It’s an all-out political battle pitting President Kenyatta and ODM chief Raila Odinga on one side against Deputy President William Ruto on the other.
The escalation of hostilities has been fast and furious. On Saturday, Senate Minority Leader James Orengo alleged a plan by the Uhuru-Raila camp to table an impeachment motion against Dr Ruto.
But lawmakers allied to the DP responded swiftly, asking their rivals to bring it on. On Tuesday, they drew their own line, demanding implementation of the Ndung’u, Kriegler and Truth, Justice and Reconciliation reports before any constitutional changes (BBI) can be made.
And, on Wednesday, Dr Ruto’s allies dared President Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament and call fresh elections in their boldest defence yet of the man they exuded confidence had the support of the majority of Kenyans.
This was in response to a bare-knuckled, strongly-worded statement by MPs allied to President Kenyatta and Mr Odinga who asked the DP to resign, saying his 2022 presidential ambitions had clouded his ability to perform his duties and that he was now in an “open war” with his boss.
At a press conference chaperoned by Mr Odinga and the Senate Minority Leader James Orengo at the Serena Hotel, the MPs said the DP had committed “egregious malfeasances against democracy, the rule of law, accountability and good governance”, a position they said must be corrected.
But, in another presser a few hours later, legislators allied to the DP, led by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, came out guns blazing.
They stated that Dr Ruto will not resign as his was an elected seat.
“We are ready for elections. Dissolve Parliament and let us go to elections. We have the support of 80 per cent of Kenyans,” Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, a dyed-in-the-wool Ruto supporter, told journalists at Parliament Buildings.
As if to stress his point, Mr Kuria added: “Tuko tayari serikali ivunjwe, tuko tayari kwenda kwa debe. Wakimwaga ugali, tunamwaga kitoweo.(We are ready for the dissolution of the government ... we are ready for the ballot. If they pour out ugali, we pour out the stew)."
The DP’s allies dismissed allegations that Dr Ruto was disloyal to the President.
“ODM cannot lecture us on loyalty and respect for Uhuru Kenyatta. No one has sacrificed more for the President than Dr Ruto. From the time Uhuru was an MP up to now, the DP has not only been his loyal friend, but also a committed supporter. Anyone questioning the DP’s loyalty is not only dishonest but also evil,” the Ruto allies said in a statement read by Meru Senator Mithika Linturi.
Without giving evidence, the Ruto team said Mr Odinga has been campaigning “for the position of a chief minister”.
“It’s the prerogative of the President to reorganise the Cabinet and appoint new members. If he wants to appoint Mr Odinga the chief minister, let him do so,” Mr Kuria said.
At the Serena Hotel where Mr Odinga spoke to the lawmakers in a closed-door meeting before they came out to make the address, the MPs said Dr Ruto had failed his office.
“The state of affairs leaves Ruto with no option but to resign,” the MPs said in a statement read by Baringo Woman Representative Gladwell Cheruiyot and Kathiani MP Robert Mbui.
“He must shape up or ship out. He needs time and undivided attention to pursue the only thing that makes sense and has meaning in his life — the 2022 presidential elections,” they said.
There were about 70 MPs — five of them directly elected under a Jubilee Party ticket and four from parties allied to it — but the organisers said 165 MPs support the statement.
Mr Orengo attended the briefing, but did not speak to the media. The MPs, however, refused to say whether their next move would be the impeachment motion against the DP.
They also refused to field questions from journalists.
In the absence of a resignation, the DP can only be removed from office by impeachment in the National Assembly.
It passes if it is supported by at least two-thirds of the MPs (233 out of 349). It will then be introduced in the Senate, which will conduct a trial to ascertain that the charges of gross misconduct or violation of the Constitution have been met. The two-thirds (45 out of 67) threshold also applies in the Senate.
The Uhuru-Raila team said the DP was guilty of gross misconduct, not living up to the oath of his office and bringing dishonour to it, but failed to state categorically whether those are the charges they will level against him in an impeachment, if any.
In their statement, the Ruto team said they were aware of a meeting planned today to “bring an impeachment motion against the Deputy President and get him out of office so that Raila can get a position in government”.
“There are plans to reconstitute government so that ODM can occupy half of the Cabinet. In the interim, Raila is campaigning to be made chief minister in Uhuru’s government,” they claimed.
At Serena, the Uhuru-Raila group said Dr Ruto had failed due to his “unbridled ambition” for State House.
They dismissed the DP’s claims that the Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti was being used by the ''system'' to target him, saying that, as the country’s second-in-command, the DP had a supervisory role over the officers and should not be seen to be undermining them.
Besides Mr Kinoti, the MPs were also angry about attacks on Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, and the Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji.
They claimed that Dr Ruto had frustrated the President’s anti-corruption efforts.
In Parliament, the DP’s allies said Mr Odinga’s active involvement in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) was not driven by the desire to unite Kenyans but to revive his dwindling political fortunes.
“By hiding behind the President, Mr Odinga has usurped the clarity, authority and the credibility of the President’s vision and recalibrated it to achieve his personal ambitions,” Mr Linturi said.