Why Kenya Kwanza legislators could block Uhuru’s pension

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta speaking after condoling with Dr Barbara Odudu Magoha, widow of former Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha on January 31, 2023, at Lavington, Nairobi County.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

A constitutional provision allowing MPs to block a retired president from accessing his pension is likely to present yet another opportunity for the ruling alliance to force former President Uhuru Kenyatta to quit opposition politics.

The Presidential Retirement Benefits Act provides that the National Assembly may initiate a motion to block a retired president from accessing his final dues on grounds of active involvement in politics.

For such a motion to sail through, the 349-member House has to marshal votes of not less than two-thirds of the members.

Solicitor-General Kennedy Ogeto cited section 4 of the Act that provides for circumstances under which the benefits due to a retired Head of State may be denied.

Apart from active involvement in politics, a retired president may also be denied the whole or part of the benefits if he “ceased to hold office on account of having acted in willful violation of the Constitution, or was guilty of gross misconduct; or has, since ceasing to hold office, been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment for a term of three years or more, without the option of a fine.”

Some Kenya Kwanza lawmakers are already toying with the idea of taking this route in an escalation of the ongoing vicious political fight that started with claims Mr Kenyatta was sponsoring the ongoing anti-government rallies by Azimio leader Raila Odinga, allegedly to protect companies associated with his family from paying taxes.

“We have decided to look at the Retirement Benefits Act with a view of blocking him from receiving his retirement package. If he continues engaging in active politics, those benefits will have to be reviewed,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.

“The state cannot pay for him a furnished office when he is busy planning how to sabotage the government by sponsoring rallies that are used to ask people not to pay taxes,” he added. 

Keep off politics

Section 6(1) of the Presidential Retirement Benefits Act states that a retired president shall not hold office in any political party for more than six months after ceasing to hold office as president.

This requirement means he will be required to resign from both Jubilee and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition by March, being six months since he left office on September 13.

National Assembly Majority Leader and Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa told Sunday Nation the suggestion by some MPs to block Mr Kenyatta’s pension is not the official position of the ruling alliance.

“But our members have the freedom to express themselves as well as that of conscience to think and act in what they consider to be in the best interest of the country and they freely exercise all their rights,” Mr Ichung’wa said.

Mr Kenyatta is entitled to about Sh34 million for the two terms that he served, on top of a pension of Sh1,152,000 a month. He is also entitled to a Sh216,000 monthly entertainment allowance. The same amount is also paid for his monthly fuel allowance.

The former president is entitled to a house allowance of Sh331,200 per month. Further, he is eligible for a fully furnished and funded office, with staff paid by taxpayers.

Deputy Majority Leader Owen Baya (Kilifi North) said although they had not agreed to block Mr Kenyatta’s benefits, the alliance is ready to go to any extent in dealing with its political opponents.

“It is not on the cards, but when you enter a boxing ring, get ready for whatever punch that is thrown at you. It may be what you don’t expect because there is no mercy in a boxing ring,” said Mr Baya.

Similar remarks were made by Belgut MP Nelson Koech. He, however, quickly added that such benefits could only be accessed by someone who has retired from active politics.

“There are no plans to withdraw anyone's retirement benefits which are accorded by law to those who qualify. However, retirement benefits are for the retired. There is nothing that stops the former president from coming from retirement and vying for Ichaweri MCA or Gatundu South MP or Kiambu senator seats except it will affect his access to retirement benefits which are not available to active politicians,” said Mr Koech.

"Political sideshows"

However, opposition politicians led by officials in Mr Kenyatta’s Jubilee said the ruling alliance had resorted to political sideshows instead of responding to issues of electoral fraud and high cost of living.

Jubilee Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni and Vice-Chairman David Murathe also dismissed claims that it is President William Ruto who appointed Mr Kenyatta as peace envoy in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia.

Some allies of Dr Ruto had asked him to recall Mr Kenyatta from the peace assignment, stating that he could not be spearheading peace in neighbouring countries but sponsoring anti-government rallies at home.

“Those people should know that their opponent is Raila and not Uhuru ... They think Uhuru is a soft spot for them because he does not respond to them,” said Mr Kioni.

“They have nothing to do with his appointment. He earned his respect in the region and that is why he landed the job. It is not Ruto who appointed him. It is because of his legacy,” he added.

In a previous interview, Mr Murathe said that the DRC appointment was by the East Africa Community, while the Ethiopian brief was by the African Union.

“It is not a job that he was given by the current President. Uhuru Kenyatta is above local politics. He is engrossed in the peace mission and would probably be taking roles on the global scene,” said Mr Murathe.