Just how murky things are getting within the governing Jubilee Party was evidenced last week when Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen delivered a stinging rebuke of the government.
Mr Murkomen was at pains to explain that he at times has to make the choice between being the voice of government in the Senate and speaking for the people who elected him.
In this case, he was speaking as Senator for Elgeyo-Marakwet.
What forced Mr Murkomen to make that choice was his anger over disarmament of police reservists in his county. The senator argued that the move exposed his people to grave threats in a region notorious for banditry, cattle rustling and deadly ethnic conflicts.
He hit out strongly at Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, as well as Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, whom he accused of selectively disarming National Police Reserve (NPR) officers from one community.
The garrulous politician was not content to address the matter as a serious security issue affecting his constituents. As he is wont to at every opportunity, he milked the issue, injecting presidential succession duels to demonstrate his backing for the faction grouped around Deputy President William Ruto.
He argued that the disarmament was designed to punish the community for its loyalty to the DP.
The spiel may well have caught Mr Ruto’s attention, but it was disingenuous and self-serving.
The senator cleverly ignored the very simple fact that it was not only in Elgeyo-Marakwet County that police reservists were being disarmed. The exercise covered all the neighbouring counties such as Baringo, West Pokot, Turkana, Samburu and Laikipia.
Another important point is that, while police reservists are meant to play a critical role in protecting communities at risk of attack from bandits and cattle rustlers, they had, in many of those places, become part of the problem.
They are trained and armed by the government as an auxiliary security force, but owe loyalty to their specific community and have, instead, become part of the ethnic militia used to terrorise neighbouring groups.
Mr Murkomen may be right in complaining that the disarmament leaves his people exposed. Indeed, it would be a grave dereliction of duty on the part of the national security machinery to disarm reservists before adequate security was provided by the formal police structure.
It would be an imperative for police presence to be beefed up in the affected areas to cover any gaps. It would also be absolutely necessary that tough action is taken to neutralise the varied brigands by taking the war to their lairs and hideouts so that they do not have the freedom to roam and attack with impunity.
This is the demand any responsible leader should be making instead of seeking political capital out of a grave issue afflicting his constituents.
The politicians who contrive to insert his name into every issue do the DP no favours at all. It does not help his image or his 2022 presidential election prospects when his name is used to fly cover for disreputable leaders caught on the wrong side of the law.
Now, Mr Murkomen is no ordinary MP who might make a career of exciting disaffection against the government. He’s the voice of government in the Legislature alongside his National Assembly colleague Aden Duale. The position of Majority Leader is equal to the Leader of Government Business in the former unicameral Parliament, a role that was the preserve of the Vice-President (nowadays Deputy President).
As an elected member in his own right, a Majority Leader does owe a duty to his constituents. Where conflicted, however, he could consult internally within the government and party organs.
If his concerns are not adequately addressed, then the honourable thing would be to relinquish the Majority Leader role so that he can, in good conscience, speak out for his people both inside and outside Parliament.
As it is, what we are seeing from Mr Murkomen’s now frequent outbursts are the hallmark of rebellion. This is rebellion not from one disaffected individual, but a powerful Ruto faction in Jubilee that is unhappy with the path pursued by President Kenyatta.
Jubilee cannot govern effectively when it has such a powerful opposition within; hence the rudderless, dysfunctional government seemingly sabotaging its own efforts.
This is not a healthy situation. Maybe, it would be best for Mr Ruto and his cohorts to resign and go officially into opposition or for President Kenyatta to throw up his hands in surrender and leave the burden of leadership to those more able.
[email protected]; @MachariaGaitho