By Jerry Okungu
May 15, 2013
Kenya is like no other country in the world.
Everything that happens in this country is uniquely Kenyan. What we do cannot be replicated anywhere else.
It is only in Kenya where parliament passes laws but a few months later, disowns those laws. At best the law makers make laws for other Kenyans as long as such laws do not affect their lives.
It is only in Kenya where the constitution sets up a Commission to regulate salaries and remuneration for state officers and public servants and parliament goes ahead to endorse that constitutional clause through a piece of legislation but immediately the Commission reduces MPs’ salaries along with other state officers, MPs rise up in arms to disband that Commission.
It is only in Kenya where when voters oppose MPs’ unrealistic and untenable salaries, MPs turn around and insult the electorate. And like one voter correctly put it, Kenyan MPs are like daring robbers who walk in into your house to tell you that they have come to rob you in the full glare of your wife and children knowing that you can do nothing to stop them. Their contempt for the electorate knows no bounds.
After Kenyans talked and talked opposing MPs’ clamor for higher salaries to be retained at pre 2013 levels, they realized that their honorable MPs had switched off and were bent on disbanding the Salaries Remuneration Commission so that they could fix their salaries at will.
The citizens then organized a protest of the unusual kind on Tuesday this week. It was on Tuesday morning that the citizens of Kenya invaded and occupied the precincts of parliament for several hours. And they did it in style. They brought a lorry load of pigs and piglets together with filthy stuff that pigs normally feed on.
They emptied these pigs and their delicacies in front of parliament as they waved placards calling MPs all sorts of names. One placard talked of Parliament as a service institution and not a business center that MPs were turning it into.
And the protesters did not stop there. They gave each pig a name and engraved with blood the names of leading MPs at the forefront of clamor for more pay such that as the pigs ravaged their meal in front of the august house, TV cameras beamed the images across the world.
However, when MPs resumed their sitting in the afternoon, very few of them referred to the embarrassing event of the morning other than the Leader of the Majority who complained that being equated to a pig was unfair. He would have preferred to be compared to a cow or a camel. The point he missed was that, the imagery of a pig was supposed to send a message home that their greed had reached the level of pigs- the most despised animal class in human history.
As the citizens were taking to task the MPs on their wayward ways, a group of sixteen Kenyans who had been vetted by a parliamentary Appointments Committee were waiting to be confirmed or rejected by the whole house that same afternoon.
The three day vetting that was broadcast live to the whole nation was as controversial as the list itself. However, because it was a public hearing, the public was given a chance to assess the suitability of each candidate. When it was over, Kenyans had made up their minds about which candidates were qualified and which ones were not. Among the candidates, seven of them had integrity issues while one candidate was fantastic on paper but was a disaster in oral communication. She showed total lack of understanding of issues affecting the East African Community Affairs, Tourism and Trade yet, this was the docket for which she was nominated.
When the Committee Report was tabled on the floor of the house, the very lady that had been rejected by the House Appointments Committee became the subject of a ridiculous debate. Women MPs rallied behind her on account of gender. MPs from her ethnic community and region joined in the fray. And finally the government majority backed her nomination simply because she had been nominated by the President and Deputy President of the majority party.
As the debate progressed; issues of integrity, competence and suitability were tossed through the window. The nominees were all approved by parliament despite their faults.
The handling of the first group of nominees proved one thing; that this vetting of nominees is more of a rubber stamp than anything else. If it was a serious process, at least three of the nominees would not have gone through.
One other thing; the Speaker of the National Assembly lacked control of the debate. He allowed hecklers to drown the arguments advanced by voices of reason that were not many in the house especially in a situation where the majority leader repeatedly confessed that he was a proud sycophant of a sitting president as opposed to minority MPs who were sycophants of those who lost presidential elections.
With the salaries of MPs still unresolved, Kenyans should brace themselves for more drama from the Civil Society led citizenry street demonstrations.