Close

HIERARCHY DISRUPTED

Joint secretary role heralds power shift in Parliament, Jubilee

The massive portfolio appears to diminish the influence of the Jubilee SG and Majority leaders.

In Summary
  • The appointment makes Keynan the President's favourite in the Jubilee coalition, the third most important person after the President and DP but DP's clout is diminished. 
  • Keynan will speak on coalition matters while secretary generals will focus on their own parties.
Jubilee joint secretary Adan Keynan.
NEW BOSS: Jubilee joint secretary Adan Keynan.
Image: FILE:

The powerful office of the Jubilee joint secretary has heralded a paradigm power shift in Parliament with far-reaching disruptions of the party hierarchy.

There are fears the influence of the office could drastically diminish the powers enjoyed by the Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju and the Majority leaders in both Houses.

Established under Article 17 of the Jubilee Constitution, the office holder becomes the de facto coalition spokesperson superintending parliamentary business.

With the new power shift, Eldas MP Adan Keynan, who was on Monday appointed to the position, occupies a crucial post at the heart of Jubilee Coalition politics.

The elevation also hands the fourth-term MP and a former ODM bigwig a key role in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession matrix.

Keynan will actually be the President Kenyatta’s new man in Parliament and will automatically sit in the Jubilee’s National Executive Committee.

The net effect is that the authority to command Jubilee coalition troops in both houses of Parliament now shifts from the office of the National Assembly Majority leader.

For the last seven years, Majority leader Aden Duale had been Jubilee's towering figure and thundering political voice in Parliament. He was removed on Monday.

This was the case as the joint secretary's office remained non-operational although provided for in the party constitution.

It has now emerged that Uhuru deliberately decided to operationalise the office with the objective of coordinating the execution of his agenda in Parliament.

Insiders say the office would be the new focal point in Parliament as the link between the Senate and the National Assembly.

It will also be the much-needed nexus between MPs and the party leadership.

Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, a key confidant of the President, on Thursday admitted the office would be crucial in steering the President’s legacy agenda.

“This is going to be a powerful office in Parliament in the coming days,” Wambugu said, adding that Keynan is definitely going to have the President’s ear at any time.

“The office will actually consult frequently with the party leadership to ensure that the coalition’s agenda being tabled in both houses is harmonised and Majority leaders in either house speak from one script,” Wambugu said.

As the leader of the Parliamentary caucus, Keynan’s responsibility would be to convene joint Parliamentary Group Mmeetings for the national assembly and senators.

He will also summon coalition meetings of lawmakers and keep minutes as is in pure presidential systems.

This means that Keynan could be the topmost ranking politician in the Jubilee coalition hierarchy after Uhuru and Deputy President William Ruto.

Ruto is already facing an onslaught from the President in what has pushed him from the nerve centre of state power.

Keynan has found himself being the biggest beneficiary of the President’s purge of Ruto’s allies from leadership positions in Parliament.

On Thursday, Keynan said his new role would be to provide a linkage between Parliament and the party leadership for synchronised cooperation and coordination.

“While I will be mobilising members to support the party agenda, I will also be providing a platform for communication between party members and the leadership of the party,” Keynan said.

He added, “I will lobby for party-centred and party-oriented activities, build synergy between the two houses and the leadership as well as create informal interactions to enable members to articulate their issues.”

Keynan said he will work closely with the Majority and Minority leaders of both Houses to ensure the coalition agenda sails through.

Like Duale who build the Majority leader's office from scratch and gave it a massive public profile, Keynan would be expected to put in place necessary structures.

He is expected to have unfettered access to senior government officials including Cabinet Secretaries and parastatal heads in what would  raise his political profile ahead of the 2022 polls.

The joint secretary post was hived off from the office of the National Assembly Leader of the Majority to be the new focal point in Parliament.

This was necessitated by the fact that Jubilee signed a coalition pact with Kanu in May.

Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka’s party is also set to enter a coalition deal with Jubilee but has already signed a cooperation agreement.

Chama Cha Mashinani leader Isaac Rutto has also signed a cooperation agreement with Jubilee, while ODM leader Raila Odinga is expected to ink a pact in a few weeks.

Jubilee secretary general Raphael Tuju will now concentrate on party matters as Keynan steers the coalition agenda in Parliament.

Former MP Mahumud Mohamed told the Star the President gave Keynan the role because of his loyalty, trust and massive political experience spanning 20 years.

Keynan first joined politics in 1997 when he was elected as the MP for the then Wajir West constituency.

“Although he has avoided aspiring to be a leader in the former NEP, the  time has come for him to demonstrate his worth, deploy his vast experience and organisational prowess and steer the area for it to achieve its goals in national politics,”  Mohamed said.

Although expressly provided for in the party constitution, the position has remained vacant because of Duale’s hitherto towering dominance in Parliament.

Given his high-ranking stature in the Jubilee matrix, Duale was the ruling party’s political authority in the bicameral Parliament and the leader of the government business.

Duale, who was purged on Monday, was Jubilee’s first-choice Majority leader in Parliament, ranking higher than his Senate counterpart.

This means that the Senate Majority leader, not provided for in the Constitution, plays second-fiddle in the ruling coalition’s political agenda in Parliament.

North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamo (Jubilee) said Keynan would now be the key point man of the President in the bicameral house to ensure that his legacy projects are on course.

“The office will be powerful as it will have a coordination role between the Senate and the National Assembly. The office, I think, would build fresh synergy to ensure that our agenda is harmonised in both Houses,” he told the Star.

Nyamoko said the joint secretary would work with the minority leaders in both houses to lobby for political support to push government agenda.

While Keynan would be moving from office to office to seek support for the coalition’s agenda, the responsibility to lead the same agenda in both houses will be that of the respective majority leaders.

‘The joint secretary would be getting the agenda from the President or other relevantly sanctioned party organs for conveyance to the Majority leaders for tabling on the floor of the House,” a senior Jubilee official confided.

The Star established that the joint secretary would play a critical role in Parliament’s place in the processing of bills prescribing radical constitutional changes.

The Building Bridges Initiativee task force team is expected to conclude its work by the end of the month and open the way for sweeping constitutional amendments, with the majority of them likely to go through Parliament.

The success of those bills would depend on the synergy between coalition troops.

Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya was appointed the new National Assembly Majority leader, taking over from Duale as President Uhuru moved to consolidate Parliament.

In May Uhuru took charge of the Senate when he installed West Pokot Senator Samwel Poghisio as the Leader of the Majority after sacking Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet).

Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata was also elevated to be Senate Majority Whip, taking over from another Ruto ally - Susan Kihika (Nakuru) - who was also fired.