A fantastic report from one of our roving reporters.
6:15 to 7:30 PM on Thursday December 7 (the last day of the 2006 parliament)
The final hours of parliament in 2006 was punctuated by a furious debate between the government and opposition. MP’s from bothsides stood to debate on a motion moved earlier in the day to adjourn parliament (as scheduled) till around March next year. Government MP’s were for the move while opposition MP’s were against the motion arguing that crucial bills should be passed first.
MP Wangari Mathai spoke saying she hoped MP’s would usetheir time off to engage in constructive dialogue, healing and peace making
MP Henry Kosgey opposing the adjournment said that there was a lot more work to be done. On agriculture, he said it was a myth that farmers were enjoying boom times. He said that the cost of inputs (fertiliser, furl & transport) had all shot up to an extent that maize, milk, and other farmers were not making money regardless of the improved market prices. He also deplored the state of insecurity.
Minister Njenga Karume said the government had worked hard and accomplished a lot this year and that MP’s should go home and oversee CDF projects that they (should have) started and were on-going.
MP Arungah opposed motion saying that parliament has passed about 40 bills in four years – which is what other countries parliaments do that in a single year. He said that even though parliament had improved and passed over 20 bills this year, there were many more crucial ones that had to be passed.
And today there were many, who wished to contribute on the last day. As each member concluded his speech, several would stand up straight to catch the speaker’s attention and be next. Also almost all members speaking were interrupted by “point of order” interjections from other members, which required them to sit down and listen as clarification of their statement was asked for.
MP Paddy Ahenda said that they had not been able to contribute many bills since the government had enticed many of their members like Minister Nyachae over to the other side where they had become “toothless bulldogs.” Nyachae stood on a point of order and said that this was the first time anyone had ever questioned his performance credentials. Ahenda then withdrew his statement saying that what he meant was that the government had taken many of their most vibrant/articulate members of the opposition to their side.
MP Joe Nyagah argued against adjournment saying that parliament had not passed many bills, which had been introduced, and these would all die. One of them is a vital anti-money laundering bill, which he brought to the house
Assistant Minister Machage (a doctor) stood and said that the irritability & combativeness of members we were witnessing, and the frequent passage of bills without quorum are all symptoms of fatigue among members and the remedy of this is rest & relaxation i.e. adjournment. MP Ayacko stood on a point of order to challenge the minister saying that he has cast aspersions on the health of all of them, including the speaker and that “is he claiming that the work parliament is doing is illegal (passing bills without quorum)?” Machage said he had been misunderstood it is a fact (lack of quorum) but maintained that members need the holiday break.
Minister Amos Kimunya argued for the adjournment saying that the government had done its work, and parliament had passed the bills, which were ready. He mentioned that sitting for another week or two would not necessarily mean that any more bills would be passed. He said members could continue to work on bills through committees over the next few months. One MP stood on a point of order to state the committee work ended on December 1. Kimunya clarified that members could meet over the break at other venues away from parliament and fine-tune bills. He added that it was mockery for half-hearted/incomplete bills to be brought to the house for members to making a hundred amendments to them. He also urged them to consider the parliamentary staff who had already made holiday plans with their families and ended by urging MP’s to go home and work on the CDF projects they had with the funds that had been allocated to them.
MP Sirma argued that the state of insecurity was bad. He also mentioned the killing of political parties in this parliament to which Asst. Minister Raphael Wanjala replied that KANU itself had killed FORD – splitting it into four parties.
Minister John Michuki made a brief speech supporting adjournment. Throughout his speech members of the oppositions made hissing sounds until he sat down.
Assistant Minister Moroto also spoke about insecurity saying the Kenya Army had killed his people.
MP Nkaissery (a former Army General) challenged Moroto for questioning the integrity of the armed forces. He asked how Moroto could question integrity of armed forces? He said that the current president (Mwai Kibaki) was at the time of that operation the chairman of the committee on security and authorised it and they never killed anybody, only arrested cattle rustlers. This lively argument between the two members cheered on by the rest of the house looked to be getting out of hand and the speaker ejected both Moroto and Nkaissery from the chambers for the rest of the day. Assistant Minister Kamama also rushed to the front of the house without being invited by the speaker and asked about Nkaissery’s statement was also ejected for revisiting the matter.
Assistant Minister Kiunjuri spoke for adjournment saying that oppositions MP’s were against adjournment since they were ashamed/afraid of going home because this government has worked hard and delivered and yet they would be defeated to explain to their constituents what they had accomplished during all the years they were in charge.
MP Mutula Kilonzo said the house should not adjourn until the matter of Kenya’s representatives at the East African Legislative Assembly is settled since it is holding up their work in Arusha. He was challenged on that point by Ministers Martha Karua and John Koech.
MP Anthony Kimetto was against adjournment but he would vote for it if only the government would add roads funds to the CDF kitty, as they had promised. He said MP’s want to go home, but cannot because of the poor state of their roads. He added that the only good roads were those to Ministers homes – a point which was immediately challenged by Roads Minister Nyachae who said that they had worked very hard in the year to reduce the number of impassable roads in the country, and added that the road to his home area (and that of Minister Konchellah) was one of the worst roads.
– One opposition MP made the point that member bills they contribute are rarely heard since ¾ of the time is allocated to government business/bills
– One MP (opposition) stood to say that his party had not given him a chance to speak this year and just wanted to say a word before parliament adjourned for the year.
This hour of debate was very lively and there were 60 to 90 members throughout even though it was well past the typical 6:30 PM deadline when parliament usually adjourns. The opposition numbers would ebb and flow while the government side maintained a solid block through the hour, always appearing to have a slight majority of numbers. The speaker gave his ruling at 7:30 saying that he would allow all willing members to continue with their contributions/be heard.
– Quirk for the Lit Fest crowd: standing orders also require an MP to stick to the language he starts his speech. I.e. start in English, argue throughout in English, or start in Swahili give your speech in Swahili – so no back and forth switch between languages which would sound like sheng