Political Parties Ignore Their Own Rules

Several political parties have recently witnessed internal disputes attributed to realignments ahead of the 2022 general election. Some appear to be quiet dubious, journalists should investigate thoroughly and report

The ruling Jubilee Party (JP), Amani National Congress (ANC) and Ford Kenya (Ford-K) are among three major political parties in Kenya that have experienced wrangles.

Professor Herman Manyora, a political commentator, believes that the restlessness is in preparation for 2022. “All these dewhippings of members and party leadership disputes are about political positioning ahead of the 2022 election,”

The JP has split into two factions following the removal of lawmakers allied to Deputy President William Ruto from top leadership and committee positions.

The dewhipped Ruto allied MPs were accused of undermining President Uhuru Kenyatta’s agendas. They were therefore replaced with other JP legislators and political outfits working with the ruling party.

The House Standing Orders provides the grounds on how MPs holding leadership positions can be dewhipped by their parties or committee members.

This House fact-sheet gives details on the role of political parties and key parliamentary officers. It also clarifies what mandates the political outfits have and how they can discipline errant party members.

Lawmakers are required to discharge their duties independently in fostering the independence of Parliament as provided for in Chapter 8 of the 2010 Constitution.

However, the MPs’ independence has always been infiltrated by the Executive and political parties.

New party rejected

This move saw the emergence of a new JP outfit dubbed Jubilee Asili led by Ruto. However, the acting Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu rejected the bid to have Jubilee Asili registered as a political outfit for violating Section 8 of the Political Parties Act, 2011.

The Section allows the Registrar not to register a political party if its proposed “name”, “abbreviation” or “symbol” is “obscene” or “resembles” the name of an existing registered outfit.

Nderitu, thus, noted that the Jubilee Asili name contravenes the law by bearing the Jubilee Party’s name and a logo that resembles it. Ruto who is eying the presidency in 2022 has faulted the dewhipping of MPs allied to him.

However, political commentators consider JP’s action as an effort by the “system” to alienate the DP Ruto and scuttle his bid to succeed President Kenyatta.

ANC wrangles

The ANC party led by former vice president Musalia Mudavadi has also witnessed internal wrangles masterminded by some of its members.

Nominated MP Godfrey Otsosi and Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala are some of those members. The two legislators have shifted their loyalty to the rival Orange Democratic Movement led by Raila Odinga against the Political Parties Act.

The ANC’s bid to kick Otsosi out of ANC was dismissed by the Political Parties Disputes Resolution Tribunal in August 2019.  Malala’s expulsion in June this year was rejected by the Registrar of Political Parties for not following proper procedure.

In June, Otsosi caused a storm within ANC when he announced that Mudavadi’s and other office holders’ terms in the party were to end on June 15, 2020, referring to the ANC’s Constitution.

This was despite the party’s failure to conduct elections following the expiry of their five-year tenure.

The ANC leadership in response convened a special National Executive Council meeting which approved its leaders to remain in office until Coronavirus is contained to conduct the election.

Ford Kenya coup

Ford Kenya, led by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula is the worst affected party .Some of its members secretly staged a coup to dethrone him and other officials.

Ford Kenya’s secretary general Eseli Simiyu, Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati and Kanduyi MP Wafula Wamunyinyi in May 2020 gathered for a National Executive Council (NEC) of the party in a Nairobi hotel.

At this meeting, Simiyu (Mp Tongaren MP), accused Wetangula of violating the party rules as stated in their constitution, he also blamed him for gross misconduct and failure to provide inspiring leadership in the party.

Wamunyinyi was installed as an interim Ford Kenya Leader. The move prompted Wetang’ula and Ford Kenya members allied to him to hold a separate NEC meeting that saw Eseli, Wamunyinyi and other officials behind the coup replaced.

Simiyu was replaced with Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa as an interim secretary general.

The leadership supremacy pitting the Wetang’ula and Simiyu-led factions escalated to the Registrar of Political Parties. Each one requested her to formalize the new changes in Ford Kenya.

