Thursday, January 8, 2009



January 09, 2009
Story by: Times Writer

When one reviews the accumulated matter concerning the controversial Kenya Communications Amendment Act signed into law by President Mwai Kibaki on the second day of this year, one realises that, apart from the technical and professional concerns raised by media fraternity, the rest of the debate has been driven by selfish interests that have nothing to do with protecting and preserving freedom of the press.

So far we are gratified by President Kibaki’s move to order his Attorney General and Information minister to take into consideration the objections raised by stakeholders over the punitive clauses contained in this new law and prepare appropriate amendments thereto. But as much as we are touched by the President’s gesture, we in the media fraternity wish to register our disappointment with the political class that passed the Bill that led to the enactment of this law.

After creating a lot of acrimony and even threatening the very survival of the coalition government, we are today surprised to see many politicians out-doing each other in an attempt to present themselves as friends of a free press. They have gone on a blame-game with one faction accusing the other of having schemes against the media. But the question is, where were these politicians when this draconian law was passed in Parliament?

In the absence of a satisfactory answer to the foregoing question, we are inclined to conclude that, either the men and women we have elected to make laws on our behalf do not understand their duties as members of parliament of that they are simply dishonest people. But just in case they don’t understand their duties, let us briefly clarify for them certain issues which their lessons in civics should have made clear.

First and foremost, it is important for our MPs to understand that Parliament is made of two institutions namely the National Assembly and the Presidency. The National Assembly debates and passes bills and the President assents to those bills once passed. Together the national assembly and the president enact laws thus completing the legislative function of Parliament. In view of the foregoing dichotomy, the question is; where were our MPs when the Kenya Communications Amendment Bill, 2008 was passed by the national assembly?

We ask this question because we know that President Kibaki would not have signed the Bill into law had it not been passed by the national assembly. If anything, we know that the passing of a bill in the national assembly is a process, not an instance. In this regard, it’s impossible to believe that some MPs were ambushed by this bill because the bill went through three readings in addition to going through at least two committee stages before it was presented to the president for signing.

Granted the foregoing, and given that the Kenyan president has no veto powers over a bill passed by the House, the only conclusion that one can draw is that our MPs are a bunch of dishonest people. They pretend to serve the people while in real sense they pursue their selfish interests. If they had the people’s interests at heart, they would have known from the beginning that the law they passed was punitive and a danger to the democratic gains made in the past decade.

But if God forbid they did not know the import of this law, then Kenyans have no business spending huge sums of money to sustain this lot of lawmakers. But be that as it may, the lesson we must draw from events surrounding the controversial media law is that our country’s institutions of governance need a major overhaul.

As the reform process kicks off, Kenyans must demand very high standards of competence from their leaders, and they can only do so by putting into place institutions that require that holders of offices created by those institutions meet the most stringent fit and proper criteria. Kenyans cannot afford and should not accept to gamble with their future.