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Kenya: Parliament to resume sittings amid unease among Ruto allies

Parliament resumes sittings on Tuesday after a two-month Christmas break that has been characterised by unprecedented political intrigues that could polarise the business of the two Houses, and the country.

While the budget-making process and the Supplementary Budget are the urgent businesses in the in-tray of the two Houses, it is, however, the implosion in Jubilee Party that provides mouth-watering prospects and provides a hint of the interesting times that await the Houses.

The 2018/19 Budget Policy Statement, the Supplementary Budget and a number of government bills that are key in the implementation of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda are among the crucial businesses Parliament will consider once it resumes next week.

Other critical businesses in the two Houses, and which the Executive has shown interest in, are the Energy Bill, Petroleum Exploration Bill, Roads Bill, Irrigation Bill, Land Index Bill and Public Private Sector Bill.

MURATHE

Most of these bills are pending in the Senate and were the subject of a recent meeting between President Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto and Jubilee Party House leadership in Mombasa in a meeting in which the President is believed to have lectured the team and accused it of doing little to advance the government agenda in the House.

However, it is the strained relationship between the President and his deputy that has triggered some silent murmurs in the ruling party, threatening its fragile unity amid claims by those allied to the DP that they could rebel if the disrespect toward their man is not discontinued.

Unhappy with the manner people around President Kenyatta have treated Mr Ruto, the DP’s allies are threatening to shoot down the Supplementary Budget should it be brought to the House in the hope it will help pass a message to the President’s men and help ease tension that has been growing since former Jubilee Party chairman and President Kenyatta’s ally, Mr David Murathe, fired the first anti-Ruto salvo on December 27, 2018, in Vihiga County.

The group, which is under strict instructions not to let known their strategies, had taken Mr Murathe’s attacks against the DP in their stride, but the publication of the Executive Order No 1 of 2019 was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back, forcing the group to roll up their sleeves ready for battle.

MATIANG’I

The order created the National Development Implementation and Communication Committee, which draws membership from the entire Cabinet, except President Kenyatta and his deputy.

The committee is chaired by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, a move that has riled Mr Ruto’s base, leaving the group seething in rage and silently accusing the President of betrayal.

Dr Matiang’i’s pick has unsettled Mr Ruto’s allies as they see it as part of the scheme to cut the DP to size and scatter his 2022 succession chances.

Three MPs from western Kenya, who spoke to the Sunday Nation on condition that they are not named, said the group confronted Mr Ruto and demanded permission to voice their opposition to the Executive Order.

While a decision was taken for the MPs to attack the handshake, which they blame for the problems their man is going through, the DP is said to have curtly dismissed suggestions that he breaks his silence declaring that he was not ready to engage in a direct war with the President.

“We were together under the Tuko Pamoja 2017 campaigns slogan. Truth be said, we are no longer together. We have been abandoned and we are now being fought as our opponents in the election sit on the table,” one of the MPs said on Friday.

“In the absence of an immediate solution, the war against the DP is likely to spill to the floor of the House. It will not be business as usual. We are not going to blindly support people who want to finish us. Why should we offer our support when we are unwanted?”

STRENGTH

The group is considering either to vote against government bills, engineer artificial quorum hitches – especially on the day important business is brought to the floor – or not participating fully in committees whenever government business is under consideration.

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi warned that such plans will not see the light of the day as the DP’s allies do not have the numerical strength to either frustrate or floor any government business in the House, revealing that he will lead the entire minority side to support government business should team ‘tanga’ make good their threat.

“I don’t see them heading anywhere with their plan. Wiper, ANC and Ford Kenya MPs support the handshake and will not therefore be on their side. I also don’t see the Majority Leader Aden Duale being on their side as he has always supported government agenda,” Mr Mbadi said.

He added: “We in the minority side are not a small number and I am also sure there are some Jubilee MPs who support the President’s agenda.”

RESOLUTION

Minority Whip Junet Mohammed confirmed that he has also heard such from the DP’s allies but refused to reveal how they plan to counter such moves.

“Parliament is a House of debate; anyone can come up with his agenda but, whether it will succeed or not, is a different ball game; so let them bring it on,” Mr Junet said.

Igembe North MP Maoka Maore laughed off such attempts, terming them strange and impossible to achieve. He further noted that it is untenable for members to use the privilege they have been given to frustrate the government.

“They cannot frustrate any business in the House because it is impossible and childish; and if they try it, they will be overstretching their luck.

“Procedures that guide Parliament business do not allow that kind of behaviour specifically by members of the majority side. If they feel aggrieved, then there are many avenues of solving such cases,” said the MP.

HANDSHAKE

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu termed the idea juvenile and amateurish, saying should DP Ruto’s allies make the move, they will become enemies of the people who are currently supporting reconciliation through the handshake.

“If this was coming before the handshake then I would be concerned, but now I’m not because the Nasa MPs will not allow it. The MPs should also realise that by making the move, they would be doing their boss (DP) more harm than good,” Mr Ngunjiri said.

Jubilee has 171 MPs in the National Assembly and it is not clear the ratio of support distributed between the President and his deputy. However, the DP’s support is considered significant only that most, from Mt Kenya region, are fearful of openly offering their support.

Of interest, however, is the fact that the DP controls the leadership of majority in both Houses.

Save for Majority Deputy Whip Irungu Kang’ata, the entire leadership in the Senate is allied to the DP.

They are Ken Lusaka (Speaker), Prof Kithure Kindiki (Deputy Speaker), Mr Kipchumba Murkomen (Majority Leader), Ms Fatuma Dullo (Deputy Majority Leader) and Ms Susan Kihika (Majority Whip).

The same prevails in the National Assembly, save for Jimmy Angwenyi (Deputy Majority Leader) and Cecily Mbarire (Deputy Majority Whip).

The Nasa allied parties have 136 MPs and the majority support the handshake. The other 14 small parties have a total of 31 members, while independent MPs are 11.

By Daily Nation

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