The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa) was on Tuesday divided over the fate of Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa after her party ODM excommunicated her over disloyalty and gross misconduct.
A faction of National Assembly women MPs, led by Kandara's Alice Wahome, defended the embattled MP at parliament buildings under the auspices of Kewopa but Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga said the group had not agreed on the matter.
From the start, it seemed there was a properly crafted scheme to defend the Malindi MP. As Ms Jumwa issued her statement in the National Assembly chamber, Ms Wahome’s group of about 10 MPs converged at the parliamentary media centre to support one of their own.
“I have been unjustly condemned for building bridges with other Kenyans,” Ms Jumwa said in reference to the Building Bridges Initiative. The BBI was the culmination of the famous March 9, 2018 handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, aimed at bringing the country together after the divisive 2017 general election.
“The Constitution provides that one can express themselves without victimisation or condemnation. It’s important for all Kenyans to embrace each other. BBI opened a new chapter in our political history,” Ms Jumwa said in reference to her close dalliance with Deputy President William Ruto.
Meanwhile, it emerged that ODM had already notified acting Registrar of Political Parties (RPP) Anne Nderitu of its decision to remove Ms Jumwa from its register.
The party also forwarded supporting documents including the minutes of its disciplinary committee, the National Executive Council (NEC) and the National Governing Council (NGC) to prove its case.
However, Ms Wahome faulted the decision saying it was irrational and meant to frustrate the realisation of the two thirds gender rule, which provides that not more than two-thirds of members in elective and appointive public bodies shall be of the same gender.
According to the Political Parties Act, a member is deemed to have defected from a party if the member advances or promotes the interests of a rival party.
Ms Jumwa is on the spot for supporting the candidature of Mr Ruto to succeed President Kenyatta when his second and final term comes to an end in 2022, against her party’s interests.
Ms Wahome attempted to drag Speaker Justin Muturi’s name into the matter but the law does not allow the Speaker to get involved with party affairs.
Ms Wahome, a lawyer, said, “As members of Kewopa, we are embarrassed by MPs supporting the removal of Jumwa from ODM. ODM is sinking too low. The Speaker should demand to see the process leading up to Jumwa’s removal.
Only one ODM MP - Kilifi Woman Representative Gertrude Mbeyu attended Ms Wahome’s briefing.
Ms Wanga objected, saying, “That is a huge misrepresentation of facts by Ms Wahome because. There was no consensus over this. It is a matter of ODM, not Kewopa."
“It should be understood that party processes were followed and it was never a gender dimension. When Ms Jumwa was asked to apologise, she declined. She said she had no reasons to apologise."
At some point, Isiolo Woman Representative Rehema Jaldesa dismissed ODM as the "most undemocratic party in the country" but she was tongue-tied on why Ms Jumwa should remain in such a party.
Msambweni MP Suleiman Dori was in the same situation as Ms Jumwa but he was spared as he apologised to the party’s NGC last Friday.
The law provides that once the party’s registrar receives the ODM request and evidence to prove its case, she shall proceed to remove Ms Jumwa’s name from the roll of party members.
It says that once an MP loses the support of the party that sponsored him or her to a legislative House, the member ceases to be an MP.
The registrar then notifies the Speaker of the changed status of the affected parliamentarian.
The Speaker will have no choice but to declare the seat vacant and notify the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of the vacancy so it can announce the date of the by-election and prepare for it.
However, until the by-election is held, Ms Jumwa has the right to exhaust all the appeal mechanisms.
Ms Jumwa on Monday obtained orders suspending her expulsion from the party until her case is heard and determined.
Kyalo Mbobu, chairman of the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal (PPDT), granted the orders after she filed a complaint under certificate of urgency.
The orders also restrained the RPP, its agents and employees from removing her name from ODM's list of members.
The tribunal also directed the legislator to serve the respondents - ODM and the RPP - with the application whose hearing was slated for March 8 at 2.30pm.
Ms Jumwa wants the court to quash ODM's decision over disregard for the law, corruption and double standards, where Mr Dori is concerned.
Additional reporting by Charles Lwanga