Attempts by Deputy President William Ruto to cajole President Uhuru Kenyatta into summoning Jubilee Party’s Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting backfired on Monday last week, further underlying the deteriorating relationship between the two leaders.
Instead, the President was forced to turn to opposition outfits Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Wiper Democratic Movement to see through Parliament his government’s push to raise the borrowing ceiling to an unprecedented Sh9 trillion, as the tussle in Jubilee to control Parliament intensifies.
Reliable sources told Nation that the President was keen on the motion and asked his deputy to mobilise MPs to ensure that it sailed through the National Assembly.
While the sources have revealed the DP accepted the order, he requested the President to summon the PG to allow members to ventilate on the issue after which a common position would have been adopted, besides discussing other pertinent issues affecting the ruling party.
The DP is also said to have asked the President to don party colours and join the fray in campaigning for its candidate for the November 7 Kibra by-election.
While the President appeared to have given Mr Ruto a promise to host the PG last Tuesday morning, he quietly turned to the opposition for help.
President Kenyatta sought ODM leader Raila Odinga's support, telling the opposition chief that his deputy was blackmailing him.
“It’s true the President reached out to Mr Odinga who assured him of his support, because it was politically strategic for him not to go the PG way,” said a senior opposition MP, who did not want to be named because he was involved in the matter.
However, Mr Ruto’s spokesman David Mugonyi disputed the claims, saying he was unaware of the plans for a planned PG and reminding the Nation it could not claim to know it either as the discussions, if any, were between the President and his deputy.
“You cannot claim to be aware of a conversation between the President and his deputy,” Mr Mugonyi said.
However, Majority Leader Aden Duale confirmed that there had been plans for the PG, which was later abandoned after the minority expressed the desire and support for bipartisan approach on the motion.
“I was for the PG but I opted to give bipartisanship a chance,” Mr Duale said, adding: “I am happy that when I approached both Mr John Mbadi and Junet Mohamed, they embraced the idea. The moment I got their assurances, the push for a PG was rendered needless and I abandoned the idea. They also abandoned the push for their own PG.”
The motion was on the report of the Committee on Delegated Legislation on the proposal by the National Treasury to amend the Public Finance Management Regulations on public debt ceiling.
In the proposal, the National Treasury had revised the formula of putting a ceiling on national debt borrowing from 50 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) to an absolute figure, which was capped at Sh9 trillion.
The law requires that all regulations must be submitted to the Committee on Delegated Legislations for consideration before they are implemented.
The National Assembly either adopts such regulations or rejects them in their entirety. There is no room for amendments.
The committee, chaired by Uasin Gishu Woman Representative Gladys Shollei, gave the regulations a thumbs up, something that was opposed by MPs, mainly associated with Mr Ruto.
Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wah had his own proposal to amend the figure and put the cap at Sh7.5 trillion.
Mr Ichung’wah chairs the Budget and Appropriations Committee and is known to be loyal to the Deputy President.
However, he was forced to drop the proposal at the prompting of Mr Duale and when he realised that the mood in the House was not for it.
At the President’s request, Mr Odinga reached out to Minority Leader John Mbadi, Minority Whip Junet Mohamed and Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and briefed them on his agreement with the President, urging them to whip members to support it.
Mr Amollo was out of the country. On Sunday, Mr Mbadi confirmed that Mr Odinga had reached out to him and the whip over the issue but refused to be drawn into the conversation between his party leader and President Kenyatta.
“There were consultations within the party and we felt that there was no problem raising the debt ceiling,” Mr Mbadi said of the events leading to the crucial debate on the motion that has placed Kenya’s debt ceiling at unprecedented Sh9 trillion, adding that supporting the revision of the ceiling was meant to give multinationals confidence through putting up proper structures within the law over national borrowing.
Mr Mbadi pointed out that they supported the debt ceiling because the country had passed its current debt ceiling and there was no money to complete various pending infrastructural projects, especially in Central Kenya – the Presidents’ backyard.
Deputy Minority Leader Robert Mbui denied knowledge of any meeting between his party boss and the President to canvass the issue.
“It’s possible he reached out to him. As Wiper party, we had said that we will support this government and we stand by that in all circumstances,” said Mr Mbui, who seconded the motion that was moved by Ms Shollei.
Mr Mbui said Wiper supported it because the country had reached its limit of borrowing and was staring at a crisis on how to pay its debts and carry out its affairs.
He pointed out that Wiper MPs supported the motion after acting Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yattani reached out to them.
Within Parliamentary circles, Mr Ichung'wah is described as the chairman of team Tangatanga, the proof of his closeness to the country’s number two.
The amendment never saw the light of day because MPs supporting the President had whipped their side.
Mr Duale, while contributing to the motion, asked the MP to drop the amendment Nominated MP Maina Kamanda told the Nation on Friday that he had heard rumours of a possible PG but he didn’t take them seriously.
“We are now working with ODM and things are moving smoothly for the President. We are less interested in people whose aim is to embarrass the President in their desire to gain power,” the MP said.