Kenya: Kimani Ichung’wah slated to spearhead Ruto’s agenda in Parliament

By Victor Abuso
Posted on Thursday, 13 October 2022 13:10

Kimani Ichung’wah shakes hands with William Ruto. (photo: @KIMANIICHUNGWAH)

Kenya’s vocal and youthful politician Kimani Ichung’wah has been handed the heavy responsibility of majority leader in the 13th National Assembly which began its sittings in Nairobi.

His position comes after Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula ruled last week that President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza is the largest coalition in Parliament.

According to the constitution, the majority leader is the head of the largest parliamentary party or coalition.

Kenya Kwanza currently enjoys 179 MPs against Raila Odinga’s Azimio la Umoja–One Kenya Coalition’s 157. However, this was disputed by the Azimio team which says it will head to court to contest the Speaker’s ruling.

Wealth of experience

Thankful for the confidence bestowed on him by President Ruto, the new majority leader says his main duty will be to lead the government in dealing with the issues affecting Kenyans.

“We want to reverse the state capture of our economy and help the people who voted for and against us,” Ichung’wah said in his first speech in Parliament.

Ichung’wah, 46, brings a wealth of experience to the House as he formerly served on the Budget and Appropriations Committee between 2013 and 2017.

At the time, he led more than 50 MPs to investigate, inquire into and report on matters related to coordination, control, and monitoring of the national budget.

What responsibilities lie ahead?

President Ruto has built a support base by portraying himself as the champion of the poor. Ichung’wah is expected to carry the same message and push for legislation that will improve Kenyans’ lives.

Today, many Kenyans are suffering from the high prices of basic goods, including maize which is Kenya’s staple food. Nairobi has upped its interest rate to its highest level in years, reaching 8.25%.

We want to reverse the state capture of our economy and help the people who voted for and against us.”

Additionally, about 3.5 million Kenyans are currently affected by the ongoing drought which has hit 23 counties.

Ichung’wah will have to work quickly to present proposals to cushion suffering citizens. He is also tasked with persuading MPs mainly from the opposition to support Ruto’s decision to lift the ban on Genetically Modified crops that had been in place since 2012.

Already, Azimio la Umoja leaders Raila and Kalonzo Musyoka have instructed their representatives in Parliament to oppose GMO debates in the House, saying the decision is aimed at serving the interests of multinational corporations rather than addressing food insecurity.

Legal headache

Before naming his cabinet, President Ruto said he wanted the nominees to appear before Parliament.

“We want Cabinet Secretaries (CS) to come to Parliament to explain our policies and programmes,” Ruto said when he met members of his Kenya Kwanza Alliance.

To follow through on that promise, Ichung’wah will have to propose amendments to parliamentary Standing Orders to ensure CSs are questioned by Parliament.

But will he be able to find a nonpartisan position on this matter given that Azimio MPs are in the throes of contesting his leadership?

Up to the task?

Brian Wanyama, a political analyst in Bungoma county in Western Kenya, says looking at how the country was divided after the closely contested presidential race in August, Ichung’wah will have to deploy lobbying techniques to persuade opposing members to support the government’s agenda in the House.

The new majority leader has to make friends with the opposition.”

According to the constitution, to pass a crucial matter that touches on the constitution, two-thirds of the members must agree on the matter. In total, Kenya has 349 Members of Parliament.

“The new majority leader has to make friends with the opposition to win their support (in the House),” he tells The Africa Report.

However, Wanyama says it might not be easy for the majority leader to persuade the opposing members at the moment because no MP wants to be seen as betraying their coalition.

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