Murkomen: ‘All noise, bits of politics but no strategy’

Wednesday March 18 2020
MURPIC

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen. He is described as combative and extremist. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
By DAVID MWERE

At a time when the relationship between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto is on the rocks, one person has stood out of the Jubilee Party parliamentary pack.

Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen has been the most outspoken of the ruling party’s legislators, who are unhappy with the course of events in government since the March 2018 handshake between the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Through a cleverly designed scheme, Mr Murkomen, who is also the Elgeyo Marakwet senator, has exploited the opportunity provided by technology and the floor of the House to deliver pronouncements that directly target the President much as they express the general feeling of the Rift Valley masses.

In the last couple of weeks, Mr Murkomen has mutated into some kind of Team Tangatanga’s Miguna Miguna - intense, erratic and ready-to-tweet rabble-rouser, who never shies away from any fight, even a mundane one.

But it is his role in the attempt to save Mr Ferdinand Waititu from impeachment that has exposed Mr Murkomen’s erratic nature, with questions being raised about his exact relevance to Ruto’s strategy in as far as the 2022 presidential election is concerned.

FAILED MISSION

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On Wednesday, the Senate upheld the decision of the County Assembly to impeach Mr Waititu against attempts by the lawmaker and other Ruto’s men to resist.

The task of rescuing Mr Waititu had been vested on Mr Murkomen’s shoulders by virtue of his role in the Senate, where the DP had mandated him to mobilise, lobby and get the numbers that would have ensured Mr Waititu survived.

But through a mix of excitement, boorishness and lack of tact, the majority leader bangled the task and Mr Waititu was sent packing.

He failed terribly in the mission. “He is the Team Tangatanga’s chief ideologue and megaphone,” a Jubilee senator says of Mr Murkomen’s value to the DP.

“If you want to know the thinking in the DP’s corner, follow up Mr Murkomen’s pronouncements. He is coherent and eloquent and perhaps the only politician in the current crop of legislators from Ruto’s backyard who can deliver a speech in English continuously for 10 minutes and make sense.”

“The problem is that he unbelievable. He comes out as deceitful and a defender of indefensible.”

COMBATIVE, EXTREMIST

University of Nairobi don Herman Manyora agrees with the assertion, arguing that the senator is of no-strategic value to Mr Ruto.

“He is all noise, a bit of politics but no strategy. He is just like the rest of the crowd in Team Tangatanga, which is very unfortunate,” Mr Manyora explains.

Nominated senator Isaac Mwaura believes that Mr Murkomen thinks with his mouth open and he is a master of deceit.

“On Thursday, he came out as a supporter of corrupt governors yet he was all over social media castigating corruption. He is erratic, thinks on his feet but not in a long-term manner,” he says.

Senate deputy majority whip Irungu Kang’ata describes his boss in the House as combative and extremist, warning that his character could be counterproductive.

Pundits observe Mr Murkomen’s behaviour is borne out of the desire to carve a political niche for himself, especially in the Rift Valley, having been elected first in 2013 as a senator.

Until mid-2012, he was Mr Raila Odinga’s person and was safely ensconced as the ODM aspirant for his county’s Senate seat.

But with the political reality that Ruto was the man, he switched camps and was nominated and eventually elected on Jubilee Party.

STRANDED AT KAREN

His first days in the House were uneventful. Parliamentary records show that he regularly lambasted the regime’s attitude towards devolution, and he was among the first senators to call for a referendum to amend the Constitution and clarify the legislative roles of the two chambers of Parliament.

It was this character that pushed him further away from the centre of Jubilee Party and was regularly isolated from Dr Ruto’s inner sanctum.

But he had his Road to Damascus moment when he discovered that his then-nascent political career was on the cliff after Dr Ruto started ignoring him.

One day in 2014, he received an appointment for an early morning meeting at DP Ruto’s Karen home.

The lawmaker made it on time and was ushered in. But it took four hours of waiting for him to realise that something was amiss.

His boss had sneaked out through the side door, leaving him stranded at the VIP area.

It was this event that changed the political trajectory in Mr Murkomen political career.

“He became a real convert who is ready to kill for his boss as proof of loyalty,” says the Jubilee senator.

ARROGANT

Through this loyalty, he was duly repaid and elevated to the deputy majority leader after Mr Charles Keter was appointed to the Cabinet, and in 2017 he was picked as the majority leader to replace Prof Kithure Kindiki, who became the deputy speaker.

When reached for a comment, Mr Murkomen was coy about his position on the DP’s 2022 bid.

“I am not the only person around the DP. There are so many people that he relies on. But for now, let that not be an issue; let’s focus on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) first,” he said.

During the BBI meeting in Mombasa, he came out as the leader to watch, given his choice of words at a political rally where he used the name “Baba” several times to refer to Mr Odinga.

He chaired the recent ‘Jubilee Parliamentary Group’ meeting in Naivasha to strategise on the BBI.

Mr Barasa Nyukuri, a governance expert, says Mr Murkomen embodies a young leadership that is arrogant and out of touch with reality and will add nothing to the DP’s bid to become president.

“Power and money have entered his head. He is more of a closed-minded but open-mouthed person,” Mr Nyukuri says.

STRATEGIC THINKER

“For a man who comes from a poor background, he has suddenly become arrogant and behaves like someone who has never gone to school. If this is the man the DP is banking on, he is lost,” he adds.

Mr Manyora believes that Mr Murkomen has led down the DP. “As the head of Ruto’s political wing, one would have expected him to have taken the lead to provide strategic thinking for their man but he has not.

He is young, educated and energetic but not effective for DP ambitions,” Mr Manyora argues, saying the senator’s behaviour is borne out of the desire to succeed Ruto in the Rift.