The move by a group of leaders from Northern Kenya to form a new political party delinked from the existing two major blocs, Jubilee and Cord, is being seen as a move to isolate National Assembly leader Aden Duale and clip his powers.
The lawmakers and governors coalescing around Mandera Senator Billow Kerrow are meeting on Tuesday to finalise details of a party they hope will bring all political leaders from pastoralist communities under one roof.
Speaking to the Nation, Mr Kerrow said the executive committee which draws representative from 17 counties had its work cut out, signalling another rebellion front for the ruling Jubilee coalition besides the dissenting voices in the South Rift.
The MPs said they were against the merger of political parties under the Jubilee umbrella, charging that the move would farther drown out their voices.
“We are against the merger because the Jubilee government has continued to ignore our plight,” Mr Kerrow said.
Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi and former Kwanza MP Noah Wekesa are leading a process meant to collapse into one all the parties loyal to Jubilee.
The leaders — who include MPs, governors and senators from Isiolo, Mandera, Wajir, Garissa, Marsabit, Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo, Laikipia, Samburu, Tana River, Lamu, Kajiado and Narok counties — recently attended the Pastoralist Leadership Summit held at the Samburu Simba Lodge in Isiolo County and expressed their displeasure at the government.
But Mr Duale downplays the development, saying pastoralist communities were founding members of Jubilee and they had much to show for their support for President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.
“What shows that we are key stakeholders in the Jubilee government... other than the Sh168 billion sent to 14 counties inhabited by pastoralists in the past three year?
“Look at my position, that of Senate Speaker (Ekwee Ethuro), majority whip (Kato ole Metito), Foreign Affairs minister (Amina Mohamed), Interior Cabinet Secretary — the list is endless,” he enumerated.
The majority leader said they had been able to find “water and pasture” in Jubilee and were not going to leave.
However, he will have to mount a stinging defence to retain his clout and do Jubilee’s bidding in the North.
THIRD MOST POWERFUL
In the pecking order, Mr Duale is the third most powerful figure in Jubilee’s political hierarchy.
An affront on him is likely to attract counter-insurgency measures from the establishment.
He is also the chairman of the North Eastern Parliamentary group.
Senator Kerrow was in December 2015 arrested and forced to issue an apology after accusing the government of killing and burying terrorist suspects in mass graves in Mandera.
Some in Jubilee say his lead role in crafting the political vehicle is a way of getting back at Jubilee.
“We will be asking our members to contest on that party’s ticket next year since we are independent of the existing parties,” he said, adding that they already have the support of 85 MPs and 17 senators.
The move will likely attract other political players on a hunting expedition, such as Cord, to reach out to the new group for support in next year’s elections.
A fortnight ago, Mr Duale organised a forum in Isiolo where President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto asked the pastoralist leaders to support them.
In the 2013 elections, Jubilee took the majority seats, both parliamentary and gubernatorial, outwitting the opposition. Cord appears keen to make inroads.
Keen to woo the region, President Kenyatta unveiled a Sh6 billion Equalisation Fund to assist marginalised areas in providing basic services and to make up for long years of marginalisation.
But Mr Duale said Jubilee had been able to help the region shed the “marginalised” tag often synonymous with Northern Kenya before promulgation of the new Constitution in 2010 that ushered in devolution.