President Uhuru Kenyatta has summoned four MPs who have defied the party's directive to resign from committees of Parliament they were elected to head.
Yesterday the Star exclusively reported how the four — Nandi Hills' Alfred Keter, Moiben’s Silas Tiren, Marakwet MP David Bowen and Emgwen's Alex Kosgey — defied a directive by Deputy President William Ruto to relinquish the seats they had won, against their party's wishes.
The four were elected chairmen of the Labour and Social Welfare,Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources, and Trade, Industry and Cooperatives committees respectively, trumping the Jubilee party's preferred nominees.
Ruto had met and spoken to the four separately and even convened a meeting last Wednesday at his Weston Hotel with other Rift Valley MPs where he demanded that the four step down. But the MPs openly told him off and refused to resign.
In addition to the four, the Jubilee Party leader has also summoned all the 50-plus Jubilee MPs in the four committees to a meeting at State House from 8am today.
It is understood the President and his deputy are planning to instruct the committee members who elected the four to pass votes of no-confidence resolutions in the four chairmen, to remove them.
Ruto sent the summonses to all Jubilee members in the four committees yesterday via text messages.
“Mheshimiwa, This is to invite you for a consultative meeting with the Party leader tomorrow (today) 18th Jan 2018 at 8.30am at State House Nairobi. Please be prompt,” the text said.
Later in the afternoon, Ruto sent another message asking MPs to confirm their attendance.
“Mheshimiwa please confirm availability for the meeting at State House Nairobi Tomorrow (today) at 8.30am,” his second text message said.
The four chairmen told the Star, however, that they would not make it to the meeting because they had various commitments that could not be cancelled.
Keter, who is attending the hearing of a petition filed against his election in Eldoret, was livid. He accused the Deputy President of abusing his office.
“This is such a petty issue. Why is he bringing the President in it? The President has a huge task of uniting the country and putting together his Cabinet and other important state matters,” Keter said.
Keter has previously been a harsh critic of Ruto and fought hard to be reelected to Parliament, running against Ruto’s aide Emmanuel Tallam, who challenged him for the Nandi Hills seat.
“The reason they want us out of those committees is because they do not want oversight," Keter charged.
"They want puppets they can manipulate at will. We will not accept that. Let Parliament be allowed to perform its duties without undue influence,” Keter added.
More on this: Rift Valley MPs angered by JP dewhipping of four
Among the institutions Keter’s Labour and Social Welfare committee oversees are the multi-billion-shilling National Social Security Fund, which has perennially been the subject of audit queries; the National Council for Persons with Disabilities, which has also been subject of questions of accountability in its financial dealings; the National Industrial Training Authority, which has been the subject of mismanagement claims; and the National Employment Authority.
Bowen, who was elected the chairman of Environment and Natural Resources, said he was upcountry to attend to security matters in his constituency.
“I have very pressing security issues back here at home that I need to address. I will be back in Nairobi on Monday,” he said.
Both Bowen and Kosgey also said they were out of town on official business.
Some of the institutions Bowen will oversight are: the Natural Environment Management Authority, the donor-funded Kenya Water Towers Agency, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Forest Research Institute, National Environment Council, National Environment Trust Fund, National Environment Tribunal and the Public Complaints Committee.
Perhaps the most powerful committee is Agriculture, which Moiben’s Silas Tiren has refused to surrender.
Under his watch will be more than 15 parastatals including: the Kenya Sugar Board, Tea Board of Kenya, Horticultural Crops Development Authority, Pyrethrum Board of Kenya, Coffee Board of Kenya, Cotton Development Authority, Kenya Sisal Board and Kenya Coconut Development Authority.
Others are the National Cereals and Produce Board, Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate, Kenya Dairy Board, Kenya Meat Commission, Pig Industry Board, Pests Control Board and the Kenya National Artificial Insemination Centre.
The four have insisted that they see no reason to resign because they were elected by members of their respective committees properly.
The High Court had granted them orders suspending the decision by the Jubilee Party to remove them from the committees, thereby rendering their positions vacant.
National Assembly Majority leader Aden Duale had vowed that the four would not be allowed to hold on to the positions to which they were overwhelmingly elected by both Jubilee and NASA members of the committees.
Yesterday, the Opposition jumped to the defence of the four MPs, accusing State House of interfering with the independence of the House.
Chief Whip Junet Mohammed accused Jubilee of disrespecting Parliament and eroding the independence of the third arm of government.
“Parliament is guided by the Standing Orders which draw their power from the Constitution. By harassing and intimidating elected MPs, Jubilee is violating the Constitution. We will not allow them to do so," he stated.
“The chairmen of this committees were duly elected in accordance with Standing Order No 179 by MPs drawn from all parties so this not a Jubilee affair,” Junet said.
On December 13, President Kenyatta chaired a Jubilee Parliamentary Group meeting where he read out a list of MPs preferred to be elected chairpersons of various committees.
But in a surprise turn of events, Jubilee MPs ganged up with Opposition legislators to reject the State House-fronted candidates.
Keter defeated Ali Wario (Bura) to become the Labour Committee chairman, while Bowen floored Sophia Ali (Ijara) for the Environment Committee.
Kosgei defeated Kieni MP Kanini Kega in the Trade Committee and Tiren beat Aden Ali (Mandera East) to become chairman of the Agriculture Committee.
The rebellion angered the party heads who ordered that they be replaced. Chief Whip Benjamin Washiali de-whipped the four from the committees but they went to Court and obtained an injunction. The stand-off has persisted as the MPs stood their ground against threats of disciplinary action from the party.