Saturday, June 23, 2012



Kenyan Parliamentary Session

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
June 20, 2012

Every time I watch news on television or pick a newspaper in the morning, all I read are frightening developments from our august house. I sometimes wonder whether the same MPs that sit in that house also live in this country.

Take the case of the golden handshake that caused a lot of controversy the other day, one wondered why 220 Kenyans that have earned a total Ksh. 60 million each in the last five years should still get between Ksh 5 million and 15 million when parliament dissolves; more so when in the process, they have resisted paying taxes despite a new constitution coming into force way back in 2010.

It is my sincere belief that had the Prime Minister not intervened, it is most plausible that this outrageous amendment would have sailed through parliament with lightening speed. What I’m not so sure about is whether Kenyans are already out of the woods. The current MPs are capable of plotting new schemes that most likely have not come to light.

This week alone, two bad news have come from the same house. The Ksh. 1.5 trillion budget presented to parliament last week seems to have cushioned MPs against any taxation until after this parliament expires. Not that they will not pay taxes. This time round, the same tax payer will meets the taxes of our privileged class through the treasury because according to the new minister for Finance, these state officers that were there before the new constitution have a binding contract that excludes them from the taxman’s net. Again, poor Kenyans have to part with Ksh. 4.6 billion just to make our privileged class more comfortable. This is happening at a time when primary school kids are going without learning materials as doctors and nurses are threatening to return to the streets because of poor conditions of service.

Come to think of it; the Ksh 4.6billion we are giving MPs as tax cushion is enough to give medical cover to over 200,000 civil servants together with their families for one year! Is anybody thinking of Kenyans in that parliament?

It would appear like the current members of parliament have chosen to be at war with the new constitution. Any clause that threatens them as a group is likely to be dispensed with. And it would appear like marshalling a two thirds majority when their collective interest is at stake is not a problem like they did last week on realizing that failure to pass crucial bills on devolution was likely to send them packing.

Now they are at it again. One MP is planning to bring a constitutional amendment that will allow presidential candidates to vie for six seats at the next elections so that if a particular candidate loses the presidency, she or he can be rewarded with a senate, parliamentary or governor’s position. The same MP also wants losers to be eligible for nomination to the lucrative positions that will be available once a new government is formed.

Chris Okemo, the MP for Nambale should be reminded that this is not how democracy works. This self preservation is dangerous and expensive for the country. It will bring about a lot of indiscipline in political parties as well as a drain on our national resources.

Assuming that we have 100 presidential candidates all running for six seats each, it will mean that those who will have won four, five or six seats will have to surrender many of their seats. Those seats will have to be contested again so soon after the general elections. Do we have a budget for this extravagance just because we want to please the current MPs?

Let us be serious with our politics. Politicians must measure up and choose to contest seats that they feel capable of winning. We cannot allow politicians to behave like fishermen who go to the sea to cast their nets at sea without knowing what kind of fish they will catch. It is reckless to conduct our politics in this manner.

In civilized societies, a sitting senator or congressman whose term ends in the middle of the next term is allowed to contest the presidency, congress or senate. However, if he wins, he will be obliged to resign his earlier position and a by election is conducted. We cannot have political wannabes wasting our time and resources going for positions they are incapable of winning. And losers must respect the will of the people and temporarily retire from politics and cool their heels for five years before returning to the arena five years later.

Examples of good manners abound. When Senator Barack Obama was elected US President in 2008, he resigned his senate seat as Chicago Senator. When Joe Biden was appointed Vice President, he resigned his congressional seat. The same applied to Congressman Hilary Clinton when he accepted to serve in Obama’s administration.

In my opinion, these reckless amendments of our constitution are uncalled for, against the spirit of the new constitution and are an affront to the people of Kenya who authored the constitution. If the Commission on Implementation of the Constitution cannot not stop this recklessness, if the IEBC and the Judiciary cannot save Kenyans from these rogue law makers; it is only fair that Kenyans themselves resist the mutilation of their hard earned constitution so early in the day.

In this regard, Kenyans must take note who among the current MPs are either against them or for them. In the same breath, let us see which political parties are with Kenyans on this fight and those that are not, so that we can make informed decisions when the time comes.