Revenue sharing row has shaken up political camps

New Content Item (1)
New Content Item (1)
Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Also joining the ranks of the senators opposed to the formula is former majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen.
  • Mr Sakaja and Prof Kindiki are facing fresh sanctions from President Kenyatta’s party for their position on the CRA proposal.
  • The House Tuesday failed to pass the formula after Mr Murkomen led 34 senators against 26 to vote to adjourn debate.

Before the sixth attempt by the Senate last week to pass the proposed formula for sharing county revenue, Kenya had solid political camps whose loyalties were known before debate on virtually every issue.

On one side were President Uhuru Kenyatta and his new-found ally Raila Odinga, whose camp has shown unflinching loyalty to the ruling regime since the historic March 9, 2018 handshake, and on the other, an increasingly isolated Deputy President William Ruto.

But by Tuesday, when a record seventh bid to adopt the contested third basis formula as proposed by the Commission on Revenue Allocation flopped, the camps had been disrupted, senators placed in unlikely, unfamiliar territory – and some made to close ranks with people who had been on completely opposite sides in the fairly recent past.

The sight of vocal Nakuru Senator and former Majority Whip Susan Kihika standing side by side with the man that took her job in a bloodless coup – Murang’a’s Irungu Kang’ata – as well as Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, who was dethroned from his role as chairman of the Senate Legal Affairs Committee, both for being Ruto allies, pretty much summed up the changes in Kenya’s politics and political formations due to the formula.

Opposed formula

On the other side, Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and his Makueni counterpart Mutula Kilonzo Jr, have now teamed up with Tharaka Nithi’s Kithure Kindiki – whose ouster as Deputy Speaker they happily supported – to oppose the formula.

Also joining the ranks of the senators opposed to the formula is former majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo-Marakwet) who, together with Mr Sakaja and Prof Kindiki, are facing fresh sanctions from President Kenyatta’s party for their position on the CRA proposal.

The formula will see 19 counties, mostly in the arid and semi-arid in North Eastern and the Coast, lose a total of Sh17 billion, which will be snapped up by highly populated counties mostly in central, western and Rift Valley.

The House Tuesday failed to pass the formula after Mr Murkomen led 34 senators against 26 to vote to adjourn debate on the matter in what he said will offer an opportunity for senators to reach consensus.

For now, Mr Murkomen, Prof Kindiki and Mr Sakaja have been joined by Deputy Majority Leader Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), and Deputy Majority Whip Farhiya Ali (nominated) – who together with other allies of Mr Kenyatta – had led the chants that ousted Mr Murkomen and Prof Kindiki from their lofty perches in the House.

Party loyalty

“On matters of their region, leaders from Mt Kenya region, whatever their political persuasion, invariably close ranks and take a common stand,” said former Mandera senator Billow Kerrow Tuesday, summarising what he said was the current situation.

“When other leaders similarly take a position on their interest, or national interest, party loyalty is demanded. Duplicity.”

On the floor yesterday, Mr Kang’ata said the ruling party had sat and arrived at a consensus, an assertion Mr Sakaja disputed, saying that was the opinion of Mr Kang’ata.

For Mr Odinga’s side, Narok Senator Ledama Olekina, a dyed-in-the-wool ODM supporter, and Kajiado’s Philip Mpaayei, have closed ranks with other Odinga allies – Prof Sam Ongeri (Kisii, ODM), George Khaniri (Vihiga, ANC) and Cleophas Malala (Kakamega, ANC) – to oppose the formula.

Though the counties represented by Mr Ongeri and Mr Malala are going to gain in the CRA proposal, they have backed the plight of their colleagues, Nyamira for the former, and Vihiga for the latter, that will lose in the new formula – a position Minority Leader James Orengo seemed to support last week, before his motion to extend debate on the matter was shot down.

Senate integrity

“I would think that we would have the authority and integrity of the Senate protected and safeguarded if we did not rush to a decision when there’s an opportunity to close loopholes where there’s no general agreement,” Mr Orengo told the House last Thursday.

Senators opposing the formula, however, rallied to shoot it down, with Mr Kilonzo famously saying: “Do not delay our suffering.”

Tuesday, the senators who had opposed the Orengo amendment to adjourn the debate were rallying behind the Murkomen one, with a complete 360 turnaround – where they said they needed fast resolution of the matter last week, they called for time to debate it Tuesday.

In what further shows the suspension of the political camps, Ms Kihika, who now backs the formula, unlike other key senators in the Ruto camp, had before the formula camps emerged, suggested that Dr Ruto was the unwanted stone that was now becoming the most important in the building.

In an interview with the Nation, Ms Kihika, whose county Nakuru is one of the biggest gainers, described as hypocritical suggestions that Dr Ruto was blocking the formula.

Instead, she insisted that it was the handshake team, especially Mr Odinga’s side, which was betraying President Kenyatta in the formula debate.

Ms Kihika and her Laikipia counterpart John Kinyua, last week met with Central Kenya MPs, both from the Kieleweke and Tangatanga camps, pledging their loyalty to the interests of the region, and vowing to “only be loyal to those that will be with us at this time”.

[email protected]