President Uhuru Kenyatta has stepped in to quell nascent rebellion within his Jubilee Party, ordering members of four National Assembly committees to remove the chairmen they elected against his wishes.
The MPs are Alfred Keter (Nandi Hills), who heads the Labour committee, Silas Tiren (Moiben), the chairman of Agriculture, Kangogo Bowen (Marakwet East), Environment and Natural Resources, and James Gakuya (Embakasi North), Broadcasting and Library.
The decision was reached at a meeting of the MPs in the four committees with President Kenyatta at State House Nairobi.
The four have been at loggerheads with Jubilee Party chiefs in Parliament since going against the President’s preferences and working their way to the leadership of the committees.
On Thursday, however, Mr Keter and Mr Tiren remained defiant, insisting they were legally elected as chairmen and vowing to stay put, complicating matters for Jubilee.
Mr Keter, who has taken on the mantle of chief rebel and who takes pride in the fact that he was re-elected despite opposing Jubilee during its first term, described his colleagues as “puppets of the Executive who are destroying the independence of the Legislature.’’
“They want people they can control but I will not allow them to get away with it,” the MP said.
“Cartels that have been looting institutions like the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) are against my election as chairman. I want to tell them that I’m going nowhere and will play my role effectively,” he said.
Mr Tiren, who was reported to be in Mombasa attending a retreat of another committee, said he was ready to fight his detractors.
“As it is, I am planning to attend a retreat next week in Mombasa as the chair of the committee as stipulated in the Standing Orders and having been clarified by the Clerk of the Assembly,” he said in a statement.
He described himself as a quiet person who does not court trouble “but at the same time, I hate being taken for granted.”
“If you rattle me the wrong way, then I will come out fighting. I am not a pushover and I will remain chairman of the committee, as elected by MPs,” he said.
He declared that he is well informed about Agriculture and is best placed to deliver on his mandate and help achieve Jubilee’s agenda, which includes improving food security.
“I respect His Excellency William Samoei Ruto the Deputy President and our Deputy Party Leader and I shall accord him all the support, but also I was elected by the people of Moiben to represent them in Parliament and I wonder what I will tell them if I step down from this position which actually touches on their lives directly because they are farmers,” he said.
Jubilee agreed on how to share the seats at a meeting between the MPs and President Kenyatta at State House, Nairobi, in December. The party agreed that the positions should be shared equitably among counties with each getting a chairperson and vice-chair. But since the committees are not as many as the devolved units, neighbouring counties were to agree on the leadership.
Some of the MPs who attended the State House meeting yesterday said they were asked to sign petitions to the Clerk of the National Assembly expressing lack of confidence in the committees’ leadership.
“We have committed ourselves that we do not have confidence in the committees’ leadership and that fresh elections should be held,” a member of the Agriculture committee, who did not want to go on record to avoid a backlash, said.
Nominated MP David Sankok said the election of the four, especially Mr Keter and Mr Tiren, went against the party’s wishes.
“There is no way we can have two chairmen of committees from Nandi. We want regional balance. Coast does not have a chairperson,” said Mr Sankok, a member of the Labour and Social Welfare Committee.
He said the most likely route for the removal of Mr Keter and the others would be impeachment which, in Parliament, is done through a vote of no-confidence.
Mr Keter and Mr Tiren are reported to have rejected overtures by the Deputy President last week to step down. Mr Ruto is reported to have told the MPs at Weston Hotel in Nairobi that it was wrong to have the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture and the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture coming from the same region.