How drama, punches and laws marked MPs’ tenure

Millie Odhiambo

They fought, tore each other’s clothes and even stripped naked. They also passed many laws and, according to Majority Leader Aden Duale, the tally is now at 180 Acts of Parliament.

They debated, fiercely, accusing each other of extortion and graft and at least one watchdog committee, the Public Accounts Committee, was reconstituted midway. T

hey also fought the Senate. But now, the curtains have come down on the National Assembly and MPs have to go back to the campaign trail to seek another term. Their term officially expires at midnight of August 7, 2017.

Here is a look at some of the notable faces in the 11th Parliament.

Justin Muturi, Speaker

Throughout the tenure of the 11th Parliament, he has had to put his umpire cap on, tolerate members’ antics, support Government policies, and ensure his authority in the Legislature is not questioned. But the question of his political leanings towards Jubilee, which sponsored him, never went away.

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He was looked at as a Jubilee Speaker, but he says those who see him as such are still stuck in the past Constitution.

He had a tumultuous beginning in the year when he kicked out at least six Opposition MPs who heckled President Kenyatta during the State of the Nation address. They blew whistles and disrupted sittings of the House.

His biggest decision was ordering Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja) out of the House for the remainder of the session. He invoked a rarely used Standing Order, and were it not for the Judiciary, Wandayi would still be out in the cold, and would have only returned in February next year, if re-elected. With the chaos from both sides there is no doubt the Speaker will end his tenure with a mixed bag of accolades and denunciations.

He says he is not a weak man, and doesn’t regret anything but adds that his lowest moment was in December 18, 2014 when the House descended into chaos as the controversial security laws were passed.

 Joyce Laboso, Deputy Speaker

 Elected to that seat by an overwhelming majority of 254 votes in a House of 349 members, she made history as the first woman Deputy Speaker. As Muturi’s deputy, the lasting memory of her tenure is a bad one: she sat on the chair presiding over a controversial debate, then chaos broke out, and as she shouted and tried to calm the House, Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga walked to her and sprinkled water on her and the clerks.

Laboso ducked and Muturi, who was following the proceedings from a different room, had to dash into the House to bring order.

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Aside from that, Laboso has been a steady hand in presiding over debates, and she now wants to be the next governor for Bomet County. If elected, she will make another history as among the first women governors.

Aden Duale, Majority Leader

The MP for Garissa Township is the first Leader of Majority Party under Kenya’s 2010 Constitution. His job entailed marshalling the numbers of the ruling Jubilee Coalition to push through Government agenda.

He led the House in vetting Cabinet Secretaries, Principal Secretaries and other senior Government officers, including ambassadors and the Director General of the National Intelligence Service.

When he looks back at his tenure, Duale will be pleased at how he has pushed Government agenda in the House, but what will gnaw at his conscience is the failure to enact what he called a political “hot potato” that is the two-thirds gender rule.

Who can forget the day when Duale did the unprecedented: he threatened to discuss the conduct of a senior judge, Justice George Odunga because of what he said were rulings that favoured the Opposition.

 Jakoyo Midiwo, Deputy Minority Leader

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The Gem MP has been the defacto leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly. He matched Duale’s barbs word for word and his moves step by step, and they somewhat got a working formula with each other, on what to push through in the House Business Committee and what to keep on the back-burner.

When things got tough, such as when Jubilee unleashed its numerical tyranny to push through unpopular bills, he led the Opposition in walking out. His boss on paper was Francis Nyenze, the Minority Leader, but Nyenze’s flip-flopping on crucial issues made him lose the authority to lead Opposition troops in the House, and Midiwo, alone, threatened betting firms with punitive taxes as a way of making them push through campaigns for responsible betting.

His plea seems to have been heard when the National Treasury CS proposed a 50 per cent tax on betting, which MPs rejected, but which the President revised to 35 per cent.

Opiyo Wandayi, Ugunja MP

Wandayi was the first MP to be forcefully ejected from the debating chamber, kicking and screaming, and dumped outside the gates of Parliament.

It was probably a first in the 25 years of Kenya’s multiparty democracy. Wandayi was subsequently suspended for the remainder of the session — the most punitive punishment that the Speaker can mete out for disorderly conduct.

His crime? He had defied the Speaker’s plea, and ignored the directive to observe decorum during President Kenyatta’s State of the Nation address on March 31 last year.

Were it not for the Judiciary, Wandayi would have spent nine months out of the House. But he raised a crucial constitutional question about the right to representation in the August House for his constituents, and the discriminatory nature of the punishment. The Judiciary agreed with him and allowed him back to the House.

Jude Njomo, Kiambu Town MP

 He will go down in history as the lawmaker who faced the country’s banking industry and blocked the exorbitant interest rates.

Njomo weathered immense pressure from Government functionaries and emissaries from the banking industry when he pushed through the populist and popular amendment to the Banking Act, which capped the interest rate at not more than four per cent above the Central Bank rate.

The Bill was assented to on August 24, 2016 bringing to an end a 16-year legislative battle to regulate interest rates. It is perhaps the only thing that united the President and Opposition leader Raila Odinga.

John Mbadi, Suba MP

For all his political bravado, Mbadi will hold the record for one of the most populist and people-friendly Bills passed in the 11th Parliament, when he amended the Value-Added Tax Act. He pushed successfully to have fishing nets, milk, mosquito nets, ambulances and hearses, sanitary and pest-control services, animal feeds, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, and the supply of water drilling services exempted from the 16 per cent tax.

His argument: “There’s no shop for CORD, no shop for ODM, and there’s no shop for Jubilee. We all suffer when the prices of goods go up. If we pass this Bill, it is going to send a signal to the economy that prices have to come down.”

Wesley Korir, Cherangany MP

The marathon star-turned politician rose to the occasion when he heard that the World Anti-Doping Agency had Kenya on its cross-hairs because of the Government’s failure to comply with the rules of the agency.

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He pushed the Government to comply with the laws. When the Ministry of Sports and its Cabinet Secretary Hassan Wario delayed, he came up with a Bill and through the Labour and Social Welfare Committee in which he sits, he made sure it was enacted on time.

Priscilla Nyokabi, Nyeri Women Rep

Before she joined the National Assembly, Priscilla had done a lot of groundwork on media freedom and access to information during her days in the civil society. She made that a reality when in 2016 she marshalled the numbers in Parliament to approve the Access to Information Bill, which is now an Act.

The Act allows the public to seek any information from the Government, and obligates public servants to make sure they provide that information, or risk hefty fines or jail terms.

Millie Mabona, Mbita MP

She sponsored two Bills, now the Victims Protection Act, and the In-vitro-fertilisation Bill, but despite this important legislative work, she also took the mantle for stripping in the House after male MPs attempted to undress and molest her in the chaotic sitting of December 2014.

In another controversial sitting last year, she was captured on video, shoes in hand, calling the President names.

 Alfred Keter, Nandi Hills MP

He was the lone voice in the legislative wilderness that made noise about the due diligence around the tender for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR).

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