Senate leadership changes that yesterday saw two key allies of Deputy President William Ruto removed from key positions have received accolades and criticism in equal measure.
In the changes, Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) was replaced as Majority leader by Kanu’s Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot) while Susan Kihika’s (Nakuru) position of Majority whip was taken by Irungu Kang'ata (Murang’a), who was her deputy.
Already, Ms Kihika has written to Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka protesting her removal as the Senate Majority Whip.
Leaders allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta have welcomed the move while DP allies have dismissed it, calling it a “coup” at State House.
Jubilee Party Deputy Secretary General Caleb Kositany (Soy) said a decision to remove the Senate Majority Leader can only be made at a meeting of the Jubilee Party Parliamentary Group consisting of the caucus of members of the National Assembly and Senate elected on the party ticket or nominated by the party to the respective Houses.
“A meeting of only Jubilee Senators, or rather a meeting of only Jubilee and Kanu elected Senators cannot for purposes of Article 17(4) be deemed to fall within the definition of the Party Parliamentary Group. All members of Jubilee Party in the National Assembly and the Senate, whether elected or nominated, must be present to sanction removal of the Senate Majority Leader,” said Mr Kositany.
He added: “It is noteworthy that only members of the Jubilee Party can make such a decision. The party leader can only preside over a meeting of all members of the Jubilee Party in the National Assembly and the Senate for it is in line with the Jubilee Party constitution. Anything outside this may be deemed to be illegal and unprocedural.”
Igembe North MP Maoka Maore said the President had the mandate to pursue an agenda to deliver in Parliament.
“It is political for the Deputy President to purport to have senators and MPs. For what purpose would he have them? For what legislative agenda would he require them? The MPs should be supporting the President to advance his agenda,” said Mr Maore.
“The replaced leaders had been ridiculing the President thinking they were indispensable. They had been asking for it; now it has been served hot. Let’s enjoy the ride,” he said.
However, Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, an ardent supporter of the DP, described the changes in the Senate as “the epitome of impunity and dictatorship”.
He said Jubilee members had been lobbying and asking for a Parliamentary Group meeting in vain.
“The meeting that was called was just a faction of some members to try and purport that there were changes. Rest in Peace Jubilee,” he said.
The Senate Standing Order 19(5) provides that “a senator elected under paragraph (1) may be removed by a majority of the votes of all the senators belonging to the Majority Party”.
This means only elected senators of Jubilee Party, being the majority party, can remove the Senate Majority Leader and not a coalition of parties.
A coalition of parties can only participate in the appointment of a new Senate Majority Leader but cannot participate in the removal of a Senate Majority Leader.
In Nakuru County, leaders were also sharply divided over the matter.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech said President Uhuru Kenyatta violated the law.
Mr Koech said Uhuru had no authority over Parliament and that they would contest the changes.
“We will contest this and it will be a very big fight. The party leader has violated the law and it was un-procedural and not required at this time,” Koech said.
Koech said the removal of Mr Murkomen raises many questions and could end up in impeachment of Dr Ruto.
“Is it because he (Murkomen) is associated with the Deputy President? This will cascade to impeaching the Deputy President,” he said.
Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri dismissed the changes, terming them dictatorial and an assault on democracy among Jubilee Party members.
“The President’s game-plan is wrong. He has forgotten that the people he is fighting are the ones who helped him ascend to power,” said Mr Ngunjiri.
Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama, however, welcomed the move, saying it should have been done earlier to give the ruling party direction.
“The removal of these people from office was long overdue. From their behaviour, it was clear they had been asking for it...,” he said.
He said the affected leaders forgot their roles in the government of the day and engaged in continuous politics instead of development agenda.
“Their ego has been coming from the positions they held until they started disrespecting the President who is the party leader. They couldn’t listen to his calls that they should cease politicking,” he said.
Mr Arama said the move should be replicated in the National Assembly and House committees where the chairpersons are opposed to the President and his leadership.
“It is a good start and the President should pitch tent in the National Assembly leadership and its committees to institute similar changes for any leader who disrespects what he and the party stand for,” said Arama.
National Assembly Majority Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali termed the changes illegal and that they were aimed at punishing a section of the ruling party’s members.
He also faulted formalisation of a coalition agreement between Jubilee and Kanu parties.
[Rawlings Otieno, Kennedy Gachuhi, Julius Chepkwony and Brian Kisanji]