When Kibra MP Okoth Kenneth begun his crusade about legalizing marijuana it looked too random and rather out of place for a man who had cut out an image of a gentleman; never shouting himself hoarse in public rallies. A man the country had come to associate with performance. A doer more than a talker if his Mbagathi CDF School is anything to go by. Fewer people outside his family knew he was battling cancer.
In an interview that shocked his constituents, the MP who had turned forty not too long ago revealed he had stage four cancer and that it couldn’t be cured as such he will manage it by a tablet a day. Since then a number of people have begun piecing together his push for legalizing of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although he had made his stand clear it was for responsible use; the message hadn’t really hit home until the media published his cancer story.
Although Hon. Okoth has been one of the most performing legislators and pretty much all rounded in so far as oversight, lawmaking and representation is concerned, it’s not lost on us that majority MPs tend to think about dealing with issues only when it has affected them personally.
Not too long ago when MPs begun the debate on the Data Privacy Bill, rather than delve into the serious breaches that leave the country under threat. They ended up amusing each other with stories of a conman who was swindling them money, completely oblivious of the weighty issues that Bill was expected to address and the fact that Kenyans are conned by convicts from remand every other day but don’t make a fuss about it.
The past year MPs treated the country to a lot of unnecessary drama promising to vote against the President’s memorandum on the Finance Bill, 2018. In hindsight, it appears as though they were playing to the gallery, taking us through the motions yet they knew they weren’t going to veto anything.
Already there are plans by MPs to increase their pension while their constituents work in places where they get paltry or no pension schemes. This is the kind of self-gratifying behavior that irks the general public.
As Parliament’s next session begins this February, we appeal to their senses that as the year begins we shall have productive, people centered debates. Already there is a possibility that this year’s Finance Bill will get the tax payers to tighten their belts even further. We have about four months before the budget is read, our hope is this time round MPs will actually concern themselves with the budgeting process and scrutinize that document accordingly before passing any Bill related to the budget.
In the meantime, they should also demand at the very least that the committee on health challenge the Ministry of Health to help the country understand why cancer is suddenly a common a disease as flu. What has changed? How can the public be informed about the possible dangers or the alternative lifestyle that could help prevent these diseases? Considering its treatment – if one is lucky to identify it early – costs an arm and a leg, wouldn’t prevention be a necessary approach?
As an organization that monitors the work of lawmakers on the floor of the House we know only too well how it is easy to blame and hard to appreciate those MPs who against the negative energy, strive to deliver. The Kibra MP is one such Legislator who has strived to give his constituents the best. We are saddened by his story yet encouraged by his resilience to fight cancer. That notwithstanding, it’s time MPs sponsored Bills in Parliament and fight for the right of every Kenyan to get universal healthcare or affordable healthcare at the very least.