Jubilee Party Wednesday axed Ekwee Ethuro as Senate Speaker, as the ruling party prepares its agenda for the 12th Parliament.
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Mr Ethuro was thrown under the bus to make way for former Bungoma governor, Kenneth Lusaka, whom Jubilee was rewarding for delivering a sizeable chunk of western Kenya votes to the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Even as the Jubilee elected legislators made the short journey from the city centre to State House, the writing was on the wall that Ethuro faced a herculean task to retain the confidence of the party’s leadership owing to what was termed by many as his lukewarm commitment to the party’s cause, especially during the election period.
As was widely expected, Justin Muturi, a close friend of Uhuru, was entrusted to steer the National Assembly for a second term, with Garissa Township MP-elect Aden Duale also retaining his position as Majority Leader.
Sources who attended Wednesday’s meeting at State House talked of a firm President who appeared not to be in the mood for challenges and questions about his preferred list of the House leadership, as he also cautioned the new members that he would not stand by and watch Jubilee lawmakers derail his administration’s development agenda.
“This was an extraordinary PG (parliamentary group) meeting. The President started by reading the riot act and even at one point told anyone of us who felt uncomfortable with his running of affairs to walk out,” disclosed one MP.
“He was silent for a moment, waiting to see if anyone would walk out but no one did. He appears keen to take full charge of even the party’s parliamentary business,” added the legislator.
Uhuru is said to have pulled a surprise on the members as he read the party’s parliamentary leadership list, where he dropped Ethuro for Mr Lusaka without inviting any questions on the matter.
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The source told The Standard that Uhuru asked that Ethuro be called to be notified of the decision. It is, however, not clear that he honoured the call as the meeting ended without him showing up.
Multiple sources revealed that while Lusaka was given the Senate Speaker’s position, Uhuru and his deputy, William Ruto, considered that none of those who had applied for the deputy’s position had an institutional memory of the House, hence the decision to have former House Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki as Deputy Speaker. It was not immediately clear how Kindiki’s candidature would sail through considering he had not submitted his nomination forms for the position by the Tuesday deadline.
But since all the other applicants withdrew their candidatures for the position, the party is seen to have created a situation where new applications will have to be invited, a situation that would give Kindiki the chance to take up the role.
Nakuru Senator-elect Susan Kihika, who had applied for the Deputy Speaker’s position, was overlooked, with fears that her partnership with Lusaka would have two greenhorns at the helm of the Senate.
Instead, Ms Kihika was rewarded with the position of Chief Whip, where she will be deputised by Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata, who had also eyed the Deputy Speaker’s position.
The National Assembly list did not have many surprises as Kuresoi North MP-elect Moses Cheboi was declared the candidate for the Deputy Speaker’s role. He was the only candidate cleared to contest.
Gilgil MP-elect Martha Wangari and her Samburu West counterpart, Naisula Lesuuda, were prevailed upon to withdraw from the race in favour of Mr Cheboi. Mr Duale will be deputised by Kitutu Chache North MP-elect Jimmy Angwenyi.
Mumias East’s Benjamin Washiali retained his Chief Whip position, seen as a reward for delivering his seat to Jubilee, swimming against the NASA tide in western Kenya. He will be deputised by nominated MP Cecily Mbarire. Elgeyo Marakwet Senator-elect Kipchumba Murkomen was elevated to assume the Majority Leader’s position. He served as the deputy in the 11th Parliament. He will be deputised by Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), one of the three elected women in the House.
Additional reporting by Roselyn Obala.