Jubilee politicians allied to Deputy President William Ruto now say they are unfairly being targeted by the State a day after some of their bodyguards were withdrawn.
With about 10 mostly vocal foot soldiers, including Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu reporting that they no longer have their security, the tension between Dr Ruto’s wing and that of President Uhuru Kenyatta is bound to intensify.
Some of the MPs targeted, the majority of them from Mr Kenyatta’s central backyard, interpret the move as meant to have them backtrack on their support for Dr Ruto’s presidential bid.
Pundits say the decision, taken on Friday and Saturday, is an escalation of rhetoric between the opposing sides in the ruling party.
Among those whose security was withdrawn are Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and Mr Waititu. All of them belong to Team Tanga Tanga, whose leader is Dr Ruto.
Both Mr Waititu and Mr Ichung’wa separately confirmed to the Sunday Nation that their security had been taken away and no reasons were given.
“Yes, my security and that of Mr Ichung’wa have been withdrawn”, is all that Mr Waititu told the Sunday Nation through a short text message.
Mr Ichung’wa, who also chairs the Budget and Appropriations Committee of the National Assembly, is away in the US on official duty.
On Saturday, he read mischief in the decision and expressed fears that the withdrawal of his security is an extension of threats he has been receiving on his life.
“I am out of the country and only God knows what they intend to do to my family while I am away, or to me when I return.
“This is a political move to intimidate and coerce me after a series of threats to my life so that I stop working with the Deputy President,” he said in a text to the Sunday Nation.
Mr Ichung’wa forwarded to the Sunday Nation a letter dated July 24, 2018 in which he filed a complaint to the police over the threats.
The MP claims he had received a series of telephone calls from unknown people whom he claims do not want him to work with the Deputy President. He gave the police the mobile phone number of the people who called him.
And while the police responded through a letter dated July 30, assuring him that action was being taken, Mr Ichung'wa said nothing had come out of it.
“Is the withdrawal of my security the action they were talking about? What do they want to do with my family while I am away?” Mr Ichung'wa asked, even as he blamed Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho for the withdrawal.
Attempts to reach out to Mr Kibicho were futile as his phone was switched off for the better part of Saturday.
When reached for comment, Ministry of Interior Communications Director Wangoi Muchiri promised to get back to us, but by the time of going to press she had not.
Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, elected on an ODM ticket but now supporting Dr Ruto, on Saturday confirmed that her bodyguard had been recalled.
“I woke up on Saturday morning and received the news that my bodyguard had been withdrawn. I am yet to get much details on the same,” Ms Jumwa, who is fighting ODM’s disciplinary team’s decision to expel her, said.
She did not say whether she had reported the matter to the police or formally complained to Speaker Justin Muturi. On Saturday, she accompanied Dr Ruto to a fundraiser in Njoro.
While the National Police Service denied the claims, a source at State House, who spoke on condition that he is not named, confirmed the withdrawal, suggesting that the decision had been taken after the leaders refused to heed the President’s call that they desist from political campaigns and focus on implementing the Big Four agenda.
But National Police Service Director of Communications Charles Owino refuted the claims that the bodyguards had been withdrawn.
He said all bodyguards that were drawn from the National Police Service had been removed from the duties and will be replaced with those from the Administration Police Service.
“No one is losing any bodyguard. It is just a restructuring that is happening as per the recent police reorganisation where the Administration Police Service have been given the mandate of VIP protection,” he said.
Mr Waititu and Mr Ichung’wa both hail from President Kenyatta’s Kiambu backyard, but they have proved to be hardnosed and unrepentant supporters of the DP.
It is these two leaders who are believed to have been the masked faces that planned the recent demonstration in Kiambaa Constituency where a group of placard-waving youths, clad in yellow T-shirts, pledged their support for the DP in 2022.
This infuriated the President’s handlers who interpreted the demonstration as a scheme by the two politicians to challenge the President for the control politics in the county ahead of 2022.
This has not gone done well with Uhuru-allied MPs, who believe that the daring scheme was to portray the President as a lame duck, and that Kiambu County, and by extension central Kenya, was firmly in the grip of the Deputy President.
On the other hand, sources reveal that the President has grown highly disenchanted with the MPs over what he considers open defiance of his rule and support for everything he eschews.
Ms Jumwa, who also serves as a Parliamentary Service Commission member and therefore enjoys the services of extra bodyguards and a chase car, told the government to reinstate her security unconditionally since it is her right.
“I am demanding back my security detail. It is my right to have security, and the move is contravening my constitutional right," she said on phone.
Speaking in an interview in Mombasa, Kaloleni MP Paul Katana said the action is primitive, and urged Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai to immediately reinstate the bodyguards.
“My colleague Aisha Jumwa, the Malindi MP, told me this morning that her security had been withdrawn and it later emerged that several legislators had also faced the same fate,” he said.
The MP said the lawmakers are legally entitled to protection from the government, arguing that it is not a favour to get police protection.
“Who knows, these MPs might have wronged some people and that is why it is prudent to give them security. It is in fact a constitutional matter and not a privilege.
“The government must come out clear and tell Kenyans what criteria was used to withdraw them,” Mr Katana said.
The Kaloleni legislator read malice in the whole move and asked the Inspector General to make sure the decision is reversed.
“What is amazing is that the legislators whose security guards have been withdrawn are in our team supporting Deputy President William Ruto. So, we are reading malice in the whole matter. Unless the IG comes clear and tells Kenyans what has transpired, we shall look at it as a political move.
"The IG, whom we recently approved [for appointment], must not be sucked into political wars,” he said.
A spot check by the Sunday Nation shows that while Mr Owino insists the procedure was being undertaken among all the MPs, the majority of the lawmakers including those from the opposition, what used to be Nasa coalition, are not affected, at least so far.
Kipkelion West MP Hillary Koskei said he is not aware of the move as he confirmed that his bodyguards have not been withdrawn.
“Security is not given to MPs on political allegiance but upon election,” he said.
Laikipia Women Representative Catherine Waruguru, another vocal defender of Dr Ruto, said to have been affected, neither confirmed nor denied the move but directed us to seek for more information from the Ministry of Interior.
“Feel free to write to the ministry and enquire,” Ms Waruguru said in a text message.
Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro said on phone: “I don’t need them because they are not necessary to me. I have a black belt in taekwondo; try me and you will see.”
Reporting by Ibrahim Oruko, Samuel Baya, Samwel Owino and Charles Lwanga