Thursday, July 17, 2008



Daily Nation
July 17, 2008

If Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta is accused of acting outside his powers by making illegal nominations to local councils, or if the minister for State for Immigration and Registration of Persons, Mr Otieno Kajwang’, is accused of handing out work permits and citizenship papers like confetti, then those charges must be dwelt with on their merits outside the factional rivalries in Parliament.

The accusations against the two are coming soon after Parliament asserted itself very forcefully with a vote of no confidence that ultimately forced the exit of Finance minister Amos Kimunya over the secret sale of Grand Regency Hotel.

Since that pivotal moment, there have been suggestions that more Cabinet ministers may also be subjected to parliamentary censure.

It is, indeed, right that the Legislature should hold the Executive to account. But that does not detract from the need for Parliament to exercise its power responsibly so that it is not seen to be engaging in political vendetta or partisan politics.

The motion against the Finance minister sailed through because it was based on an issue of fundamental concern, and thus got widespread bi-partisan support in the House.

Had it been couched as political power-play pitting one grouping or faction against another, then it would not have been smooth sailing. The minister might have mobilised support if his party or grouping had felt it was under assault.

This illustrates why it is important that MPs who are thinking of censuring ministers take care that they focus strictly on the alleged malfeasance.

They must not be seen to be playing partisan politics or to be simply getting over-excited about the prospect of felling giants. By the same token, political parties and groupings in Parliament must not jump to the defence of a minister or any other member under scrutiny simply as a way of closing ranks.

Such issues must never be reduced to the political jostling in Parliament; they must be treated with seriousness and sobriety.

Any party that takes a decision to rally round a member under censure simply will be adjudged to support the wrongdoing in the event of a guilt verdict.

But before then, any censure motions brought in Parliament must be based strictly on clear evidence rather than cheap politics.