Pressure continued to mount on Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen to relinquish his Senate majority leader position following recent remarks criticising government-led evictions at the Mau Forest.
Sources within the Jubilee Party intimated to People Daily yesterday that Murkomen is a man under siege and that “some of the privileges” he enjoyed, including “direct access” to senior government offices, have been withdrawn.
But, in a rejoinder, an undeterred Murkomen came out with guns blazing, hitting out at the party secretary general Raphael Tuju for vilifying him during his Sunday press briefing.
Speaking to People Daily on phone, Murkomen dismissed Tuju’s sentiments as personal because the party National Executive Council has never met since the last General Election. “I am a member of NEC. When it meets, we will communicate its position.”
It is understood that Murkomen is being pushed to throw in the town and resign to allegedly “save him from a vote of no confidence” being plotted by his Jubilee colleagues.
MPs privy to the intrigues said they are no longer comfortable with him and are plotting his exit. The legislators, mainly from Central region, argue that the senator has been “disrespecting President Uhuru Kenyatta and will not be let off the hook”.
One of them, who did not want to be named said, “He has been disrespecting the President and this time we are not letting it pass. We want him out. We are firm on this.”
This comes even as it emerged that the Jubilee disciplinary committee is awaiting a go-ahead from the Management Executive Committee to decide on action to be taken against the senator.
Meanwhile, yesterday Kericho Senator Aaron Cheruiyot asked Tuju to apologise to Mau evictees and Mau Narok residents in general for “appearing to sanitise a gross violation of their human rights”.
In a scathing attack, Cheruiyot said Tuju’s Sunday remarks were dumbfounding. “Tuju owes the good Kenyans living in Mau Narok an apology,” he told a press conference at Parliament Buildings yesterday.
But speaking in Ugunja, Opiyo Wandayi termed the ongoing war of words between Tuju and Deputy President William Ruto’s allies as a gimmick to divert public attention from intended lifestyle audit for State and public officials. He dared Ruto to declare his stand on Mau evictions and reprimand or side with Murkomen for advising evictees to go back to the forest.
And Rift Valley regional coordinator Mongo Chimwanga and Narok County Commissioner George Natembeya yesterday separately confirmed the completion of the first phase of the evictions and announced the second will start soon.
Chimwanga, however, warned politicians against undermining efforts to restore the Mau ecosystem. He also defended police over claims they were brutal while evicting the forest residents. “If politicians stop interfering, the exercise will be smooth.”
Although the Mau Forest restoration is a government policy, competing political interests within the Jubilee administration have been on a collision course over the matter.
Natembeya said the second phase of evictions will commence soon and targets about 40,000 people.
A Narok court declined to stop the eviction last week. Some evictees had moved to the High Court seeking orders to stop the exercise on grounds it was inhuman.
And yesterday, hundreds of Narok residents held protests in support of the evictions and against Murkomen remarks. Led by a local politician Meitamei ole Dapash, the residents matched along the Narok–Mai Mahiu highway, protesting what they termed destruction of Maasai Mau forest and which they linked to the recent flash floods experienced in the towns.
“Murkomen should not come here to tell us that four schools have been closed yet millions of people are suffering and animals dying because of a handful of residents of forest land,” said Dapash.