Secret plot in senators’ arrest

The high drama that characterised the gangland-style arrest and ejection from Nairobi of three senators opposed to government-backed county revenue-sharing formula was an open means to a secret end, the Nation can reveal.

In what depicted the Shackles of Doom chronicles, sources say, senators Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Christopher Lang’at (Bomet) and Steve Lelegwe (Samburu) were barred from attending the Senate’s special sitting to ensure a proposal by Nominated Senator Petronila Were sails through, only to flop at the eleventh hour.

Favoured by both the national and county governments, Ms Were’s amendment to the House Finance Committee report seeks to retain the second-generation formula in sharing the Sh316.5 billion this year, as it proposes to increase the county revenue share to Sh348 billion.

Senators allied to President Kenyatta last Tuesday pushed hard and had Ms Were’s proposal debated even though it had been approved the same day.

It leapfrogged at least eight other amendments that have been on the floor for as a long as eight weeks.

Backward politics

But in an ironic twist, the arrest of Mr Malala, Dr Lang’at and Dr Lelegwe backfired badly as it failed to achieve its intended purpose. The arrests were condemned by politicians on the floor of the House and outside.

“Such barbaric and primitive acts [like] night-time raids to MPs’ homes, preferring frivolous charges on lawmakers opposed to government agenda belong to backward politics of the past…We ask those who suffered humiliation in the past and involved in state craft today not to give a blind eye to the present developments as it may turn against them.

“Votes are won on the floor of the House by persuasion, not through intimidation,” said Ford Asili secretary-general Njeru Kathangu.

On the face of it, the arrest of the three was a tactical move to deny ‘Team Kenya’ — a faction opposed to the state-backed amendment — its numerical strength in the House so that Ms Were’s proposal would pass with ease.

While the plan seemed well calculated, it ran into headwinds when the three besieged lawmakers wrote to Speaker Kenneth Lusaka withdrawing the voting power they donated to other senators from their counties — a move that was aimed at withholding the vote.

Apparently, the government-leaning side had lined up Nominated Senators Naomi Shiyonga and Gertrude Musuruve to vote on behalf of Malala, while Alice Milgo was to cast her ballot on behalf of Dr Lang’at.

Throughout the revenue formula debate, Team Kenya, comprising senators from counties that stand to lose, has consisted of 25 senators, while those on the government side are 22. The losing counties are 19, but they have been joined by at least six senators whose counties are gainers in the formula, but who argue that devolution is not about losers and winners but a means of achieving equity.

The gaining senators who have rejected the formula supported by the government are Boniface Kabaka (Machakos), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Malala, Mithika Linturi, (Meru), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) and Dr Langat.

The arrest of the three meant that the number for Team Kenya had been reduced to 22 going to the vote. Similarly, the government side failed to win a single senator on their side who would have made all the difference.

This forced them to beat a hasty retreat. But while the legislators’ arrests and transfers came as a shocker for many, the writing was on the wall for some of them.

Already last week, members of Team Kenya were smelling a rat — with Ledama Olekina (Narok) and Senator Murkomen alleging a plot to arrest their members to face trumped-up charges.

On Thursday, Mr Malala reported that the Kenya Revenue Authority had frozen his bank accounts over alleged tax evasion, but a day later, he said he had been cleared.

Hardly 48 hours later, the Kakamega lawmaker raised the alarm that he was under siege from at least 20 detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) who stormed Royal Finesse Apartments in Kitengela as early as 3am.

Heavy police escort

“They immediately disconnected water and power in the whole estate subjecting the residents to unnecessary inconveniences,” Mr Malala, who would later be driven to Kakamega under heavy police escort, said from the window of his house.

His neighbours narrated how power and water were disconnected from their houses, making it difficult for a majority to report on duty.

“It’s now noon and I haven’t showered. I was also unable to iron my clothes because there is no power. It’s a wasted day,” a man only identified as Wafula, said, explaining he was unable to report to work. Mr Malala claimed that he was being arrested for distributing sanitisers donated to him by the Health ministry in Kakamega over the weekend.

“Even if they arrest me, my position on the revenue formula will not change. The same government gave me the items; let them know I’m steadfast on the shared revenue stand,” Mr Malala said just before he was driven away after Team Kenya’s defence and secret plot to sneak him out of the home hit a brick wall.

“It’s wrong to arrest Malala for an offence not known to him,” Mr Murkomen said.

“We’re living in extremely dangerous times where the hard fought fundamental rights and freedoms want to be replaced with dictatorship. This is not proper. You can’t do this!”  Senator George Khaniri (Vihiga) said.

For Dr Lang’at, who was arrested and driven to his Bomet County without knowing his offence, the drama started forming on Friday, took shape on Saturday, [and the] actual act began on Sunday night played out for the better part of yesterday.

About 8pm on Sunday, a couple of officers from the DCI showed up at his home in Nyayo Estate, Embakasi, seeking to arrest him.

Skip vote

The senator said the arrest came after he refused calls by some people not to show up at Senate on Monday, since he would vote against the revenue formula. “I was called (by an officer) from Bomet yesterday who asked me to go there (Bomet) so that I would skip today’s vote or else I would be arrested. I was expecting them. I’m being threatened from every corner,” Dr Lang’at said. He said the intention of police was to block him from accessing Senate so that a nominated senator from his county would vote for the revenue formula.

Dr Lang’at agreed to leave his house after his lawyer Nelson Havi struck a deal with police and together they drove in the police car to Embakasi Police Divisional headquarters.

The lawmaker was taken to detectives’ office for about two minutes, before leaving in the same vehicle, in what marked the beginning of another drama.

Police started what would become a one-hour scene of driving recklessly along city roads and going rounds with no clear indication of where they were taking the senator.

Mr Lelegwe said he was arrested while on his way to the House, and by 1pm, he was being escorted to Samburu for questioning. He confirmed his arrest, adding that he had been summoned by DCI officers  in Maralal to answer questions on escalating insecurities in Samburu North.

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