Jubilee MPs slam President Uhuru Kenyatta for denying Raila and Kalonzo their pension

NAIROBI: Jubilee MPs turned the heat on President Uhuru Kenyatta and his advisors over what they said was an illegal push to kick opposition chiefs out of politics as a condition for them to get their pension.

There was a heated exchange in the House as the Jubilee lawmakers joined their opposition colleagues to tell off the Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) for the illegal clause contained in President Kenyatta's memo.

This is the second time in a week that Jubilee MPs have stood up against their party leader – the first time it had to do with the rejection of Monica Juma as the appointee for Secretary to the Cabinet.

The chairman of President Kenyatta's party, The National Alliance, Johnson Sakaja (nominated) lit the fireworks as he blamed the advisors of the President at State House for what he said was a "petty and unconstitutional proposal".

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Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurweini), Mithika Linturi (Igembe South) and Ronald Tonui (Bomet Central) joined Sakaja in slamming their coalition leader.

But even as Jubilee MPs joined hands with their opposition colleagues, their rejection of the memo failed because they had no numbers. The House needed 233 MPs to reject the President's proposal, but there were hardly 100 lawmakers in the House.

With the furore in the House, opposition MP David Ochieng' (Ugenya) vowed to go to court to have the offensive clause dropped and allow the opposition chiefs to access their pensions.

They said the requirement in the presidential memo on the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill, 2015 that former Prime Minister Raila Odinga and former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka have to quit elective politics before they enjoy their pension millions was absurd.

"This is an unreasonable restriction. The little money that is due to go to the former Prime Minister and Vice President is not for campaigns. It is for services already rendered. Those who are misadvising the President on this issue to make him look petty and vindictive are not doing us a service," said Sakaja.

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He noted that the Constitution was very clear about political rights of individuals to vie for elective posts.

"The government loses nothing by being magnanimous and giving people their rights. You can't deny people their rights. I know the President well and this does not look like him," said Sakaja.

Kabando wa Kabando (Mukurweini) said there was nothing unique in having a retired PM and VP vie for the Presidency or to participate in politics. He added that in Russia and Israel, the retired PMs have remained active in politics, and questioned why Kenya was trying to limit the political rights of individuals.

"What we are trying to do, and we may think that as Jubilee are doing good, we are creating a very bad picture of the leader of Jubilee," said Kabando.

Linturi added: "I honestly and very sincerely oppose that mischevious amendment. In any case when we pay pension dues we recognize the work that has already been done. It will be very dishonest to stand and say that the people that served in the office of VP and PM did not do anything meaningful. It is a right that you cannot take from anybody."

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Opposition MPs Millie Odhiambo (Mbita), Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja), Marcus Muluvi (Kitui East) and the sponsor of the Bill John Mbadi (Suba) said the President was simply slighting his competition.

"This is very unfortunate. When one retires, he retires from a specific role. To insinuate. Let us be frank that the person being targeted in Raila and Kalonzo. It is totally unconstitutional that once they retire they cannot aspire to any other office. The fact that the President is trying to use this House to eliminate would-be opponents is illegal and can be a ground for impeachment. This is unconstitutional," said Wandayi.

Ochieng vowed to go to court to have the condition that his party bosses quit politics to get the pension dropped.

"This whole proposal is done in bad faith, and the President should know that this will not pass the test of constitutionality in the court. We might not have the numbers here, but you can be sure that I David Ochieng will go to court," said Ochieng'.

But Majority Leader Aden Duale stood his ground. He said he has "no regrets" about the decision of the President.

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"Let us not put this into political context, the president is not abusing any part of the Constitution. There's leeway, people can go to court," said Duale.

In the memo, apart from the political ban, the President also cut the calculation of the golden handshake for retired Prime Minister and Vice President from a lumpsum of 18-months pay for every term served, to just a year's pay for the term served. But he let the retirees enjoy a monthly pay of 80 per cent.

Head of State said the list of beneficiaries should be expanded to take on board everyone who served as Vice President or Speaker of the House beginning January 1, 1993 and not simply those who served President Mwai Kibaki in the grand coalition government between 2008 and 2013 as the Bill had proposed.

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