The Wetang’ula faction held that the changes in party leadership were illegal in demanding Nderitu to ignore their replacement.The group also argued that some signatures ratifying the ouster ploy were forgeries from imposters claiming to be party members.

The Political Parties Act, 2011 mandates the Registrar of Political Parties to “register, regulate, monitor, investigate and supervise political parties” among other responsibilities.

Nderitu, however, expressed her intention of effecting Wetang’ula’s replacement as Ford Kenya leader through a gazette notice.

This prompted Wetang’ula to address the Political Parties Dispute Tribunal to stop the Registrar of Political Parties from replacing him with Wamunyinyi. However, Wetang’ula withdrew the petition at the Tribunal after Nderitu backtracked and suspended her gazette notice.

Nonetheless, Wetang’ula will know if he remains the Ford Kenya leader on September 25 when the High Court rules on the party’s leadership wrangles.

What Ford-K constitution states

All along the local media has been covering the inner party disputes. However, did the media dig deep enough to establish what the constitutions of each political party states when it comes to factual and credible reporting?

Most reporters covering the party leadership disputes became conveyor belts for wrangling officials .They leave out the answers whether they followed their own rules.

For instance, the Ford Kenya party constitution includes the provisions on party organization, membership, mandates of officials, roles of every party organ, guidelines on holding meetings and disciplinary measures.

The Ford-K law requires a quorum for all its meetings including the National Executive Council (NEC), the General Council and the Management to be half of each organ’s composition.

This quorum provision was used in court by Wetangula’s group. They said that the Simiyu-led meeting was “illegal”, arguing that some participants were not party members.

Chapter 5 of the Ford-K constitution states that, “all meetings of the party organs shall be held as scheduled unless in circumstances which have been properly explained to the members in writing within 7 days of the meeting”.

Wetang’ula’s lawyers have argued that the NEC meeting that ousted their client didn’t follow the law since the party’s leadership was not involved or notified.

Ford-K’s National Chairperson is tasked with running the party and presiding over the Management Committee (MC) and the National Executive Council. This is outlined in Section 49 of the party’s constitution on ‘Duties of National Officials’.

The chairperson’s duties are only delegated to the deputy chairs, any national official in the meeting or by any member if all authorized officials are absent.

The Party Leader is mandated with presiding over the National Delegates Congress (NDC) and the General Council (GC). Any of the deputy party leaders only chairs these meetings if their boss is absent.

The Secretary-General is charged with preparing agenda for meetings, notifying members about the planned meeting and acting as the party’s spokesperson, among other duties.

“The individuals who orchestrated the coup in the party did it unlawfully and undemocratically. We are waiting for the court ruling in September but Hon. Wetang’ula is still the party leader,” acting Secretary General Chris Wamalwa, said.

The Wetang’ula ouster has also been challenged on grounds that the Simiyu-led faction violated Chapter 8 of the party’s Constitution on ‘Disciplinary Measures’.

“The National Executive Council with approval of the General Council may suspend or dismiss any office bearer for reason of misconduct, conviction on a charge of corruption, moral impropriety or any other offense under the Penal Code,” reads Section 50 of the Disciplinary Measures.

This means the National Executive Council resolution dismissing Wetang’ula and other officials was to be ratified by the General Council chaired by the Party Leader or any of the deputies. However, this was not adhered to and Wetang’ula’s lawyers argue in court that his removal violated the law. 

What journalists should do:  

  1. Read and familiarize yourself with the Political Parties Act and other relevant laws.
  1. Understand the mandate of the Registrar of Political Parties and whether decisions she/he makes in resolution party disputes are in line with the Act.
  1. Read and understand the Constitution of every political party for factual and credible reporting when leadership disputes arise.
  1. Understand the composition of every organ of a party and their duties.
  1. Cross-check information the wrangling political factions give to journalists with relevant laws.
  1. Do follow-ups on the progress of the disputes to keep the public informed.
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