President William Ruto has adopted a consultative approach in managing his Kenya Kwanza Alliance to win the support of its lawmakers.
Unlike his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, who was accused of being inaccessible, especially during his second term, Dr Ruto has opened his doors to the coalition’s leaders. Since the August 9 General Election, he has convened four Parliamentary Group (PG) meetings where he reportedly allowed MPs to give their insights into the decisions made by the government.
Saturday Nation has established that whenever there is a serious matter in which MPs have to make a decision, Dr Ruto convenes a meeting to discuss with them. He also has regular evening phone calls with legislators, in which he asks them about the problems they face in their constituencies and how best the government can chip in.
The Kenya Kwanza lawmakers interviewed yesterday by Saturday Nation admitted that the Head of State has a lot of time for interactions on the phone. They said he sometimes calls to caution MPs who make statements that taint his administration.
“The President calls us and sometimes uses that opportunity to warn some of us from making what he always describes as reckless [statements]. Recently, he called a colleague of mine from Rift Valley asking him why he had started making utterances like the ones he made during the previous administration,” said an MP who requested anonymity.
Gatundu South MP Gabriel “GG” Kagombe said Dr Ruto randomly calls to solicit views of elected leaders from different regions, including on some of the appointments he plans to make.
“The boss is very consultative. He cannot do anything without consulting us. He calls us to inform us that the government intends to do something, what do we think about it?”
The President seemed to have learnt from his former boss whose inaccessibility made him lose ground in Mount Kenya, where leaders, led by Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah, and Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, initiated rebellion, accusing him of ruling with an iron fist.
Yesterday, United Democratic Alliance (UDA) chairman Johnson Muthama told Saturday Nation that the relationship between the Executive and Parliament has to be cordial as the main agenda is to work for Kenyans, hence the continuous engagements between Dr Ruto and lawmakers. He said the President meeting the MPs more often is geared towards getting to understand the problems the legislators face in their constituencies.
“Leadership is never the same. You have leaders who come in and do transformation. There used to be several PG meetings in the first term of Uhuruto until Uhuru decided to sideline his deputy, then they stopped taking place. Now, he has revisited what he was doing. These meetings are about putting your troops together so that they feel you understand their needs. Leadership of the Executive and Parliament has to be close; it is about working for Kenyans,” he explained.
Belgut MP Nelson Koech, another senior member of the President’s inner circle, said the frequent PG meetings are meant to end personalisation of politics.
“In the Kenya Kwanza manifesto, President William Ruto gave three reasons why he was running for President: to defend the Constitution, to institutionalise our politics and to deliver jobs. The frequency of PG meetings is the President keeping his word on institutionalising our politics. Indeed, he promised to end the personalisation of power and governance and to midwife Kenya’s transition to a constitutional democracy,” said Mr Koech.
“To achieve this, President Ruto is working hard to change our political culture and strengthen institutions, starting with the ruling party. This administration is doing things differently because the Kenya Kwanza coalition is working hard to meet the expectations of how truly national democratic political formations should conduct themselves.”
Despite having shared his preferred candidates for the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) with some few leaders, President Ruto during the recent Kenya Kwanza PG meeting made MPs vote to arrive at the party’s nominees, something both senators and MPs termed democratic.
Prof Masibo Lumala of Moi University opines that the Head of State is deploying Moi’s leadership style by having a good rapport with MPs to have his agenda in Parliament passed with a lot of ease. “When you are just beginning, first you need to be sure that your agenda in Parliament will go through. He was forming a government. Cabinet Secretaries were to be vetted and Principal Secretaries were to be vetted and then approved. I think the President at this stage needs to be in touch with MPs so much and there is a supplementary budget on the way,” Prof Lumala said.
“Moi’s way of leadership when we still had provincial administration, we were made to understand that Moi would call all provincial commissioners, district commissioners by 5am and ensure he keeps tabs on what is going on and what is the challenge. What President Ruto is trying to do is to say, look, I want to be hands-on. I want to be kept on what is going on.”
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The don said if the President continues with the style, it could be construed that Parliament has become an appendage of the Executive. “While it might work for him because he is sure of loyalty, sure of building a team he can keep at the top without divisions, but is it sustainable? For how long can you do this? How do you maintain separations of power between the Executive and the Legislature when the Executive is constantly maintaining legislators?” asked Prof Lumala.
But Mr Koech defended Dr Ruto, arguing that regular meetings with MPs help in cultivating and maintaining internal democracy, as well as remaining accountable to members and the public.
“This is what separates Kenya Kwanza from her opponents. You can ask the question, for instance, how and where was the decision on who is to represent Azimio in Eala made and who made it? As Kenya Kwanza, we voted openly for our Eala MPs. There is no game plan beyond walking our talk on democracy. We left Jubilee to form UDA protesting dictatorial tendencies in Jubilee. We have since been vindicated. As Jubilee Party cries about deceit and conmanship in Azimio, Kenya Kwanza is raising the bar of internal party democracy,” said the second-term MP.
Nyaribari Chache MP Zaheer Jhanda said Dr Ruto is demonstrating that leadership is about collective responsibility, not a few individuals making decisions for everyone.
“This is to demonstrate to Kenyans that leadership is not about a one-man army; it’s a collective responsibility by bringing together members to discuss critical and serious issues affecting the country and legislation of bills that urgently require priority on the floor of the house. MPs also get the chance to have a one-on-one with the President. So he has basically demystified politics,” said Mr Jhanda.
For Kesses MP Julius Ruto, the President has learnt from the previous administration “that failed to engage MPs more often”.
“MPs mean a lot on the ground and in the previous regime where we had a kind of dictatorship and patriarchal politics, MPs who had been ignored made the ground shift. Secondly, President Ruto had promised to give a different type of leadership of engaging and consulting,” he said.
Teso South MP Mary Emase, another ally of Dr Ruto, said his leadership style “embraces continuous consultations with the representatives of the people”.
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Marakwet West Timothy Toroitich said the President engages them on the phone on a raft of issues affecting different regions. “The President engages almost all leaders directly. He is very consultative.”
Political risk analyst Dismas Mokua argues that regular PG meetings are an indispensable proposition for the success of any administration. “Holding Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group meetings means President Ruto has embraced democratic participative leadership as a strategy to deliver on the Kenya Kwanza manifesto. While President Ruto has more constitutional power than the group, he invites Kenya Kwanza PG members to present ideas and suggestions,” he said.
But Alego Usonga MP Samuel Atandi said the Head of State has shown traits of dictatorship, as “his MPs are not allowed to express themselves freely.”