By Jerry Okungu
May 29, 2013
A few weeks ago, Deputy President William Ruto met with Kenya Electricity board to impress it upon them not to increase their tariffs under the present hard economic times because such a move would hurt ordinary consumers and the manufacturing sector more. Following that high level meeting, it was announced to the relief of many consumers that the tariff hike would be pushed to a later date when the economy will have picked up.
A few weeks later, and just days after the appointment and confirmation of the new Cabinet Secretary for Energy, another high level meeting, this time attended by the Cabinet Secretary, discussed the same thorny issue and directed that there should be no increase in electricity tariffs or connection charges.
However, within 48 hours, Kenya Electricity board announced new connection rates with a pointer that power bills would soon be revised to conform to the prevailing economic conditions. This statement can only mean one thing: Kenyans should brace themselves for higher electricity bills in the near future.
During the official opening of the 11th parliament, President Kenyatta reminded our MPs that before they clamour for higher salaries, they should be mindful of millions of Kenyans who are languishing in abject power. Again he implored the MPs to wait for the economy to pick up before asking for a pay raise. However, early this week, parliament made good its threat to revoke the SRC Gazette notice that fixed their salaries at Ksh 531,000 instead of the Ksh 831,000 that the 10th parliament used to earn.
Apart from disregarding the presidential plea for the MPs to abandon their clamour for more pay, the MPs have gone ahead to defy a constitutional authority on salaries for State Officers. The danger is; if one arm of the government defies the constitution; will this act of impunity not open a Pandora’s Box?
By the way things stand, Kenyans may begin to witness a kind of rebellion never seen before in the history of this country. Who would have imagined that a group of MPs would conspire to insubordinate the Head of State? It certainly never happened in Jomo Kenyatta’s time and Daniel arap Moi’s era. However, the authority of the Head of State was drastically eroded during Kibaki’s time but it didn’t come as early as it has done for President Uhuru Kenyatta.
The origin of the disappearance of State authority started with coalition governments that we introduced into our political system way back in 2002. When the ruling party cannot garner a simple majority and cobbles up smaller parties to boost its numbers, these smaller parties come with their unique problems in the knowledge that the mother party cannot do without them.
The rebellion we are seeing now is not confined to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s ruling coalition. Cord is not left behind. Just the other day, Gwassi MP, Hon Mbadi threw all caution to the wind to tell parliament how he told his party leader Raila Odinga to keep off the salaries debate! That speech spoke volumes. It showed that even Raila Odinga was losing control of his soldiers in parliament.
This lack of respect for the Head of State or Party leaders is a pointer to the fact there is a breakdown of law and order in political parties. With so many parties coming together basically to win an election, enforcing party discipline has become an uphill task. In Jomo and Moi’s era, the ruling party was one and it was known. The party of Baba na Mama was a structured machine. Any deviation from its rules and regulations would mean heaven and earth falling on the culprit instantly.
Right now MPs are spoiling for a fight. Now that they have successfully pulled down the gazette notice on State Officers salaries, they have tasted blood. Now they are targeting the Senate. Rumour has it that they want to move a motion in parliament to disband the Senate on the grounds that it is a waste of public funds. If they succeed in that, history will have repeated itself in our life time.
However the main motivation is not that MPs want to save our hard earned money. The truth is they don’t want to share power and glory with another group of parliamentarians called Senators whom Kenyans are beginning to see as more sensible than members of the National Assembly.
What MPs have done with the SRC will have snowball effect. If they get away with their pay hike, very soon we will see university dons, doctors, teachers, nurses, civil servants and all manner of civil servants downing their tools demanding more pay perks. Already teachers have indicated that they will demand Ksh 50 billion released to them immediately.
Yes , it is time Uhuru Kenyatta stood firm and read the riot act to his MPs who are the majority in Parliament.