How Azimio MPs walked into Kenya Kwanza trap on Cabinet approval

The President William Ruto-led Kenya Kwanza Alliance used an adverse recommendation against Tourism Cabinet nominee Peninah Malonza as a ruse to deflect attention from two nominees the opposition wanted to be blocked on integrity concerns.

The subsequent uproar against the attempt to deny Ms Malonza a Cabinet job clouded debate, hence distracting from a minority report authored by opposition lawmakers who wanted the rejection of Aisha Jumwa (Public Service and Gender) and Mithika Linturi (Agriculture).

That is how the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya MPs walked into a trap that later saw their own MPs vote to approve Ms Malonza, the only nominee whose recommendation the Committee on Appointments had unanimously rejected.

By agreeing with the Azimio minority in the committee to reject the former Kitui deputy governor, alive to the fact that this would infuriate women lawmakers and MPs from Ukambani who would lobby to rescue her, the Kenya Kwanza majority managed to keep the House off the minority report that had knocked out Ms Jumwa and Mr Linturi.

In the plan, according to sources, the Kenya Kwanza team secretly sought the support of the Kalonzo Musyoka-led Wiper party, predominantly from Ukambani, where Ms Malonza comes from.

In ganging up against the rejection of Ms Malonza in the main report, MPs quickly shifted the attention from the approval of nominees to the Tourism CS nominee, dropping the injurious minority report altogether.

Wiper backing

In the end, Ms Malonza’s saving grace came from a Wiper MP, a woman who had run against her and beaten her in the Kitui Woman representative race, Ms Irene Kisalu.

Ms Kisalu moved a motion to rescind the decision of the Committee on Appointments that vetted the CSs, and instead vote to approve her for the role.

MPs had protested against the rejection of Ms Malonza over what they said was an untested quality — her inability to be eloquent before flashing cameras in the committee vetting stage.

Even further, the MPs faulted the committee for rejecting Ms Malonza despite her qualifications — education, political, integrity and experience as a deputy governor and as a former senior executive with Compassion International, which they said were reasons enough to find her suitable for the CS post.

Sources in the Wiper party yesterday told Newszetu that Azimio members in the appointment committee were “played” but they did not realise it.

“It was a political mind game but our people in the committee failed to see it,” said a Wiper MP who sought anonymity.

A senior member of Azimio who sat in the vetting committee said rejecting Ms Malonza was more of an internal wrangle involving MPs from the Ukambani region than a decision of Azimio as a coalition. “Those are Kamba politics, they were fighting on their own,” the MP said.

Some Wiper MPs who spoke on condition of anonymity accused Deputy Minority Leader Robert Mbui and Matungulu MP Stephen Mule of engineering the rejection of Ms Malonza just because she vied on a UDA ticket.

“Politics is over, now the interest of our community comes first, you cannot punish someone just because she vied on a UDA ticket,” said a Wiper MP.

Immediately after the House voted to defeat the committee report, 12 MPs from the Ukambani region led by Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu and his Kitui South counterpart addressed a press conference in Parliament thanking the House for saving Ms Malonza.

The MPs said there was inconsistency in the report since in the entire report, at no point was she adversely mentioned, yet the conclusion was negative.

“There was inconsistency in the report, a conclusion is drawn from the body of a report, but in this case, it does not reflect what MPs said about the nominee. We want to thank our colleagues in the House for being firm and ensuring that justice is done for all,” Dr Mulu said.

Dr Mulu said when President Ruto was in Kitui on Sunday for a thanksgiving service, they thanked him for nominating one of their own to the Cabinet.

Ms Nyamai said it was sad to see all nominees approved except the one from Kitui.

“This was the first time Kitui South was given a Cabinet secretary position and we are now happy that when others will be sworn in, she will be among them,” Ms Nyamai said.

She revealed that after Ms Malonza’s vetting on Wednesday last week, she talked with the nominee who told her that she had a panic attack when she faced the committee.

“She told me she got a panic attack, she just had a problem of expressing herself on certain matters but that doesn’t mean she is incompetent,” Ms Nyamai said.

The Wiper MPs, however, said they would continue to discharge their oversight role in Azimio objectively.

In rejecting Ms Malonza, the committee chaired by Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang’ula said she lacked knowledge on issues touching on the ministry.

“The nominee did not demonstrate knowledge of topical, administrative and technical issues touching on the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Heritage. Consequently, the nominee lacks requisite abilities and experience to serve as the Cabinet secretary,” the report said.

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