Inside Politics

Uhuru, Senators meet could seal Murkomen’s fate

Monday, May 11th, 2020 00:00 | By
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen during a past session at Senate. Photo/PD/File

Jubilee Senators will today meet President Uhuru Kenyatta for a parliamentary group meeting where he is expected to initiate leadership changes, with West Pokot Senator Samuel Poghisio touted as a possible replacement for Elgeyo Marakwet’s Kipchumba Murkomen as the Leader of Majority.

According to sources, the changes will see Deputy President William Ruto’s allies removed from key positions, with Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, an acerbic surrogate of the DP, set to be replaced with her deputy, Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, as the Majority Chief Whip.

The Murang’a Senator, a strong ally of the President, is likely to be replaced by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, another Uhuru supporter. In the purge that is said to be aimed at rewarding loyalty and pushing the President’s agenda in the Senate, Isiolo Senator Fatuma Dullo, also an Uhuru ally, is expected to retain her position as the Deputy Leader of Majority.

Poghisio is riding on his loyalty to the President through the Baringo Senator Gideon Moi-led Kanu party which, according to a May 8, 2020 letter by the Registrar of Political Parties, deposited a post-coalition agreement with Jubilee Party, which has majority members in the House.

It is also expected that Gideon, who is at loggerheads with Ruto, could be a major beneficiary of the purge.

Yesterday, senators received an invitation from Uhuru through a text message, asking them to attend a meeting at State House, which will also be attended by Ruto, who is the deputy party leader and Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju.

“Mheshimiwa, I wish to invite you for a Jubilee Coalition, Senate Parliamentary Group Meeting at State House, Nairobi, tomorrow, Monday 11th May 2020, at 8.30am. Please be punctual. Uhuru Kenyatta Party Leader,” read the message to the senators.

Though the President’s message did not indicate the agenda of the meeting, highly placed sources said besides other important national issues, it will be an opportunity for the President to place loyal people in key House positions in a clean-up that could attract brutal rebuttal and escalate the war between Uhuru and Ruto.

“The meeting is the beginning of a purge by the President. Issues of House leadership will also be canvassed,” said a senior member of the House leadership, suggesting that committee chairs may be affected.

Committee reshuffles Murkomen and Kihika have been accused of defying calls by the President to end early campaigns, opposing the national cohesion project spearheaded by Uhuru and opposition leader Raila Odinga, and the fight against corruption.

People Daily made efforts to contact Murkomen, Kihika and Cherargei for comment but they did not return our calls. Besides changes in the Majority and Whip leadership posts which have great influence and also attract hefty perks, there will likely be an overhaul of committee membership across the board.

“All committee will be reshuffled. A list has been prepared and the senators are expected to agree and endorse them without any contestation,” said a highly placed source at the Senate last evening.

Committee chairpersons who could be affected include Nandi’s Samson Cherargei of the Justice and Legal Affairs committee and Laikipia’s John Kinyua (Devolution) and Agriculture’s Njeru Ndwiga (Embu), who are all allied to the Tanga Tanga group that is associated with the DP.

Tuju yesterday said it’s only the President who knows the agenda of the meeting but indicated that the controversy around City Hall could be one of the agenda items.

“I am aware the President has called a meeting tomorrow which would discuss a raft of issues that are of concern to party members,” he said.

Yesterday Poghisio, whose Kanu party entered into a coalition agreement with Jubilee during the 2017 General Election, said he was not aware of the plans to pick him as the leader of government business but said it wouldn’t be a surprise if it was to happen since his party and Jubilee advance the same agenda.

“I have not heard about the plans, but I would be glad and happy if I were to be given the position. There is nothing (that was discussed) prior to tomorrow’s meeting but as Kanu, we will be attending since you know we sealed a deal with Jubilee and even when it comes to voting, we vote with Jubilee,” the West Pokot Senator said yesterday.

When contacted yesterday, Kang’ata did not confirm or deny whether he is set to replace Kihika who has emerged among the faces of defiance in the DP’s camp, saying he will attend the meeting and listen to the President and support him.

“I have just received the invitation just like other senators. We have not been given the agenda and, therefore, I cannot purport to talk about it. I will be there to listen to him and support what he will tell us,” Kang’ata said.

Today’s meeting is said to have been triggered by a growing perception that the President’s supporters were being outwitted at the Senate, case in point being failure by the Public Accounts Committee to deliver the chairmanship to Kisii Senator Sam Ongeri and the rejection of Poghisio as chair of the Committee on Delegated Legislation last week, actions which the DP’s allies took credit for.

Raila troops After the Senate, the purge will head to the National Assembly where Majority Leader Aden Duale, Majority Whip Benjamin Washiali, Budget Committee chair Kimani Ichung’wa, Delegated Legislation chairperson Gladys Shollei and her Justice and Legal Affairs committee chairman William Cheptumo could face the axe.

Washiali, Ichung’wa, and Shollei have been on the warpath, criticising Uhuru in defence of the Deputy President. If removed from the influential positions, the move could widen rift in the ruling party, pitting Ruto’s Tanga Tanga brigade against the Kieleweke team that supports the President and Raila.

The President could be emboldened by the support he enjoys from ODM chief Raila ’s troops as well as Kanu following the 2018 Handshake which has seen Opposition MPs back his agenda. Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina, who stirred controversy last week after winning the Public Accounts Committee chairmanship against ODM’s wishes, yesterday said more changes were expected in Parliament this week.

“When the oligarchy is thinking of post elections coalitions to suit their commodity interest, we focus on building community interests! Kenyans wake up! Expect more leadership changes in Parliament this week. More damaging than what they purport to have done to me,” Ole Kina said.

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