Raila-Ruto proxy war rocks Garissa County Assembly

Chaotic scenes outside Garissa County Assembly on September 13, 2023.

Photo credit: Manase Otsialo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • At the heart of the dispute is the status of UDM, a party affiliated to Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja.
  • Mandera Senator Ali Roba has of late gravitated towards President William Ruto's Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

A proxy war between the government and Opposition coalitions have seeped into the protracted tussle over House leadership positions at the Garissa County Assembly.

At the heart of the dispute is the status of the United Democratic Movement (UDM), a party affiliated to Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party but whose leader, Mandera Senator Ali Roba, has of late gravitated towards President William Ruto's Kenya Kwanza Alliance. Azimio is the majority coalition in the assembly while Kenya Kwanza is the minority. 

Sankuri MCA Abdirahaman Mohamed Borr, who was elected on a UDM ticket, had been serving as the deputy majority leader despite his party switching allegiance to Kenya Kwanza at the national level.

On Tuesday, chaotic scenes marked the afternoon session as MCAs fought over changes to the House leadership, which saw Mr Mohamed Abdi Farah replace Mr Abubakar Khalif as the leader of majority. 

Other changes saw Mr Borr replaced by Mr Abdirahama Muktar as deputy majority leader.

Liboi MCA Ahmed Abdirahman Sheikh is the new majority whip replacing Abdi Ibrahim while Timira Bashir is the new deputy majority whip. 

Mr Mahat Abdikadir will now represent the assembly at the County Public Service Board replacing Omar Abdi Hassan.

Newly elected leadership

The session ended prematurely after Mr Borr and a section of MCAs shouted down the Speaker, Mr Abdi Idle Gure. The sergeant-at-arms was forced to whisk Mr Gure away through the back door. Mr Gure had,through a communication to the House, maintained that his office recognised the legitimacy of the new House leader despite there being a dispute within the majority coalition over the issue.

Mr Gure said he had received letters from the majority coalition submitting names of their newly elected leadership.

“The letters appointed Mr Mohammed Abdi Farah as the majority leader and Mr Ahmed Abdirahman Sheikh as the majority whip,” he said.

Mr Gure added that he was aware two cases have been filed; one at the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal by Galbed MCA Abubakar Mohamed Khalif and another at the High Court in Garissa by Balambala MCA Abdi Ibrahim Daar.

“Though I have not had the opportunity to read the pleadings relating to the matter before the tribunal, I note that the dispute affects the operations of the assembly,” he said.

He said his communication of the changes to the House and the subsequent petitions and letters from the leadership of the parties raised a number of pertinent questions that needed to be settled in order to facilitate the smooth running of House business.

Majority coalition

The issues to be determined are; which parties constitute the majority coalition and whether UDM is one of them; the fate of the member of the County Assembly Public Service Board representing the majority coalition; and whether political party leadership outside the assembly can determine the composition of the House leadership as outlined by their political parties or coalitions.

“The controversies that arose from the changes in the majority coalition have, however, made it abundantly necessary to clarify the composition of the coalitions especially that of majority and whether UDM party members are members of the majority party or coalition,” Mr Gure told the ward representatives.

In a fresh twist to the saga, former UDM secretary-general David Ohito denied that a letter produced by Mr Borr reinstating him as the deputy majority leader came from him.

“That letter is fake but you can get more information from the party leader. I left the position last year and moved on,” Mr Ohito told Nation via text message.

Mr Gure noted that UDM cannot profess allegiance to one coalition at the national level and a different one in the county.

“It’s clear that UDM is a member of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance,” the Speaker said, formally sealing Mr Borr’s fate.