Why Jubilee and Nasa are reluctant to fill slots in House committees

Saturday September 30 2017

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses members from both Senate and Parliament.

President Uhuru Kenyatta addresses members from both Senate and Parliament during the official opening of the 12th Parliament. Members allied to Nasa boycotted the event. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JOHN NGIRACHU
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Even as they bicker over the proposed changes to electoral laws and demands for reforms at the electoral commission, both Jubilee and Nasa are struggling to control internal strife within their groupings.

With Parliament up and running, the next step would have been the creation of the committees through which most of its business is handled.

But both the Jubilee Party and the Opposition Nasa  have opted to wait until after the October 26 election to allocate members to committees.

Also shunted aside is the question of Kenya’s members of the East African Legislative Assembly.

The reluctance was evident this week in the National Assembly as the leadership elected to have ad hoc (temporary) committees set up to scrutinise the Supplementary Budget and the changes to electoral laws.

ELECTORAL LAWS

While the Opposition opposed anything to do with electoral laws, unsuccessfully struggling to stop the First Reading of the bill and then staging a walk-out, it was quiet on the question of naming its members to the ad hoc team to scrutinise the small Budget.

Both Jubilee and Nasa are afraid that allocating members to committees could create the sort of political discomfort that could affect the votes for their presidential candidates.

“The interests are too much and the positions are few,” National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi told the Nation.

A senior Jubilee MP who sought anonymity said the matter had been put aside  and has not been revisited substantively since the Supreme Court decision.

At the first Parliamentary Group meeting after the August elections, President Uhuru Kenyatta was reported to have told the lawmakers that the top leadership would decide the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the committees.

But, with the repeat poll looming, the leadership wouldn’t want to rattle them.

MURMURS

Still, within Jubilee, there were murmurs of discomfort from some Central Kenya MPs over the setting up of the ad hoc committees.

The one on the mini-Budget is headed by Kipkelion East MP Joseph Limo while the other on the proposed laws is headed by Baringo North MP William Cheptumo.

Mr Cheptumo also signed off the controversial bill proposing amendments to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Act, the Elections Act and the Election Offences Act.

Handing Mr Cheptumo and Mr Limo these responsibilities would seem to be designating them the future chairmen of the Justice and Legal Affairs  and the Budget Committees respectively.

A senior Jubilee MP said this had already brought up the question within some Central Kenya MPs whether President Kenyatta had broken the unspoken agreement that the Budget team would be headed by an MP from his wing of the party.

BUDGET COMMITTEE

The Budget Committee in the last Parliament was headed by former Mbeere South MP Mutava Musyimi, who was not re-elected.

In Nasa, the only positions that have been shared out are the Minority Leaders in both Houses – John Mbadi in the National Assembly and Moses Wetang’ula in the Senate.

Mr Mbadi had formally submitted a list that had Lugari MP Ayub Savula of Amani National Congress as his deputy, Kathiani MP Robert Mbui of Wiper as Minority Whip and Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa as Deputy Minority Whip.

The list caused jitters as Coast MPs said they had been short-changed and made a threat to decamp, forcing Nasa leaders Raila Odinga  and Kalonzo Musyoka to ask Mr Mbadi to withdraw the list but retain his position.

“They had already started cleaning the offices,” a member of the coalition familiar with the matter told the Nation.

POLITICAL SEATS

The position of Minority Whip is the centre of attraction. A section of MPs want Suna East MP Junet Mohamed (ODM) given the slot, Dr Wamalwa as his deputy and Mr Mbui as Mr Mbadi’s deputy and Mr Savula for chairmanship of the Implementation committee.

However, Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori (ODM) believes that the Minority Whip slot should be given to an MP from the Coastal region owing to the unfettered support they have given the party.

“What we requested as Nasa Coast Parliamentary group is the position of Minority Whip and the Parliamentary Service Commission position,” Mr Dori, who is also the Coast Parliamentary Group chairman, said on Saturday.

In the Senate, the pull and push is not as is the case in the National Assembly. Siaya Senator James Orengo (ODM) is expected to be Wetang’ula’s deputy, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Wiper) as Minority Whip with Ms Petronila Were (ANC) as his deputy.

PUBLIC ACCOUNTS COMMITTEE

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo (ODM) is destined for Public Accounts Committee chairman with Nambale’s Sakwa Bunyasi (ANC) and Ugunja’s Opiyo Wandayi (ODM) as favourites for Public Investment Committee chairmanship.

Though he said that he is not aware, Mr Dori’s name has also been mentioned as the possible chair of PIC to appease the Coast region.

Both PAC and PIC are watchdog committees in the National Assembly. They are equally highly political seats and therefore require a leadership that is strong.

In the 12th Parliament, the minority side will enjoy majority representation in the watchdog committees.

An ODM MP who sought anonymity noted that if what was leaked was to remain the same, the leadership of PAC, PIC and Committee on Implementation should then go to the Coast MPs.

“There has to be a balance within the party and the region,” the MP said.  

PRESIDENTIAL POLLS

Even as the jostling continues, Mr Wandayi urged opposition MPs to concentrate on the October 26 presidential repeat election in the meantime.

“The bigger picture for us at this moment is to deliver votes to our presidential candidate, the rest can be dealt with later,” Mr Wandayi said.

Kajiado Central MP Elijah Memusi (ODM) and Malindi’s Ms Aisha Jumwa (ODM) could get slots in the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).

This would mean that Homabay Woman Representative Ms Gladys Wanga (ODM) will forego her current position in the PSC as she comes from the same region as Mr Mbadi.

But at a Nasa retreat, nominated Senator Agnes Zani assured members that they will be accommodated. 

“Members need not worry that they have been left out or so and so has been favoured. What we need to understand as Nasa is that the positions are few but we must not be consumed by our own agitations. We have a bigger picture that is ensuring our presidential candidate wins the election,” Ms Zani said.