Lusaka’s dilemma as Speaker caught up in Uhuru, Ruto row

Thursday, May 14th, 2020 00:00 |
Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka approved the ouster of senators Kipchumba Murkomen and Susan Kihika from House leadership on Tuesday. Photo/PD/FILE

Mukalo Kwayera @kwayeram

The political fallout between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto has thrown Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka into the eye of the storm.

A close friend of both Uhuru and Ruto, Lusaka now finds himself in the cross-fire pitting supporters of the Head of State and his Principal Assistant.

With the ongoing infighting in Jubilee,  it will be a delicate balancing act for the Speaker, a situation that played out last Tuesday following the ouster of Ruto’s associates, Kipchumba Murkomen and Susan Kihika, as Majority Leader and Majority Chief Whip, respectively.

The two were replaced by West Pokot’s Samuel Poghisio (Majority Leader) and  Murang’a’s Irungu Kang’ata (Majority Chief Whip) who were elected following a meeting chaired by the President.

During a debate on the controversial changes on Tuesday, the  two members swiftly accused Lusaka of throwing them under the bus.

“I have known you in person, when you were a District Commissioner at my place and I knew you as governor and even defended you when (Bungoma Senator Moses) Wetang’ula brought Senate documents against you.

This is not your decision, you made it under duress and I am sorry you had to do it,” Murkomen said after Lusaka effected the changes. 

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi accused the Speaker of betraying the House and warned him that he will be punished by history.

“I accept there that there is a coup in the Jubilee leadership of House. History is there to judge all of us, that someone who was given leadership position oversaw the death of democracy in parliament,” said the Meru senator.

 Lusaka is having to deal with two dicey parliamentary matters whose eventual outcome could have far-reaching ramifications on his tenure in office, though he himself views it as usual political waters that inevitably have to be swam past.

Reasoned ruling

 The  meeting of Jubilee coalition Parliamentary Group at State House that replaced Murkomen and Kihika by Murang’a drew protests from pro-Ruto legislators, saying the recent Jubilee-Kanu coalition agreement was unconstitutional.

 Lusaka was quick to endorse the leadership changes within the party in power, stating that they had met all the relevant procedural requirements and promised to make “a reasoned ruling” at a later date.

When People Daily reached out to him yesterday to comment on the matter, Lusaka said. “We deal with matters as they come. Yesterday (Tuesday) I dealt with one and dispensed with it.

There is no other matter that has been brought to the House. However, should they come, then we shall deal with them, one by one, in accordance with the Standing Orders and the Constitution.”

 However, a reticent Lusaka said his work is guided by the rule of law as based on what takes place on the floor of the House, not anything from outside and his decision on Tuesday was purely pegged on existing parliamentary laws.

 “Matters discussed outside the House have no bearing in what takes place in the Chambers.

Our rules are very clear and no amount of pressure or trickery can lead to circumvention of the same. Here, the law and Standing Orders rule,” he stated.

 “The good side of the office I hold is that everything one does is guided by the law while the flip-side of it is that, unlike in other public offices, I am not allowed to express my personal opinion. It is only the law that speaks”

Tricky situation

Among other delicate issues Lusaka was confronted with was presiding over the impeachment trial of former Kiambu governor Ferdinard Waititu, another Ruto ally, as well as the removal  Wetangula, his  political nemesis and home senator, as Minority Leader.  

Wetang’ula was replaced by Siaya senator James Orengo, after falling out with Orange Democratic  Movement leader Raila Odinga.

Lusaka says he rode on a neutral path by opting to give the Opposition senators more days within which to ventilate on the Wetang’ula matter and inform him of their verdict.

 “This was a very tricky situation for me. It brought in a lot of speculation and innuendo. People back at home thought I was going to use the opportunity to hit at the Senator owing to our political differences at home.

But there can never be room for that, even if you wanted to. The law reigns supreme in such cases. The Constitution through the Standing Orders had its way,” said Lusaka.

 The Speaker remembers: “In the beginning there was a perception that I was trying to assist him escape the wrath of the angry senators.

However, the truth is that the law does not recognise the co-principals; it is the Members of the House who have the last word on such a matter and that is what happened. 

I was only trying to give dialogue a chance but others saw it as a ‘save-my-brothe’r sort of action.

Later, when the senators remained adamant, I applied the relevant Standing Orders and everyone understood my position. I only stuck to the law. The Constitution prevailed,” he said.

Lusaka ‘s role might also thrust him into the conflict around the removal of Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina from the  Senate  Public Accounts and Investment Committee by ODM.

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