Differences between Kieleweke and Tangatanga MPs in President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party played out in the open in the National Assembly on Tuesday as lawmakers considered a report on insecurity in Marsabit County.
Some 74 MPs, against 64, voted to throw out the report by the Administration and National Security Committee as differences among legislators on the report came down to President Kenyatta’s 2022 succession battle.
At the heart of the bitter debate was whether Saku MP Dida Raso, whose area has been affected by killings, can be allowed to amend the committee’s report on a petition he presented to the House.
The contest over Mr Raso’s amendments, approved by Speaker Justin Muturi and passed by the House on Thursday last week, saw Majority Leader John Mbadi (Suba South) propose a way out.
Mr Mbadi petitioned Speaker Muturi to invoke Standing Order One and defer putting the question on the motion on the report until some issues were addressed.
“I request that you defer putting the question on the motion to this report as we seek further consultation,” Mr Mbadi urged Mr Muturi, reminding the House that his request was not to have the committee’s report killed.
While the Kieleweke MPs wanted Mr Raso’s amendments thrown out, and if not so the entire report, the Tangatanga wing wanted the report to be adopted as amended by Mr Raso.
Garissa Township MP Aden Duale reminded the Speaker that he had approved Mr Raso’s amendments before they were adopted by the House and should, therefore, not go against his own decision.
“Why should we postpone putting the question?” wondered Mr Duale.
“Where the interest to postpone this report is coming from I don’t know.”
The committee had recommended that Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i expeditiously investigate the issuing of national identification documents to illegal immigrants from Ethiopia in Marsabit, and specifically in the Sololo and Sagante areas of Saku.
But Mr Raso successfully had this recommendation deleted from the committee’s report.
“During debate last week, a matter arose as to whether a member who has presented the petition to the House can proceed to make amendments to the report on the same petition made by the committee (that considered it),” Mr Mbadi told the House.
He noted that Mr Raso had been adversely mentioned in the report.
“Mr Raso is mentioned in the report a number of times. It will be irresponsible of the House to allow the member to bring amendments,” the Suba South MP said.
However, Speaker Muturi told the House that if he were to defer the matter, it could only happen within a day and that he would still be compelled to appoint a day to put the question on the motion.
“The House having been moved by Hon Raso to consider his proposed amendments and having carried those amendments, it will be a greater travesty on the part of the Speaker to purport to overturn that decision by the House,” Speaker Muturi ruled.
“I can assure you that I will not do that, because I will be assuming a vote that I am specifically barred from assuming. This decision now rests on your shoulders and not mine,” he told the attentive House as the Tangatanga-allied MPs applauded.
The Speaker proceeded to read the motion on the report as amended by Mr Raso and put the question to members to determine.
In the first instance, Tangatanga MPs had their say on a decision that was made by the House through acclamation.
House rules provide that if an MP is not satisfied with the outcome of an acclamation, they can push for a division. This refers to a physical voting in the House
It did not take long before Kieleweke MPs, led by Wajir County Woman Rep Fatuma Gedi, the vice-chairperson of the National Security Committee, marshalled the numbers, forcing Speaker Muturi to call for a division on the matter.
This time, it was the Kieleweke faction’s moment to celebrate. By the time of voting, 136 of the 349 members were in the debating chamber, with 74 voting to reject the report as amended against 62 who supported.
Though the two amorphous political factions originated from President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party, the Kieleweke group has been embraced by ODM courtesy of the March 2018 “Handshake” between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
Mr Mbadi, though an ODM chairman, is an example of the Odinga-supporting MPs aligned to the Kieleweke faction who support the “Handshake”.
Tangatanga MPs support Deputy President William Ruto’s bid to succeed President Kenyatta in 2022, a position not favoured by the rank and file in Jubilee.
It was one of those rare moments for a division to be called on a committee’s report, a clear demonstration of the interest in the matter.
It was a sweet victory for Ms Gedi, who openly danced on the floor even before the outcome of the division was read by the Speaker.
Mr Raso had also successfully persuaded the House to expunge the committee’s recommendation requiring the Interior CS to crack down on militia camps in Ambalo, Badan Rero, Elle Bor, Elle Dimtu and Kubi Qallo in Saku constituency.
The committee’s recommendation that national police reservists be disarmed in Marsabit “as a matter of urgency” and their roles taken up by National Police Service personnel was overturned by Mr Raso.
Mr Raso’s proposal to have the Lands ministry and the National Land Commission address the disputes by “clearly” demarcating the administrative and communal boundaries in Marsabit County carried the day.
He had also pushed to have the Interior CS rationalise the creation of new sub-counties in Marsabit and address the imbalance across the four constituencies - Saku, Laisamis, North Horr and Moyale - “as a matter of urgency.”
He had also pushed for the return of Kenyan refugees in Ethiopia as well as the formation of a commission of inquiry to “comprehensively look into the perennial security problems of Marsabit County and come up with a lasting solution”.
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and Homa Bay Town’s Peter Kaluma had opposed Mr Raso’s amendments.
“It’s an acute issue of conflict of interest. If that is an issue, it should not be postponed,” Mr Amollo said before Speaker Muturi issued his ruling.
“You should rule that a member who petitions must not then come and propose amendments. We will be committing an illegality and unconstitutionality. We should not even vote. Why vote on an illegality?”
Mr Kaluma was of the view that if the Speaker allowed the amendments to stand, that would set a bad precedent.
“The committee went to the ground and among the people it met was Raso, the petitioner. He was heard by the committee with the facilitation of this committee. If we allow a petitioner to propose an amendment to a report, it is like allowing a judge to write his own judgment,” said Mr Kaluma.