Uhuru-Raila, DP rivalry derails Senate business

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021 00:00 |
Senate during a past session. Photo/PD/File

Bitter rivalry between allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga on one hand and Deputy President William Ruto on the other derailed the reconstitution of Senate committees.

Ruto’s allies, a majority of whom were affected by the Jubilee Party purge last year, are opposed to changes in the House committees contained in a motion sponsored by Leader of Majority in the Senate Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot).

The proposed changes, which Ruto’s allies have termed as illegal, seek to have House committees reconstituted and new officials elected.

So bad is the rift that some committee’s activities have been grounded because of lack of quorum.

The committee on Devolution and Inter-governmental Relations for instance, lost three of its members to death and de-whipping.

They are former Machakos Senator Boniface Kabaka, former Nominated Senator  Victor Prengei and Isaac Mwaura.

Mwaura was de-whipped by Jubilee Party over  disloyalty concerns while Kabaka and Prengei passed on.

Agnes Kavindu was elected Machakos Senator in March by-election while former Samburu Senator Sammy Leshore replaced Mwaura. Last week, Jubilee Party nominated Isaac Ngugi to replace Prengei.

Enhancing efficiency

While addressing the concerns, Poghisio called for patience as the House leadership consults on the matter.

“The Senate leadership is consulting on the proposed reconstitution of select committees.

This is obviously a matter of interest to every Senator and I assure the House that the changes proposed are geared towards enhancing efficiency and effectiveness in the committees,” Poghisio had told People Daily on Monday.

Last week, Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’ who chairs the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations raised the alarm saying  his panel is not  functional as a result of Senate Standing Order number 191 that talks about composition of select committees.

“A  Select Committee shall consist of an odd number of Senators being not less than seven and not more than nine,” it says.

“My committee lost Senators (Dr) Kabaka,  Prengei and Mwaura. We are unable to hold meetings.

The Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations could be among the most important committees in the House,” Kajwang’ said as he implored on the Senate leadership to hasten the process.

“I request the leadership that if the matters of allocating Members to other committees is taking time and requires consultations, let them bring a Motion next Tuesday specific to the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations so that we are able to handle Statements and Bills,” he added.

Quorum hitch

Kajwang’ said his committee is currently handling Bills relating to transfer of functions from one level of government to another but its unable to transact business because of quorum hitch.

Laikipia Senator John Kinyua, who chaired the committee before the Jubilee purge on Ruto’s allies said the Senate’s core mandate is devolution adding that formation of the committees should be done as a matter of urgency.

“Our work is to protect the interests of our counties. From where I sit, if that committee, which I was chairing is not functional, it means that this House is almost grinding to a halt.

Therefore, I request the Senate Leader of Majority to fill the committee on Devolution and Inter-governmental Relations as he tries to consult on others.

He can put members in that committee so that it continues to run,” Senator Kinyua, a close ally of the DP noted.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the reconstitution of committees should be done with consensus.

“However, if it comes like this, I assure you that it will fall flat like before. If they try to bring it now, we will respectfully shoot the same motion down,” Cherargei, a fierce critic of the President and ardent supporter of Ruto’s noted.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula has asked Senate Majority and Minority leaders and their Whips to consult members on whether they want to move from one Committee to another and whether they are comfortable to be in this or that committee.

“That is the work of Whips. That is how we did things in the last Parliament. This House has cultivated some tremendous public confidence and respect.

For us to degenerate into altercations, quarrels and shouting at each other over committees is beneath our dignity,” he said.

“I truly encourage the leadership that this is a matter that we can do in an hour so that members who have been assigned new committees can get to work,” he added.

“However, the issue is once a member sees his or her name on the floor that he has been moved from one committee to another, they stop going to that committee where they have been indicated to have been moved out of.

Seek consensus

So, the committees suffer because of delay in making the decision. They cannot go to the committee they have been assigned because the House has not approved the movement. So, it cuts both ways,” Wetangula  said.

He said as the Committee on Devolution and Intergovernmental Relations is suffering, other committees are also suffering.

“Even if a committee is properly constituted but meetings are constantly attended by only three members, it undermines its credibility and confidence.

So, I urge the distinguished Senators for West Pokot and Siaya, as the leadership of the House, to get their Whips in order and get things done,” he held.

While terming the reconstitution of committees as thorny, Leader of Minority in the Senate Senator James Orengo said he and Poghisio were supposed to consult and have a Kamukunji this week, but it is not possible.

“If the Senate Leader of Majority and I are given time until Tuesday afternoon, the job will be done. There is a difference between this House and the other one,” Orengo said. 

For instance, in the National Assembly, Orengo said the leadership determines which member serves in which committee unlike the Senate where the leadership has to seek consensus from members.

Orengo pleaded with his colleagues to have the spirit of constituting the teams as Committees of the House, but not to look for individual or sectarian interests.

“When that happens, it becomes very difficult when constituting them. I am also a culprit as far as that question is concerned.

Sometimes you move somebody from a committee without consultation and you do not know that person has a professional or devotional interest to it.

When you make the changes, it becomes extremely difficult. I hope that working together with the House and the Leader of Majority, we will accomplish this process by Tuesday afternoon,” he said. 

While admitting difficulty, Poghisio said there is a headache for the Whips and the Chairpersons of Committees.

“Something that we should address in that Kamukunji is the fact that Members do not attend Committee meetings.

There are members who want to be in four or five committees and they hardly appear in any,” he said.

“Let us stop registering in more committees than we can handle. Let us make sure that every member belongs to at least two Standing committees.

There needs to be a general agreement with the other committees,” he held.

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