Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga, in a rare show of unity and reading from the same script, Tuesday condemned President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government over the gangland-style arrest and ejection from Nairobi of three senators on Monday.
Senators Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Christopher Lang’at (Bomet) and Samburu’s Steve Lelegwe were dragged out of their homes and driven to their respective counties to face different charges, in what many –including Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga– saw as an attempt to tilt the Senate vote on the contentious revenue sharing formula.
The three lawmakers are opposed to the government-backed formula and are part of a 25-member grouping — 19 from counties that will lose money if the formula is adopted, and six from the gaining counties — who have insisted that devolution should be about equity, and not losers and winners.
Both the national and county governments are in favour of a proposal by Nominated Senator Petronila Were that wants the second-generation formula retained in sharing out the Sh316.5 billion this year, as it seeks to increase the devolved units’ revenue share to Sh348 billion.
In his strongest attack yet on the government that has isolated him, Dr Ruto, who has Dr Lelegwe and Mr Lang’at in his corner, described the arrests as going against the reason Kenyans woke up to elect the Jubilee government.
“The abuse of police and criminal justice to bully citizens, threaten and intimidate leaders, and now blackmail Senate is wrong. Very wrong. It is not the reason millions woke up early to vote for us,” Dr Ruto said.
The DP said the creation of a 12-member committee co-led by former majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula was the best route to resolve the stalemate–what he sees as a return to a “win-win formula”.
Separately, Mr Odinga said the actions in the Senate reflected twin sins: lack of integrity among leaders and a government that is only too happy to use force instead of negotiations.
“The twin sins of failing integrity among a section of elected representatives during this whole affair and the instinct by agents of the State to resort to strong-arm measures to get things accomplished continue to hold our country back, reducing our citizens to mere watchers in dramas whose scripts are written far from public eyes,” said Mr Odinga.
The ODM leader said that while the Senate, which has failed to pass the Division of Revenue Formula for a record nine times, was not without at fault, the use of force by the State to arm-twist Parliament was unethical.
Mr Odinga said that with no formula and a deeply divided Senate it is time to tone down the ethnic and regional rhetoric to a defuse tensions.
“The State needs to pull back and abandon actions that take away the gains made on our path to democratisation. The warlords need to stop beating the drums of war or financing the divisive rhetoric, and our legislators involved in this matter need to search their souls in all honesty and put the public good above private gain,” Mr Odinga said.
The ODM leader urged leaders to be “honest and embrace integrity in all their transactions on behalf of the people,” a call seen to touch on claims of bribery in the House.
“Representatives of the people lose the capacity to stand up to the State when their actions are coloured by considerations other than the public good, just like the State loses its capacity to be a force for good when it has to resort to draconian measures in pursuit of its ways,” said Mr Odinga.
Mr Odinga accused the Senate of taking partisan positions on the debate on the revenue sharing formula and turning it into that of losers versus gainers. Like Dr Ruto, he said that a win-win solution will only be found when the State desists from intimidation and blackmail, and legislators conduct their affairs with the interest of the public at heart.
On his part, Amani National Congress (ANC) leader Musalia Mudavadi said the Jubilee government was violating the independence and integrity of Parliament.
“The arrest of senators to prevent them from attending to their duty in Parliament to vote … on county revenue sharing is very unfortunate. It’s a throwback to the dark days we thought are behind us,” Mr Mudavadi said.
“Abducting Senators to block them from a vote in the Senate is equal to arresting Article One, arresting the sovereign, and the ultimate foundation of our Constitution.”
The ANC leader said the government was politicising the police.