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Intrigues behind fight for lucrative House committee slots

Saturday December 23 2017

ARLIAMENT COMMITTEES

Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir. He was elected chairman of the Public Investments Committee. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By SAMWEL OWINO
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By JOHN NGIRACHU
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When the first round of voting for the chairman of the Public Investments Committee failed to produce an outright winner on Wednesday morning, a simple solution was suggested by the event’s presiding officer.

“The candidates can have an agreement among themselves so as to save members from voting for three candidates again,” Florence Abonyo, the Director of Committee Services, suggested.

Butere MP Tindi Mwale of Amani National Congress had secured seven votes, beating Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Wajir East MP Rashid Kassim of Wiper.

But with Mr Nassir and Mr Kassim getting six votes each, there was not going to be a run-off between the top two candidates, hence Ms Abonyo’s sensible suggestion.

MWALE FURY
The three candidates stepped out to talk as suggested, but Mr Mwale stormed back into the room a few minutes later, fury evident on his face.

He launched a loud conversation with Budalang’i MP Raphael Wanjala, part of it in their shared mother tongue.

“These people have shortchanged me; they have decided to just talk the two of them and exclude me,” Mr Mwale said.

The Butere MP also blamed Nasa lawmakers in the committee for abandoning him at the hour of need, lamenting:

“It is sad that even people from my region couldn’t vote for me.”

SUPPORT
In the second round, Mr Nassir was elected the chairman after getting 11 votes, beating Mr Mwale who got eight votes.

Mr Nassir will be deputised by Mr Ahmed Ibrahim (Wajir North, ODM) who beat his Embakasi East counterpart Paul Ongili (Babu Owino) after getting 11 votes against eight in the second round of voting.

The agreement between Mr Nassir and Mr Kassim is understood to have resulted in the election of Wajir North MP Ahmed Ibrahim as vice chairman, locking out Babu Owino.

Two days earlier, Nambale MP Sakwa Bunyasi had been similarly angry when he was trounced by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi despite having been assured of the seat, such that when he walked into the room, some colleagues had referred to him as ‘chairman’.

Confident that he would win, as assured by members of his coalition, Mr Bunyasi had apparently not been aware that Mr Wandayi had been canvassing for the position.

Perhaps unknown to the MPs, the Jubilee Party had reached a quiet consensus to back ODM MPs in the contests for the leadership of the three committees where the opposition has the leadership and the majority by right.

JUBILEE STRATEGY
Narok North MP Moitalel ole Kenta of ODM was elected chairman of the Committee on Implementation, cementing ODM’s hold on the watchdog committees.

Apparently, Jubilee Party was eager to have the main opposition party take control of the important committees as that would lead to disquiet within Nasa, to the ruling party’s advantage.

An MP in the party, who asked not to be named as he was talking about internal strategies, told Sunday Nation that that was how Mr Wandayi easily won the PAC chairmanship.

“We saw it better to vote as a bloc. We did our analysis and saw it better to give PAC to Wandayi as it would make the ANC MPs angry,” the MP said.

Speaking ahead of the PIC vote, the MP hinted that Mr Mwale would lose the seat, although the conundrum for them was that Majority Leader Aden Duale was reportedly backing Mr Kassim.

CONTAINER DEPOT
Those against Mr Nassir were said to be uncomfortable with the fact that the Mvita MP is close to Mombasa Governor Ali Hassan Joho, whose family has business interests at the port.

Mr Joho has in the past complained about the planned establishment of an inland container depot in Naivasha.

Those backing Mr Nassir were understood to have argued that PIC’s role would be limited to scrutinising reports of the Auditor General on State corporations and not ongoing projects, like happened with the last committee.

ODM’s leadership of the watchdog committees also continues the trend by its MPs to push for control of the big seats in the Opposition.

NYENZE AND ABABU

It started in August with Mr Mbadi’s push to be appointed Minority Leader on the basis that he was the most senior MP, as he is serving his third term, his loyalty to the coalition, and the fact that he had worked hard for ODM as its chairman.

Mr Mbadi’s original intention was to become secretary general of ODM, but he was talked out of it by Mr Odinga, who was of the view that former Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba should be given a chance despite the fears by some people that he was close to Deputy President William Ruto.
Opposition MPs also regretted the decision to hand over the position of Minority Leader to Mr Francis Nyenze in the last Parliament, given his lax approach to the job.

Towards the end, he had a habit of rocking the Opposition boat.

Mr Namwamba would later betray the party by backing President Kenyatta’s re-election.

LOYALTY

This was also the basis for Suna East MP Junet Mohamed’s aggressive push to be appointed Minority Whip.

“We are the majority and have been very lenient and patient with our brothers, but they let us down in the 11th Parliament.

"Why should ODM always get the short end of the stick while it has the majority of MPs who also worked hard for the party during elections and need to be rewarded?” one of the second-term ODM MPs asked this week.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula said ANC is considering court action to get its rightful share in the coalition.

“There is a coalition agreement in Nasa which is deposited with the Registrar of Political Parties.

"We will have our Parliamentary Group Meeting early in January. One of our options is to go to court to get what we deserve in the coalition,” Mr Savula said.

DISCONTENT
Mr Savula complained that they have raised the issue of being shortchanged and bullied by ODM with party leader and Nasa co-principal Musalia Mudavadi, who has just been promising that he will talk to Nasa leader Raila Odinga.

In Wiper, Mwingi Central MP Gideon Mulyungi has also expressed the party’s displeasure with the recent events.

“I don’t see this coalition lasting long if instant negotiations are not done to address dictatorial tendencies being showcased by ODM in Parliament.

"How can a single political party in the coalition solely share all the key leadership positions in Parliament among its members?” he told journalists at his home on Friday.

The MP said Wiper will front Kalonzo Musyoka as their presidential candidate come 2022, whether Nasa leader Odinga will support them or not.

“Mr Musyoka must be on the ballot in 2022, come what may.

"The Kamba community has been kept waiting for long and now it’s our time to lead this nation, with or without Raila’s support,” Mr Mulyungi said.

DP RUTO CAMPAIGN

For Jubilee, the discord in the Opposition works to their advantage because it makes it easy for them to lure them.

Ahead of this year’s elections, Deputy President Ruto was keen on getting the party more support from Western region.

He was somewhat successful as the party has four MPs in Bungoma County and four in Kakamega, more than what it had after the 2013 elections.

So happy was the party with that performance that former Bungoma Governor Kenneth Lusaka was made Speaker of the Senate and Mumias East MP Benjamin Washiali was appointed Majority Whip.

With his plan to become President in 2022, Mr Ruto will also be seeking to get more support from the region.

FAIRNESS
In ODM, Minority Leader John Mbadi has avoided getting drawn into the fights, insisting that while the party had its preferences, it did not campaign for people and could not determine how they voted.

Sources confided that Mr Wandayi decided not to publicise his candidature in the media so as to avoid possible division within the opposition before the actual voting.

Mr Wandayi could not confirm this but said: “I decided to campaign by approaching only committee members.”

Busia Woman Representative Florence Mutua dismissed claims that ODM shortchanged ANC in the polls.

“It was an election and the ANC candidate lost. I was not aware that the seat was reserved for an individual or a party.

"Nasa leadership did not communicate on the person to vote for,” Ms Mutua said.

Additional reporting by Boniface Mwaniki