Deputy President William Ruto moved to save Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru from impeachment by Parliament for the sake of harmony in the Cabinet and in Jubilee, the Sunday Nation has learnt.
Mr Ruto waded into the issue when he realised that the number of MPs signing up to impeach Ms Waiguru for alleged gross misconduct and abuse of office was swelling by the day.
And yesterday, Mr Ruto, for the first time, publicly told MPs planning to sack the minister to instead confront him and President Kenyatta and to stop scheming against their juniors, adding that the presidency took full responsibility for appointments and transfers in government.
“Leave Waiguru alone. Appointments and transfers are done by the Public Service Commission, the President and myself. If you have any questions about Kiplimo Rugut, ask me or the President, not Waiguru. Mambo ya kufuata mtu mdogo wacheni kabisa (stop pursuing our juniors),” he said in reference to the former National Youth Service director-general whose recent transfer sparked controversy.
The Deputy President added: “When you voted, you voted for me and Uhuru. Did you see Waiguru’s name? Wacheni hiyo kelele kabisa (stop the noise). In any case, Rugut has not been sacked, he’s been transferred,” said Mr Ruto, speaking in Kericho County.
The replacement of Mr Rugut, a career civil servant, with Dr Nelson Githinji, attracted criticism from a section of Rift Valley MPs who alleged ethnic bias in public appointments. Mr Rugut comes from the Deputy President’s Rift Valley stronghold.
The controversy has caused tension in the Jubilee Coalition. It is these noises that the Deputy President has now come out to silence.
About 150 MPs from both sides of the National Assembly, led by Igembe South legislator Mithika Linturi, have endorsed the petition against the Devolution Secretary.
Critics of Ms Waiguru allege that apart from ignoring the tribal arithmetic, she showed disrespect by supposedly transferring Mr Rugut through a mobile phone text message.
Last week, Ms Waiguru told the Sunday Nation she did not send such an SMS ahead of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to NYS, adding that she followed the correct procedure. She is also accused of disrespecting Youth Enterprise Fund chairman Gor Semelang’o before she sacked him in March.
“I have complied with the provision in the law on allocation of duties. We used the central posting units and Mr Rugut was among other 11 civil servants who were transferred. If my ministry was wrong in its posting, so were the other ministries,” she said.
On Saturday, Mr Ruto said that wrangling within the coalition was affecting service delivery.
The DP told MPs to concentrate on managing the Constituency Development and Uwezo Funds, and to “leave matters of appointments to the President and myself”.
MY OWN SPOKESPERSON
He singled out Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter who had earlier said he was speaking out on such sensitive issues that Mr Ruto could not publicly comment on due to his position as Deputy President.
“I have not sent Keter (Alfred) to speak for me. I am my own spokesman. Those who talk to us from morning to evening about my community and my region should give us a break. Tribalism will destroy this country. Some leaders have faces of leadership but are merely brokers. What’s wrong with transferring someone to serve in another government department?” asked Mr Ruto.
According to a top official in the Office of the President who could not be quoted because he is not authorised to speak to the media, Mr Ruto believes that Ms Waiguru’s impeachment would destabilise the Jubilee government and make the Cabinet, largely comprising technocrats, vulnerable to external machinations. It is also believed Cord legislators are using the tensions in Jubilee to paint the ruling coalition as dysfunctional.
The move by the Deputy President may slow down the push for the proposed motion. Some MPs are said to view Ms Waiguru as too powerful and abrasive and are keen on humiliating her.
A legislator who requested anonymity claimed that if left unchecked, Ms Waiguru could assume the powers of a prime minister and overshadow the Deputy President. Running the Devolution ministry allows Ms Waiguru easy access to President Kenyatta as most policies and functions require close consultations with State House.
On Tuesday last week, more than 20 URP MPs and four senators met in Biblica Hotel in Nairobi where they are believed to have resolved to support the plans to kick out the CS.
“The Deputy President felt the motion could actually pass in Parliament considering the numbers that it was attracting. He was concerned that the debate could have taken a tribal angle. He also felt that the coalition would be divided if he allowed the motion to continue, seeing that a majority of Jubilee MPs who had signed it were from URP and the government officer (Mr Rugut) in question was from Rift Valley which is his political bedrock,” said the official from OP.
The presidency also feared that the successful impeachment of Ms Waiguru could strike fear in ministries and reduce Cabinet Secretaries to “parliamentary lapdogs” who would do anything to avoid suffering the same fate. Some of the favours MPs are known to seek are employment of their supporters and government tenders.
On Thursday, it is said that the Deputy President reached out to the Leaders of Majority in Parliament and Senate, Mr Aden Duale and Professor Kithure Kindiki, to take charge of the process and stop the impeachment.
Mr Duale, Prof Kindiki and some Jubilee legislators then called a press conference to back Ms Waiguru. The move followed similar support by women MPs led by Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire and ODM Nominated Senator Janet Ongoro.
On Saturday, Mr Duale told the Sunday Nation that the motion had nothing to do with the Jubilee coalition.
“Coalition motions are done through structures and systems and the Leader of Majority is the spokesman of the coalition,” said Mr Duale.
Mr Duale said that Jubilee will hold a Parliamentary Group meeting before legislators resume their sittings to convince Mr Linturi to abandon the impeachment motion. However, he noted that MPs including members of Jubilee coalition have an oversight role on the executive.
“Our members also have an oversight role given to them by the Constitution. On their own they can bring a motion. But we will discuss as a family. We have serious issues including the budget, security and fulfilling our promises to Kenyans to address,” said Mr Duale.
On Saturday, Mr Linturi said that there was separation of powers between Parliament and the Executive, and argued that, as an MP, he was exercising his oversight role.
“The Leader of Majority is obligated to defend government in the House. The oversight role of MPs cannot be compromised. It is intimidation when people demonstrate because I am doing what I am supposed to do. I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of Kenya,” said Mr Linturi.
The legislator said he would not abide by Mr Ruto’s call.
“There is no turning back. Forget about people demonstrating. The streets cannot help you. People must know where to put their defence. You cannot intimidate Linturi by going to the streets. She is mistaken,” said Mr Linturi.
There has also been a flurry of activity on social media and statements from political operatives and public relations practitioners in support of Ms Waiguru.
Mr Ruto’s move is likely to make some of the MPs who were in support of the motion to reconsider their stand and give Ms Waiguru a lifeline.