NOC chairman Kiraitu Murungi resigns from his party position

Kiraitu with Ruto

Former Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi greets President William Ruto at Mitunguu, Imenti South on June 13, 2024 when the president launched construction of a dairy feed factory. Looking on is governor Kawira Mwangaza.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation

Former Meru governor Kiraitu Murungi has resigned as leader of the Devolution Empowerment Party (DEP), citing a plot by secretary-general Mugambi Imanyara to derail the party's operations.

Mr Imanyara had vowed to kick him out and instructed his lawyers to challenge a gazette notice dated May 9, 2024, that appointed him as the party's leader.

He said since Mr Murungi is the chairman of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) board and a commissioner at the Law Reform Commission, he should not hold the position.

“The constitution of the party and laws of Kenya are very clear that anyone who is appointed to public office must resign from political party leadership. However, Mr Murungi gazetted himself as DEP party leader against the law,” Mr Imanyara said.

But in a response to Mr Imanyara's lawyers, Mr Murungi said "the intended legal proceedings are malicious, frivolous and manifestly baseless, have no legal or factual basis" and are aimed at derailing the party's operations.

The former governor, who formed the party ahead of the 2022 general elections, noted that board members and chairmen of state corporations were not subject to the law cited by Mr Imanyara because they were not full-time public servants.

He said Mr Imanyara’s intention was to divert attention after he was suspended by the National Executive Committee for “gross misconduct, incompetence, neglect of duty, sabotaging party organs and attempting to illegally take over the Meru office.”

Mr Murungi said he did not wish to get into Mr Imanyara’s “frivolous and vexatious suits with the objective of paralyzing smooth running of the party”, adding that the secretary general’s intention was to create endless confusion and eventually destroy the party.

He noted that Mr Imanyara once served as chairman of the Kenya Trade Network Agency (Kentrade) while he was still the party's secretary-general. Mr Imanyara was Kentrade board chairman between October 2021 and May 2023 when

President William Ruto replaced him with former Taita Taveta MP Basil Criticos.

"In the interest of the smooth running of the party and to avoid unnecessary waste of the party's time and resources, I have decided to resign as party chairman with immediate effect. I will continue to serve the party as an ordinary member," said Mr Murungi.

DEP Meru branch secretary Alhaji Mwendia said they would kick Mr Imanyara out of the party, saying "he is a man under siege...we will ensure that he is removed from the position of secretary general. The disciplinary committee has made its decision and the courts are about to make their decision. His days in the Bus Party are numbered.

Mr Imanyara has however vowed to fight to the end, saying he has equal rights with other officials and that that “no one can oust me. If I am to leave the Bus party, we have to dissolve it and each takes away their share.”

Political infighting within the DEP began in the middle of last year when Mr Imanyara wrote to the Meru Assembly Speaker about changes in the leadership of the minority party.

He removed the minority party's whip, Dennis Kiogora, for indiscipline, a directive that was disputed by other officials.

The party's national executive committee later suspended Mr Imanyara as secretary general pending a disciplinary hearing.

Mr Imanyara petitioned the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal, which reinstated him pending the hearing and determination of the matter.

The fallout intensified in September last year after Mr Imanyara disagreed with his colleagues on the second attempt to impeach Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza and defected to her camp.

This led to the emergence of two factions of Meru party officials, one aligned with Mr Murungi and the other with Mr Imanyara.