President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto called off last Tuesday’s Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting to forestall a bitter fallout that threatened to paralyse government operations, the Nation has authoritatively established.
President Kenyatta and Mr Ruto had held a five-hour meeting at State House the previous week to discuss the state of affairs in government and within the ruling party.
It is at this meeting that the idea of convening a PG to heal the wounds in the party was agreed on, sources close to the presidency told the Nation.
Despite denials by the Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju that the governing party was split down the middle, sources revealed that the two leaders later developed misgivings about holding the meeting against the backdrop of bitter differences between their allies.
During a press briefing early in the week, Mr Tuju denied there was a crisis in Jubilee, and attempted to insinuate the media had manufactured one for unknown reasons.
On Saturday, Mr Tuju changed tune, stating that the issues facing the party were too weighty to have been discussed in a “one or two hour PG” and instead said they required “a retreat.”
He said that once the retreat is convened, the party leadership will lay its agenda on the table and MPs will also be allowed to ventilate.
Mr Tuju, who spoke to the Sunday Nation on the phone, said the party was still waiting for the President’s diary to accommodate the retreat.
“We are mulling whether to have a series of retreats with 50 MPs per event or hold one big retreat to last several days that will accommodate all 220 MPs. Discussions are ongoing,” he said.
The agenda of the retreat, as and when it is convened, will include explaining to the MPs the envisaged economic impact of the Big Four projects, so that they can move away from mere sloganeering of the President’s agenda and understand and appreciate its value to the economy.
They will also discuss their role as leaders and how to manage their diversity, said Mr Tuju.
The retreat will further discuss growing the party by identifying the strategic options available for it besides also deliberating on the party’s relations with others.
“There will be specialist and resource persons who will take us through these issues. Jubilee will emerge stronger. Make no mistake, MPs will also be allowed to ventilate because that is the essence of democracy. There are things that happen and there is no time to explain them, for example when the Deputy President and former Vice- President Kalonzo Musyoka shook hands at the prayer breakfast, that was a political moment that had not been foreseen. It is issues like that one that some members may need an explanation on,” he said.
The last time the party held a PG meeting was in February, which was poorly attended after most MPs failed to show up having received a tongue-lashing from the Head of State at a similar meeting two months earlier.
However, public altercations between key players continued to escalate with a clear dichotomy emerging between those in support of President Kenyatta’s revamped war on grand corruption on one side, and the other that seems keen to reframe the calls for lifestyle audits as a ploy to derail the Deputy President’s presidential ambitions.
Sources told the Nation that besides averting a public fallout, last Tuesday’s meeting was called off, until Parliament approves the 2018/2019 Budget proposals to avoid a fallout that could affect the process and hamper government expenditure plans.
Sources also intimated it had become apparent to State House that it was “imprudent” to convene a PG before establishing where the loyalty of MPs lay, if any meaningful resolutions were to be pushed through and avert a showdown.
The PG had been expected to debate, among other things, the uncharacteristic attack by senior Jubilee party parliamentary leaders on President Kenyatta’s call for lifestyle audits as a key pillar on his anti-corruption drive.
There has also been a vicious online attack that seems to be coordinated against Central Kenya MPs who are vocal supporters of DP Ruto.
The MPs, though not willing to divulge names, seem to point fingers at powerful individuals with unfettered access to the presidency.
It is expected that the said individuals will be discussed at the retreat.
Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said during a TV talk show that it was no longer a secret that Jubilee Party had been split into “Kieleweke” (let it be understood” and “Tangatanga” (loitering) camps.
“There are problems in Jubilee, let’s not lie to each other. Jubilee members are being asked to choose between team Kieleweke and team Tangatanga. That’s the truth,” Senator Mwaura said on AM Live show on Wednesday.
“Tangatanga,” he said, stood for those rooting for Ruto’s presidential ambitions, while “Kieleweke”, that was invented by Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a known Ruto critic, stood for President Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda and national unity in the context of post-March 9 dispensation after the famous “handshake” between the President and opposition leader Raila Odinga.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata took to another TV show on Thursday morning to denounce one of the most vocal team “Kieleweke” voices in Central Kenya, the Kikuyu Council of Elders (KCE), as a “fake” group that was unknown.
In response, KCE chair Wachira Kiago unleashed a trove of photos online showing himself in the company of other elders installing Ruto as a Kikuyu elder in Nanyuki in 2013, and during which, he said in an attached statement, KCE petitioned the DP to spearhead restoration of land taken away from members of the Kikuyu community in the 2007/08 post-election violence in parts of Uasin Gishu. He said this had not happened.
In a statement later, KCE Secretary-General Rev Peter Munga said the elders were petitioning the government to institute an audit of all land from which distressed owners were evicted during the post-election violence and which had yet to be vacated by hostile occupiers. He wants the land restored to rightful owners.
A goodwill delegation to Mr Odinga by the Kikuyu elders followed soon after by a group of immediate former elected leaders from Central Kenya, during which they pledged support to President Kenyatta’s revamped anti-corruption drive, only adds to repertoire of coded messages in answer to pro-Ruto aides, Mr Kipchumba Murkomen and Mr Aden Duale, that the TNA wing was not without options when it comes to hard ball.