Friday, July 9, 2010



Poor Kenyans rioting next to an MP's limo

By Jerry Okungu

A few years ago, Kenya’s former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya proposed in his budget speech that from 2008/2009, all MPs like ordinary Kenyans would pay their taxes in full.

Sooner, rather than later, Parliament lynched him over the Grand Regency sale a part from threatening to block the budget from being passed. When he was temporarily removed from the cabinet following a protracted standoff with MPs, John Michuki took over the Treasury docket in an acting capacity.

However, the intransigent MPs made sure that Michuki too did not implement the Kimunya taxation plan. The honorable MPs literally blackmailed the Treasury into scrapping that taxation plan.

The same characters are now planning to scuttle the budget approval if Uhuru Kenyatta does not table their stinking pay hike bill in Parliament.

I am proposing here that Uhuru Kenyatta and all Kenyans must call their bluff this time. Let them fail to pass the budget and with that belligerent behavior, let Kenyans suffer even for one month. Let the operations of the government, Parliament and the Judiciary grind to a halt so that Kenyans can see for the first time what type of MPs they elected to Parliament.

If the operations of the government should be paralyzed, let Uhuru Kenyatta start with the salaries and allowances of the honorable MPs. Let them for at least that period of paralysis dig deep in to their pockets and meet the costs of their fuel, mobile phones, electricity and pay the salaries of their bodyguards, watchmen and domestic servants. Let them meet the costs of their monthly rents and mortgages, school fees for their children and attend weekend funerals without drawing allowances from Parliament. Then they will know the meaning of paralyzing the annual budget for selfish reasons and the prize that comes with it.

I see the role of Parliament in very simple and real terms. In Kenya, Parliament is a necessary institution but ranks very low on our priority list. This country can function efficiently and smoothly without Parliament, especially the type that we have. In fact, if Kenyans woke up one day to find that there was no Parliament, very few Kenyans would miss sleep over it. In fact I have this nagging feeling that most Kenyans would go to town in unprecedented celebrations as if Harambee Stars had won a World Cup!

Unlike the Judiciary, if Parliament was dissolved, no real ordinary Kenyans would suffer directly. No pending bills would suffer passage because they never pass them on time anyway. And even the few that they pass from time to time never get implemented in real time unless they concern their salaries and packages.

On the other hand, if the Judiciary were to close down, so many inmates awaiting trial would suffer irreparable human rights violations. Prisons and police cells would be overcrowded with possible disease outbreaks. Thugs would go on the rampage knowing that there are no more prisons and police cells to take them to. The ripple effect would permeate the entire social fabric. This is why the Judiciary is more important to the ordinary Kenyan than Parliament.

Another thing, if today we were to do away with Parliament, we would only be affecting 220 families.

Constituencies would not suffer as CDF allocations would still go to the funds’ administrators for disbursement to the projects. What is more, savings from MPs’ salaries and allowances would further boost these CDF accounts.

On the other hand, disbanding the Judiciary would affect judges, hundreds of magistrates, prosecutors, thousands of criminals, prisoners and civil litigators. In effect the entire society would be turned upside down. It is an idea that is even more harrowing to contemplate.

If Kenyans woke up to find that Parliament was no more, they would go about their business as if nothing really major had happened in their lives. And there are many examples in Africa to quote from.

In the days when coups were the in-thing in countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria, the first casualties of such uprising were parliaments. Whenever there was a coup, the men of armour would constitute a National Redemption Council and it did not matter that the coup was in Burkina Faso, The Gambia or tiny Togo.

Coup makers always believed that the route of all evil and corruption in their countries resided in Parliament and the Executive and that they had the divine authority to redeem their countries from such robbers. It was the reason Jerry Rawlings’ coups succeeded twice in Ghana before he finally bowed out of the military. For Rawlings, he went beyond the call of duty in dealing with what he believed to be Ghana’s curse and we all know what that was all about.

In almost every violent revolution around the world; be it in China, Cuba, Argentina or Central African Republic, revolutionaries always arrested or disposed of the architects of poverty and deprivation in their countries. More often than not such victims would belong to the Executive and Parliament. The judiciary was hardly the target except in extreme cases such as in Idi Amin’s Uganda where the clergy and judges were never spared.

Kenneth Marende and his MPs must save Kenya from going that route.