Deputy President William Ruto was Saturday sucked into the row surrounding the sacking of Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa on Friday.
Speaking in Matungu, Kakamega County in the presence of Mr Echesa, Majority Chief Whip in the National Assembly Benjamin Washiali claimed the sacking was aimed at weakening Mr Ruto’s chances of clinching the presidency in 2022.
“The sacking of Mr Echesa is not about the fight against corruption by President Kenyatta but a plot targeting Mr Ruto’s 2022 presidential ambitions,” said Mr Washiali.
He claimed that people who opposed the Jubilee government had turned out to be the biggest beneficiaries of the government largesse.
Mr Washiali dared the President and Mr Odinga to take away his Chief Whip position as well.
“Last year, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula was removed as the leader of the minority party in the Senate and his position given to his Siaya counterpart James Orengo.
Today, Echesa has been fired and replaced by Prof George Magoha from Nyanza. Doesn’t this send a signal to Kenyans?” he posed.
He claimed that Dr Ruto has been riding on the State appointment positions given to people from Western to sell his 2022 manifesto in the region.
Mr Echesa for the first time spoke about his sacking, saying he was still waiting to be told why he was relieved of his duties.
“I have not received official communication from State House concerning my dismissal even though I know the President has his own reasons for the decision he took,” he said.
Mr Echesa told mourners at a funeral in Marinda village in Matungu constituency that he learnt of his dismissal from the media.
“President Kenyatta had his own reasons to hire me in 2018 and today he has his reasons to remove me,” he said. “But I am still waiting to be given the reasons I was sacked.”
This was the first time the controversial former ODM national youth leader was appearing in public after his fall from grace following his surprise inclusion in the Cabinet last year despite the many questions surrounding his suitability to serve.
“I am not the first or the last minister in the world to have been fired. I have joined the long list of many more ministers who have been sacked from their governments but this doesn’t mean the end of life,” he said.
He pointed out that Mr Ruto was sacked from the Cabinet in 2010 when he served as the minister of Agriculture during the Coalition government then headed by President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga but has since been elevated to the second highest position in the country.
According to Mr Washiali, who addressed the mourners, everyone has a tainted life and Echesa was no exception.
“But we cannot despise him because of a few issues surrounding his life. Even those who are sacking have a lot of stains in their lifestyles known to Kenyans,” he said.
However, Leader of Majority in the National Assembly and Garissa Township MP Adan Duale termed Mr Washiali’s claims as “very reckless” and “out of order”.
“He is part of the leadership of the Jubilee Party in the House and he should be the last person to attack independent institutions created by the constitution,” he said, in reference to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, which has been accused by some legislators allied to Dr Ruto of being used to curtail his 2022 ambitions.
“It is Washiali who is politicising the war on corruption when he makes such reckless comments and he should stop dragging the name of the DP in his statements,” said Mr Duale.
Mr Emmanuel Talam, the deputy director of communication at the DP’s office, echoed Mr Duale’s sentiments.
“How can the DP be a target when he’s in the forefront with the President fighting corruption?” he said.
Nonetheless, other Jubilee Party leaders from the Western region threatened to walk out of the party over Mr Echesa’s dismissal.
Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo), and Bernard Shinali (Ikolomani) all claimed that the region which contributed to Jubilee’s victory in 2017 is now being short-changed.
Mr Barasa said Mr Echesa was the only minister from the larger western region, arguing that Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa comes from Trans Nzoia County in Rift Valley.
Mr Shinali claimed that last year’s handshake between President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga which ended political hostilities between them is being used to undermine leaders from Western.
“The handshake is being misused to get rid of Raila’s critics from the Cabinet. If the President felt Mr Echesa was not up to the task, he would have appointed another minister from Western,” said Mr Shinali.
The grumbling from the western MPs comes after Dr Ruto this week accused Mr Odinga of meddling in Jubilee affairs in the guise of the handshake.
By Daily Nation