Why Uhuru axed 'unapologetic' Kang'ata from plum Senate job

Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi takes over as Majority Chief Whip

In Summary

• Kiambu senator Kimani Wamatangi was elected to replace Kang'ata.

• Kang'ata has been under intense criticism from President’s loyalists after he penned a letter saying BBI was bound to fail. 

Questionable loyalty and suspicion that Senator Irungu Kang'ata was a mole for the Tangatanga faction of Jubilee cost him his job as the Senate Majority Whip on Tuesday. 

The Murang'a senator's 10-month tenure ended in acrimony at a Parliamentary Group meeting chaired by Jubilee secretary-general Raphael Tuju in Nairobi.  

Allies of Deputy President William Ruto walked out en mass from the meeting that sealed Kang'ata's fate. Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi takes over the role. 

Almost the same scene played out for Kang'ata as his predecessor and former boss Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika in May last year. Kihika, like Kang'ata, was removed for disloyalty to the party and to President Uhuru Kenyatta. 

The Murang'a senator was among those that engineered Kihika's removal, but he was this time around welcomed by those same party members on the wrong side last year. 

Kang'ata's removal came just a day after Jubilee party expelled six pro-Ruto nominated senators for alleged disloyalty.

Nominated senators Isaac Mwaura, Millicent Omanga, Victor Prengei, Falhada Dekow Iman, Naomi Jillo Waqo and Mary Seneta Yiane were expelled by the National Management Committee — Jubilee's top organ. 

On Tuesday, Tuju announced at the closed-door meeting the removal of Kang'ata as Majority Whip, citing his lack of decorum and breach of confidentiality.

Kang'ata had been under intense criticism from Uhuru's loyalists after he penned a letter to the head of state discrediting the Building Bridges Initiative's popularity in Mt Kenya.

Tuju said that while the Murang’a senator was within his rights to express his opinion to the President, the party took issue with how he used that privilege.

“There are ways of addressing these issues when you want to talk to the leadership of the party and especially if that leader happens to include the President,” Tuju said.

He said that Kangata’s subsequent actions – refusing to apologise, skipping Jubilee Party and parliamentary leadership meetings and revealing confidential information – smelt of disloyalty. 

The Star established that soon after Kangata's letter emerged, Jubilee officials, parliamentary leadership and top government officials held a meeting in Westlands where the senator was asked to either apologise or resign. He reportedly declined to give in, precipitating another meeting.

“After that meeting, we had another meeting at the Jubilee headquarters in which we invited him, he refused to come. We discussed a few other confidential issues in which we put him on the line to be able to talk to us.

“But in the most unfortunate way, he decided to discuss what we discussed in closed meetings outside to the media,” Tuju said.

He added, "That was his biggest failure as far as leadership is concerned. You don’t kiss and tell."

On Tuesday, Kang'ata remained adamant that he did not insult or abuse the President in his letter. He insisted that he spoke the truth and offered ideas on how to popularise BBI in the President’s backyard.

“The Bible says you speak the truth and the truth shall set you free. What I wrote about the BBI was the truth. I did not insult anyone. I did no belittle the government,” Kang'ata, flanked by the DP’s men, said.

He appeared to have officially joined Ruto’s Tangatanga faction, with Ruto’s confidant Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen saying they had welcomed him to their caucus and will stand with him.

“Because we have an existing caucus, we are going to accommodate senators Mwaura and Kang'ata and perhaps we will even make Kang'ata a leader of our caucus now,” Murkomen said.

Murkomen and Meru Senator Mithika Linturi led nine pro-Ruto senators, including Kang'ata, in storming out of the meeting. They termed his removal as fraudulent. 

“Jubilee coalition in the Senate has 38 members …three from Kanu. Of the 38, you need 20 senators to sign the removal of any leader from office. Of the 20 senators, they only have about 15. They cannot get 20 senators,” Murkomen said.

In the December 30 letter to the President, Kang'ata advised Uhuru to seek softer ways of marketing the BBI document in the region. 

He cited opposition to the expanded Executive, the involvement of provincial administration and campaigns by former MPs as working against the initiative.

The senator said the role of chiefs and county administrators and other forms of hard tactics in BBI mobilisation were a challenge in the region.

“Let us emphasise on the soft power and art of persuasion. In my humble view, the provincial administration in the BBI process should be invisible,” he told Uhuru in the letter.

Since he penned the letter, Kang'ata has not read from the same script as the President and his Kieleweke faction of the ruling Jubilee party.

The senator skipped the President’s meeting with the Mt Kenya leaders at Sagana State Lodge two weeks ago despite reports he was among those invited.

He also among the 41 pro-Ruto legislators from Central and Rift Valley who wrote another stern letter to the President prior to the Sagana meeting.

In the letter, the MPs decry the state of the economy, alleged betrayal of the DP, political ‘persecution’. They told Uhuru that they cannot market his handshake partner – ODM leader Raila Odinga in the region.

“The mountain will remain restless, dissatisfied and defiant. Ultimately, full-blown revolt will be inevitable,” the letter coming hours before the President tours the region concludes.


(edited by o. owino)