Is Parliament a House of Cards?

Posted by on 28th March 2018

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Kenya is a country of great paradox. People who run down this country and steal billions of taxpayer’s money and store them in offshore accounts are accorded VIP treatment whether they’re coming or leaving the country. On the other hand, a man whose only mistake is to be extremely loud, annoying and unafraid to speak truth to power is treated in an undignified manner and threatened with deportation.

Parliament has summoned high public officers, ‘cartels’ and nearly everybody named or connected to a scandal; grilled them for hours, retreated in some posh lodge, wrote a report and made recommendations, yet we have never really recovered money lost through these scandals. In short Parliamentary committees are not strong enough to scare anyone.

No wonder the police act with impunity, for example chasing a university student and shooting him at point blank like they did the Meru University student leader. We’ve seen police brutality targeted mostly at those living in informal dwellings with no top dollar lawyers to make their case. They just don’t care because at the end of the day, they’ll give some funny story in a Parliamentary meeting or ignore the summons all the same and nothing will happen in the end. It’s really sad.

Parliament as the institution that make laws in this country should not be comfortable with the complete disregard of the law from anyone, not even the highest office in the land. More importantly, Parliament is the voice of the people and when the Constitution refers to, “We, the people” it places that burden squarely on the August House as the elected leaders of the people.

A properly functioning Parliament therefore can’t and must not carry on with the House Business when there is blatant disregard for the rule of law. Indeed, MPs ought to understand that their oath of office does not limit them to the making of laws only but overseeing its implementation and addressing challenges resulting from inability to implement any such laws.

Since taking oath of office we’ve seen an increased shrinking of media space so much so that at least seven Columnists resigned from Nation Media Group’s (NMG) Daily Nation to protest lack of editorial independence. Since the new MPs took oath of office we’ve seen the continuation of the crackdown on the Civil Society Organizations and the unashamed attempt by government to shut any form of criticism.

All this has happened but our MPs are not outraged enough to act. In fact the only time the MPs appeared worked up on the floor of the house was when a member mentioned how a con-man was stealing from MPs and another sending nude photos. Needless to mention millions of Kenyans get bombarded with annoying messages from inmates believed to be from Kamiti Maximum Prison and yet ignore because those responsible can do nothing about it.

While we commend the committee led by Senator Moi for summoning the Cabinet Secretary for ICT on the same, his lack of cooperation and unyielding nature tells a lot about whether the Executive thinks much of Legislators or not. Nonetheless, we expect them to also move with speed and challenge the Interior CS for the attack on journalists who went to cover opposition Activist, Miguna Miguna at JKIA and let us know if it is now illegal to be informed or to practice journalism.

The Access to information Act;  gives citizens the right to access information under Article 35 of the Constitution. It therefore follows that a well-grounded Parliament should be in uproar together with the people it represents demanding to know under what circumstances the government denied the people such access.

It’s a high time our Members of Parliament made it clear whether they represent Wanjiku and are willing to stand by her and be damned or their benefactors. In a country where institutions that are supposed to protect the weak appear to be at the service of those in power; one expects that Parliament as the House that represents Wanjiku and the weak by that virtue will take its rightful place as the voice of the people.

In the meantime, where should Kenyans who are terrorized by their own government run to? The danger with overreaching one’s power-not just the government is that one is always tempted to do it again because of the feeling of invincibility. Failing to hold the government accountable over its crimes, perceived or otherwise only emboldens the resolve of a rogue government.

Considering the allegations and admission by the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica’s top executives of their meddling in the Kenyan elections, both in 2013 and 2017, one can see how anything left unchallenged makes individuals willing to try it again; but at what expense?

Either we have a strong Parliament that is not just about making laws but protecting those laws as well or we will end up a banana republic. We either have a strong House we can count on to be speak truth to power and oversight effectively the Executive or we have a House of Cards that tumbles down when the wind of impunity, nepotism and extra-judicial or other social ills blows its way. Which House do we have?

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