President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga have dropped a contentious coalitions timeline, but Deputy President William Ruto is still on the warpath, signalling another showdown in the House today December 29.
Yesterday, MPs allied to the DP walked out of a parliamentary committee meeting convened to harmonise multiple amendments to the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill, 2021, while the DP claimed Mr Odinga was using the proposed law to force coalitions.
A clause in the Bill that required a coalition political party to deposit a pre-election agreement with the Registrar of Political Parties six months to the elections had upset the One Kenya Alliance (OKA), who interpreted it as designed to coerce them to show their political strategy by next February.
Faced with multiple amendments to shorten the period to three months, proponents of the Bill, which the President and Mr Odinga want to facilitate a coalition party, thought to be Azimio la Umoja, struck a compromise of four months.
MPs allied to OKA, who had threatened to gang up with the DP’s camp to shoot down the clause and reinstate the three months currently stipulated in law, have since welcomed the concession.
Amani National Congress (ANC) deputy party leader Ayub Savula has agreed to drop his earlier amendment of three months, saying he will now support the four months as proposed by Majority Leader Amos Kimunya.
“This amendment has the blessings of ANC because I stand here as the deputy party leader,” Mr Savula said, suggesting Mr Musalia Mudavadi’s ANC will now vote to back the Bill.
Mr Savula insisted that the earlier proposal targeted OKA, arguing that since ANC is set to hold its National Delegates Convention on January 15, the six months’ timeline to deposit their coalition agreement would not have been tenable.
However, the compromise proved insufficient to avert confrontation over the Bill after Ruto-allied MPs stormed out of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee meeting yesterday that was to harmonise multiple amendments that sabotaged last week’s special sitting.
Led by former majority leader Aden Duale, MPs Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu), Didmus Barasa (Kimilili), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Owen Baya (Kilifi North) and Daniel Tuitoek (Mogotio) stormed out of the committee, claiming unfair treatment.
The MPs insisted they could not prosecute their amendments in the same room as other stakeholders such as the Registrar of Political Parties and the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal that the committee had invited.
“I’m a ranking member of the House and if that is the case, I cannot be heard in the same place with the stakeholders. I will be abdicating my legislative role if I do that and, therefore, I take leave and I will prosecute my amendments on the floor of the House tomorrow (today),” Mr Duale said as he walked out.
Immediately, Mr Ichung’wah also followed suit saying: “I will not be comfortable to move my amendments when the Registrar of Political Parties is here.”
Their walkout is set to trigger another intense debate today as the committee members said that by refusing to present their amendments before the committee as directed by the Speaker last week, the MPs had abdicated their privileges and, therefore, should not be allowed to individually move the proposed changes today.
Amendments should be dropped
“Each member got a letter to appear before the committee for harmonisation of the amendments. However, by walking out, it means that they did not have substance and just wanted to create a scene to derail the work of this committee. I’m happy that members refused to entertain their machinations,” Kangema MP Muturi Kigano said.
“Their walkout seems choreographed because when one left, the others followed. That is lack of common sense. I hope this is not sabotage,” Mr Kigano added.
Minority Whip Junet Mohamed and Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma said they will ensure that the amendments proposed by those who walked out are not considered by the House today.
“The members were given an opportunity to appear before the committee, but they said they are not interested. How do we entertain members who refuse to cooperate with the committee? These amendments should be dropped,” Mr Mohamed said.
Mr Kaluma said it will be an abuse of privileges if the members are allowed to move their amendments in the House today as the Speaker had ruled that they should be dealt with at the committee level.
“We’re going to fight to ensure that those amendments are not in the order paper because they don’t deserve to be there. It would amount to abuse of privileges as members were facilitated to be physically present in the meeting today but they chose to walk out,” Mr Kaluma said.
Committee vice-chairman TJ Kajwang said there is no law that allows automatic consideration of the amendments by the members in the House.
“There is no absolute right to bring the amendments in the floor of the House because such must be approved by the Speaker before they are put in the order paper.
“It is the Speaker who directed that the amendments be harmonised by this committee,” Mr Kajwang’ said.
Mukurweini MP Anthony Kiai said the Speaker’s ruling last week was meant to make the work of the House easier and members who had defied the committee had forfeited their rights.
However, lawmakers allied to the DP who sat through the meeting, led by Tharaka MP George Murugara, said the committee had no right to block members from moving the amendments in the House today.
Japheth Mutai (Bureti) and Narok Woman Rep Soipan Tuya threatened to write a minority report, arguing the committee couldn’t take away the rights of members proposing amendments.
Later, Mr Duale together with the lawmakers who walked out addressed a press conference in Parliament Buildings, vowing to press on with the amendments.
He insisted they had a strategy to defeat the Bill today, which suggests another attempt to clog the system with an avalanche of amendments and run down the clock.
Speaking in Turbo, DP Ruto rallied MPs to reject the Bill, saying, some of the clauses were being sneaked in out of deceit.
But Mr Mohamed dared the DP’s camp to shoot down the Bill if they have the numbers.
The Bill sailed through the second reading stage last week, but the DP’s allies sabotaged its passage to the final legislative stage by sponsoring over 17 amendments, some of which were similar.