President Uhuru Kenyatta’s party has finally given in to demands by ODM leader Raila Odinga’s camp on the composition of members of key House committees, thus ending a weeks-long standoff.
The Jubilee wing has agreed to kick out allies of Deputy President William Ruto from committees deemed crucial for the passage of the envisaged Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional reforms.
The Committee on Selection is set to meet this afternoon to approve a new committee membership list prepared by Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and his Minority counterpart Junet Mohamed (Suna East).
If everything goes as planned, this will pave the way for endorsement of the new members by the House during a special sitting on Wednesday.
This latest development comes against the backdrop of reports that President Uhuru Kenyatta gave National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya a dressing-down over the impasse.
Mr Kimunya had accompanied speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate) to a signing ceremony at Harambee House last Thursday.
Also present at the meeting were Senate Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio and State House Deputy Chief of Staff Njee Muturi.
Sources spoke of an ‘irate’ Uhuru questioning why Kimunya had retained some of the de-whipped Tangatanga MPs in powerful committees.
He specifically reportedly took issue with Kikuyu MP Mr Kimani Ichung’wah being proposed to the Finance and Planning Committee.
Ichung’wah, who was discharged from the Budget and Appropriations Committee, is among Ruto’s most vocal supporters in central Kenya and is viewed as a thorn in the flesh of Jubilee party loyalists.
Other Tangatanga-allied MPs from the region set to lose their nominations are Nyandarua Woman Representative Faith Gitau (Environment and Natural Resources) and Nyeri Woman Representative Rahab Mukami (Trade).
Gladys Shollei (Uasin Gishu) and Alice Wahome (Kandara) are also likely to lose their slots in the Committee on Delegated Legislation due to their opposition to the BBI process.
Tharaka MP George Gitonga could also lose his slot in the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC), which is crucial to the constitutional reforms process.
A pro-BBI team had rejected the earlier proposed memberships for key committees over claims that they were tilted towards the Ruto-allied Tangatanga group.
Ugenya MP David Ochieng’ is also set to be replaced from the Health Committee following complaints by ODM.
The opposition party had also protested the memberships of the Finance, Education and Broadcasting committees. Jubilee has donated the chairperson slots for the three committees to ODM, with fear that Tangatanga was seeking to vote one of their own to chair the committees.
National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi told The Standard the Jubilee side had agreed to make changes to the committees to “reflect the handshake agenda”.
“We are meeting tomorrow (today) as the Committee on Selection to consider new committee memberships for adoption on Wednesday during a special sitting by the House,” Mbadi said yesterday.
He added: “Kimunya withdrew the committee list last week after the minority side raised concerns over Jubilee’s membership. I am happy we are now tagging along well after our demands were met.”
Mbadi said their main concern had been the composition of the JLAC and Delegated Legislation committees. “But the Jubilee side has made some changes to the two committees. We are now okay. They have also made some changes to the Finance Committee.”
A Jubilee MP who requested anonymity confirmed that the dispute had centred on the membership list.
“The party leadership weighed in on the issue to have some, if not all of them, removed. I know some have been lobbying and pledging loyalty to be retained, but the leadership is adamant that their lack of discipline in the past will cost them. It was agreed they go so we can have people who can push an agenda that is needed.”
Mbadi denied reports that the minority coalition had been demanding more chairperson slots.
“Our issue was on the composition of some of the committees. We had already agreed with the Jubilee side that our side will chair Finance, Education and Broadcasting.”
Members of the coalition will also serve as vice chairpersons of the JLAC, National Cohesion and Integration Committee, and Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC).
Last week, Mr Kimunya met with Junet to resolve the standoff.
“We are both satisfied that the harmonised list captures the spirit of the House business into the future, in line with the vision of the party leaders,” said Kimunya following the meeting.
ODM is said to have settled on Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga to chair the Finance and Planning Committee, while her Busia counterpart Florence Mutua will chair the Education Committee.
The party has further settled on Rarieda MP Otiende Amolo as the new vice-chairperson of JLAC, while Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma serves as CIOC vice-chairperson.
The JLAC leadership was in the hands of Ruto allies Baringo North MP William Cheptumo (chairperson) and Alice Wahome (Kandara) as deputy. Both were ejected over their association with the deputy president.
Nominated MP Geoffrey Osotsi – who is also a member of the Committee on Selection – said the purpose of reconstituting the committees was to kick out all Ruto allies.
He said that Kieleweke members were also unhappy that the DP’s men and women still retained their membership in some crucial House committees.
“There was a feeling by the minority side that a significant number of Tangatanga members was in the CIOC, Finance, JLAC, Education and Broadcasting committees.
“Kieleweke members have also complained that their Tangatanga colleagues landed slots in powerful committees. The reason for the re-organisation of these committees was to manage Tangatanga in the House. It beats the purpose when they still end up getting key positions,” said Osotsi.
The first meeting of the committee convened by Kimunya failed to reach a consensus after members disagreed. Kimunya later withdrew the proposed list from the floor of the House.
Ford Kenya Secretary General Eseli Simiyu, who is also a committee member, said some of the contentious points during the last meeting had been sorted out.
“When the list was withdrawn, it was agreed that we convene again to iron out the issues. The leaders met and resolved the issues,” said Mr Eseli.
Separately, former National Assembly Majority Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali warned the ODM leadership to stop demanding parliamentary committee positions meant for the Jubilee party.
Washiali accused the opposition party of “trying to bulldoze itself in the ruling party’s affairs under the pretense of the unity pact between Uhuru and Raila.”
“The ODM and other parties who recently joined Jubilee have no authority to demand certain seats in parliamentary committees meant for the ruling and majority wing by continuously arm-twisting the President by issuing threats of walking out of the handshake,” said Washiali.
Washiali blasted ODM for deserting its duties as the opposition and instead, turning into ‘praise singers’ of the regime.
“We have seen them demand seats and positions in the committees and, in turn, forget their key mandate of keeping the government in check, which Kenyans bestowed on them in the 2017 General Election,” he said.
Additional reporting by Brian Kisanji and Kepher Otieno