Tanga Tanga MPs had still been granted “soft landing” and named in some of the houses’ “powerful committees”.
Only the Jubilee Party made changes to its committee membership, with other parties expected to be affected once a select committee constituted by the House to make changes completes its overhaul expected to be made when the House resumes from the one-month recess it took yesterday.
The shake-up yesterday officially removed Ruto allies from the committees where they had three weeks ago been notified of their intended de-whipping, moving them to other committees.
Conspicuously missing in the reconstituted committees’ membership is the former Majority Leader Aden Duale who has not been allocated any other duties.
Duale’s successor, Kimunya, has relinquished his membership in the Education committee where he was a vice chairman, forcing the committee to now look for fresh leadership since its immediate Chairman Julius Melly was among the de-whipped Ruto allies.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa, who was removed from the powerful Budget and Appropriations Committee, was named in the leaderless Finance Committee, a move that left some quarters complaining and accusing a senior leader in the National Assembly of attempting to orchestrate his election into the equally powerful committee.
Kieni’s Kanini Kega, who orchestrated the removal of Duale, was removed from the Trade and Cooperatives committee which he has been chairing and moved to the Budget committee, where he is tipped to take over as the chairman, replacing Ichungwa.
Another committee that will have to go to polls to elect new leadership is the Justice and Legal Affairs, where both the chairman and vice, William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and Kandara MP Alice Wahome have been moved. Seasoned lawyer Muturi Kigano is said to be a front-runner for either of the two positions, alongside Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, who is tipped to be among Minority legislators likely to take up leadership position in the shake-up.
Labour and Social Welfare committee also had both the chairman and its vice, Ali Wario (Bura) and Joyce Korir respectively ousted. Limuru MP, Peter Mwathi is expected to take up one of the two positions.