Besieged Murang’a Senator Irungu Kang’ata on Wednesday skipped a top Jubilee meeting, triggering talk of his looming defection to Deputy President William Ruto’s camp.
Reactor established that Kang’ata, who had been invited to attend the meeting at Jubilee House in Pangani, Nairobi, did not show up.
When reached for a comment, the Senate Majority Whip said he did not attend the meeting because “I was busy elsewhere, I couldn’t make it.”
The meeting was attended by Jubilee secretary general Raphael, Senate Deputy Majority leader Fatuma Dullo, National Assembly Majority leader Amos Kimunya, and his deputy Jimmy Angwenyi.
National Assembly Majority Whip Emmanuel Wangwe, his deputy Maoka Maore and secretary to the Jubilee parliamentary group Adan Keynan also attended the meeting in which the party decided to pull out of three upcoming by-elections.
The no-show at the meeting – that culminated in a press conference – came a day after he reportedly rejected a push by the party honchos and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies to withdraw the letter to the President.
Late last year, Kang’ata shocked the nation when he penned a letter to the President discrediting BBI’s popularity in the Mt Kenya region, Uhuru’s political bastion. Uhuru’s men termed the move ‘disrespectful’.
In the letter, the senator told the President that the BBI referendum might fail in the region unless Uhuru and his handshake partner ODM leader Raila Odinga change their strategy.
He affirmed the position at a press conference in Parliament on Monday despite criticism and pressure to withdraw the letter and apologize to the head of state.
“I think I still have an obligation to talk the truth… the truth is there is a systemic political problem that needs some intervention in our county of Murang’a and in the larger Mt Kenya,” Kang’ata said.
He cited opposition to the expanded Executive, the involvement of provincial administrations and campaigns by former MPs as some of the issues working against the initiative.
“Let us emphasize on the soft power and art of persuasion. In my humble view, the provincial administration in the BBI process should be invisible,” he said.
Sources intimated that Jubilee bigwigs hosted Kang’ata for a meeting on Tuesday evening, where he was asked to retract the letter, but he declined.
“They asked him to attend today’s (yesterday’s) meeting and press conference, but his phone was off all morning,” the source disclosed.
Yesterday, Tuju and Dullo confirmed Tuesday’s meeting.
“We held a leadership meeting yesterday, he was with us…. He is still our whip until otherwise, he decides or any other things come up,” Dullo said.
But when asked whether he was ditching the President’s camp, Kang’ata replied, “I am fighting for the truth and rights. I don’t believe in Jubilee factions and divisions.”
He wrote the letter in his capacity as the whip in the Senate, he said, to warn the authorities on the imminent dangers the process faces before it comes to the House.
“As a whip, I routinely do some risk assessment over every Bill come to the House and report to my superiors.”
But reports indicate Mr Kang’ata, who has ambitions to be the next Murang’a governor, is actually apprehensive about his own political survival in light of a wave of pro-William Ruto sentiment gathering in Mt Kenya. What he appears to lack is the courage and honesty of his Senate colleague Isaac Mwaura, who, upon jumping ship to the Ruto camp recently, admitted it was all about personal political survival.
At the press conference, Tuju and Maore said the party had not discussed punishing Kang’ata for his letter to the President.
“….it is not part of this discussion. It is not part [of the agenda] of any of our caucuses. It is not part of what we have discussed even outside here. Let’s leave that matter to Kang’ata to decide,” Maore said.
Kang’ata has been one of President Uhuru’s foot soldiers and most trusted lieutenants in the Mt Kenya region.
In May last year, Uhuru influenced his election as the Senate Majority Chief Whip following a meeting at State House where senators Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) – key allies of the DP – were kicked out as Majority Chief Whip and Majority leader, respectively.
Later, Kang’ata excited key party decisions by whipping party members to among others vote out Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki as Senate deputy speaker.
However, his letter and skipping party meetings have triggered murmurs and talks that he was on his way out of the President’s circles.
The letter emerged at the time his close friend nominated Isaac Mwaura joined Ruto’s camp and tore into the President and his family at the homecoming of Msambweni MP Feisal Bader. The DP attended the meeting.
Mwaura was Kang’ata’s best man during his colorful wedding held at Gathinja Catholic Church in Kiharu constituency, Murang’a county, in September 2018. The President attended the wedding.
The letter also came around the time Kandara MP Alice Wahome, a DP confidant who hails from the same county as Kang’ata, issued a statement, scathingly attacking the President for allegedly using the BBI to cling to power.
She claimed that the President is seeking to change the 2010 Constitution to help him gain control of state power while outside through what she termed a façade of democracy.
“For Kenya, to remain a truly democratic and rule of law state, our President must accept the reality that his term is coming to an end. He must ensure a peaceful transfer of power in 2022 and go home,” Wahome said.
Kang’ata’s other close ally, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, also hailing from Murang’a, and who is close to the DP, has to been critical of the President and his handshake with Raila.
Nyoro served as the chairman of the National Government Constituency Development Fund Board of Kiharu during Kang’ata’s tenure as the MP.
Staunch supporter for DP Ruto
After the 2017 elections, the senator was seen as Deputy President William Ruto’s staunch supporter and was at the forefront of supporting his Presidential bid in the 2022 General Elections.
Back in February 2019, Kang’ata appeared to slowly shift his alliance back to Uhuru and appeared to be ditching Ruto’s camp.
“He (Ruto) has been my friend…that is why I don’t malign him and his presidential bid. I choose to abide by the directive of the President and I will wait for his direction on where the Mt Kenya region will be in the 2022 game plan,” noted Kang’ata.
This came after Uhuru urged political leaders to tone down on politics and focus on nation-building instead of engaging in pre-mature campaigns.
On the peripheries of Mt Kenya region, other Ruto allies include the Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwá, Kandara MP Alice Wahome, Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, and Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri. “These are relatively young MPs (of course apart from Kimani) in age and politics.
They are pragmatic enough to know where their political bread is buttered; not with Uhuru, but with Ruto…so it’s nothing personal,” said a Jubilee Party politician from Mt Kenya.
On being tagged a ‘tanga tanga’ mole, the Murang’a senator rejected the tag blaming the claim on a bad culture in Kenya where good ideas are “bastardized and weaponized” for political reasons.