How Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta planned to reduce his deputy William Ruto’s political influence ahead of the 2022 elections?
It began with the reorganization of Jubilee Party’s top organ — the National Management Committee — by installing new members loyal to the President.
This paved the way for a post-poll agreement with Gideon Moi’s Kanu, culminating in yesterday’s purge of key Ruto allies from parliamentary leadership.
Senate Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen and the Majority Whip Susan Kihika were both axed from their positions.
But despite the scheming, some of the planned changes announced yesterday seamed to abort when 22 senators allied to Ruto rejected the changes.
Led by Murkomen and Kihika, the senators dismissed the changes announced by Statehouse as null and void.
“To the President, We cannot lead the country through forgery. You cannot forge the signatures of our colleagues,” Murkomen said.
He claimed that four helicopters were dispatched to airlift some senators whose signatures had been forged.
Murkomen’s plum position was taken by Kanu’s West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio. Kihika was replaced by Muranga’s Irungu Kangata who had been her deputy.
Nominated Senator Farhiya Ali Haji has been appointed Kangata’s deputy. Wiper’s Mutula Kilonzo Junior said the changes are likely to be confirmed by the Speaker.
According to Senate Standing Orders, such changes require the endorsement of at least half of Jubilee senators
“The Speaker of the Senate is only required to confirm that a majority of the senators signed the changes in their leadership and the communication was issued by the authorized person. Any other dispute will have to be taken to another legal entity,” Mutula said.
At a press conference in Parliament, Kihika and Murkomen rubbished State House claims that 20 senators attended the Senate Parliamentary Group meeting.
They said some of the signatures of senators who allegedly attended the meeting were forgeries.
Ruto snubbed the State House meeting. His chair beside the President and party secretary-general Raphael Tuju remained empty throughout the PG.
Shortly after his statement, Murkomen was dispossessed of the government car along Mombasa Road. The same fate was expected to fall on Kihika.
The ball is now in the court of the Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka, a key Ruto ally, who today is expected to rule if the changes meet the legal threshold.
Lusaka faces the toughest task of his political life as a failure to confirm the changes might attract an impeachment motion.
Yesterday’s ouster of the Senate leadership was the culmination of behind the scenes maneuvers by the President’s allies who have been plotting to cut Ruto to size.
In a multi-pronged approach, the President’s political strategists first sought to take control of the National Management Committee.
The reorganization of the NMC was kept secret by Tuju, vice-chairman David Murathe, the President’s political advisor Nancy Gitau and chairman Nelson Dzuya.
A key Jubilee constitutional provision that allows NMC to act on behalf of the National Executive Committee, may have given Uhuru the leeway that dealt Ruto the final blow.
Reconstitution of the NMC was identified by the President’s men as the ultimate masterstroke against Ruto who was seen as holding sway in key Jubilee organs.
With a new NMC in place, Uhuru would by-pass the NEC in making certain decisions like entering into post-election coalitions with other parties.
Uhuru’s men installed Lucy Nyawira, Marete Marangu, Walter Nyambati, Jane Nampaso, and James Waweru and kicked out Fatuma Shukri, Pamela Mutua and Veronica Maina.
“I can tell you that what you are seeing was not planned yesterday. It has been a process long in coming,” said a Jubilee official who has been aware of the plans.
Tuju on May 2 published the new NMC members, despite protests from Ruto’s allies that the process was fraudulent and illegal.
On May 4, Tuju and party chairman Dzuya filed a post-election coalition agreement with Gideon Moi’s Kanu party at the Registrar of Political Parties.
This, too, happened behind Ruto’s back.
Tuju and Dzuya signed the agreement for Jubilee while Gideon Moi and Nick Salat signed for Kanu.
The NMC, working on behalf of the National Executive Council (NEC) ratified the deal between Jubilee and Kanu.
The coalition agreement with Kanu was part of Uhuru’s strategy to appease the DP’s Rift Valley region ahead of the Senate changes.
Kanu was the biggest beneficiary of Uhuru’s chances in the first joint Jubilee-Kanu PG.
However, Ruto’s allies termed the Jubilee-Kanu coalition illegality as it had not been sanctioned by the party’s NEC.
“As members of the majority party, we wish to state categorically that our party doe not have a valid coalition agreement with Kenya African National Union,” Kihika said in the letter to Lusaka.
A dispatch by the President’s spokesperson Kanze Dena said that Uhuru had chaired the Senate Parliamentary Group meeting at State House.
“His Excellency the President, today at state House Nairobi, chaired a Jubilee coalition parliamentary group meeting that brought together senators from Jubilee party and the Kenya African National Union,” State House said.
Yesterday, Jubilee deputy secretary-general Caleb Kositany said they will challenge the Jubilee-Kanu coalition agreement in court. “I believe our courts are independent. We will fight to the very last man,” he said.
Kositany said they will insist that the law is followed before the party enters into any post-poll pact. The Registrar of Political Parties was arm-twisted into allowing the deal because she has been in the office in an acting capacity, he said.
“The party leader Uhuru Kenyatta should not be involved in breaking the law. State House should be the last place to hold illegal meetings. In the future, we would not want any party meetings to be held at State House so that members can attend freely,” Kositany said.
He added that the Jubilee-Kanu deal was shrouded in secrecy and was handled in the same manner as the National Management Committee.
“Secretary-General Raphael Tuju is being used to do illegal things,” he added.
Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot said the Jubilee constitution is clear on any post-election coalition deal. “Anything else you read is an experiment of drunkards,” he said.
The Jubilee constitution states that the NEC may pass a resolution to commit the party to a post-election coalition or terminate it.
It says the post-election coalition negotiation panel shall report to the NEC.
It adds that the panel will consist of the national chairperson, the secretary-general, and two other persons nominated by the NEC.
Lawyer Charles Kanjama said that the Jubilee constitution allows its NEC and not the governing body to sanction a post-election coalition.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, another ally of the DP said: “a fake MoU has been signed with Kanu to bring on board Moi.”
United States-based law professor Makau Mutua said it seems the deputy president was not consulted and was not aware of the deal until the papers were signed. “A man with pride would quit and never look back,” he said.