Mixed reactions as Senate ousts Wetang’ula

Dinah Ondari @dinahondari

The chickens came home to roost for Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula as ODM members yesterday succeeded in de-whipping him as the Senate Leader of Minority. Despite putting up a spirited fight and threatening ODM with a “messy and noisy divorce”, the removal of Wetang’ula was clinical and surprisingly supported by more senators than just those in the Orange party.

Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka upheld a decision by 18 senators, most from ODM who met yesterday and elected James Orengo (Siaya) as the new Leader of Minority.

Kakamega’s Cleophas Malala was elected Orengo’s deputy to replace the latter who had held that position. Wetang’ula’s woes appeared to have been precipitated by his resistance to embrace the truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nasa leader Raila Odinga and a sour relationship with some colleagues in the Senate.

Nasa insiders said the ouster spearheaded by ODM was largely based on the stand he took with the two other coalition principals Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper) and Musalia Mudavadi of ANC. “We could no longer trust him to lead the minority in the Senate yet he does not agree with the direction our leader has taken,” said an ODM senator, yesterday.

A week ago, when the three principals met Raila at Stoni Athi Resort to hear him out on his deal with Uhuru, sources said Wetang’ula was seen as being outrightly disrespectful to Raila, even declining to shake his hand.

He also reportedly pushed Raila to the extreme accusing him of betraying the other three principals. In the Senate yesterday, there appeared to be no much love lost between Wetang’ula and some of his colleagues given that some outside ODM also voted against him while others hurled stinging criticism at him. “Democracy is finally taking shape.

I was wondering how a leader of a party with one senator can be Leader of Minority in the Senate,” said Mithika Linturi (Meru) as he congratulated Orengo. In accepting the new responsibility, Orengo did not mince his words, evoking laughter as he said: “Senator Wetang’ula said there would be a noisy and messy divorce. We have delivered a very quick and safe divorce.”

Okong’o O’Mogeni (Nyamira) said Wetang’ula had no chance of surviving the onslaught as he had not been willing to consult: “The best Wetang’ula could have done is consult the 16 senators who passed a vote of no confidence in him during the first meeting. You don’t get elected through baby cries outside the House.”

Leader of Majority Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) urged colleagues to learn from Wetang’ula’s experience, that leadership was not permanent. Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said he was happy Wetang’ula’s fate as the Minority Leader had been sealed, claiming he was fond of disrespecting his colleagues: “Despite being a great debater, he has shown utter disrespect to fellow senators.”

He was referring to a showdown between him and Wetang’ula a fortnight ago during which he referred to Mwaura as “a senator from nowhere.”

“Moses Wetang’ula, a man with one cow cannot be in-charge of a cattle dip,” quipped Narok Senator Ledama ole Kina on Twitter. Only Enoch Wambua (Kitui) appeared to defend Wetang’ula, saying he was not invited to yesterday’s Nasa meeting: “As leaders, we need to ensure whatever happens in this House is in the interest to the Kenyan people.”

But Mudavadi, Kalonzo and Wetang’ula ganged up to accuse ODM of trying to dismantle the opposition. The trio vowed to remain united and continue playing role of official Opposition.

Out of the 27 Opposition senators, ODM accounts for 20. The list of the division had not come out by time of going to press but was understood some senators from other parties voted against Wetang’ula. And in making the decision, Lusaka rejected a letter by Nasa CEO Norman Magaya implying the alliance had agreed to retain Wetang’ula as its leader in the Senate.

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