MPs seeking to censure others should arrive in the House clean

Published on 28/03/2009

Barrack Muluka

The average Kenyan Member of Parliament is unlikely to know why the National Assembly is generically referred to as the august House. He probably understands this to mean ‘the house of the month of August.’

The poor fellow must probably spend idle moments wondering why Parliament should be the august House and not the July or September house. In his awkward ignorance, he must refrain from asking, lest he should be thought to be so foolish. For, if our MP on average appreciated the majesty of the institution of Parliament they would not invite this noble House to the kind of glib opprobrium that the Tenth Parliament has steadily distinguished itself for.

Being an assembly into which almost any moneyed bandit can buy their way, Parliament has steadily degenerated into a witch hunter’s den. At its very best, it has descended to the level of a cheap whip. Almost anybody with money can rent this hideous sjambok. They use it on just about anybody they disagree with and, especially, the political competitor. The Kenyan MP today is on average a loud mouthed fire-spitting good-for-nothing oaf. This honourable lout’s favourite preoccupation is running his mouth at some funeral or at some rowdy public gathering in his tribal backyard. Here, the boorish lawmaker threatens all and sundry with Motions of censure and no confidence, on the floor of Parliament.

Those who crafted the institution of Parliament certainly did not have the kinds of ill-mannered characters who incite tribal mobs as probable members. Its origins were informed by the expectation that those who would be privileged to belong to this assembly would be truly men and women of honourable candour. Some may be a little brusque, but still within the perimeter of common decency, in dress, speech, carriage and general comportment. It is for this reason that Members of Parliament are referred to as Honourable. From Augustus Caesar’s Roman Republic in 44 BC to the present day, this assembly is like no other. It is dignified, eminent, imposing, noble – in a word, august. It is the most distinguished assembly that the citizen of any country can aspire to belong to.

It is worse than scandalous for members of such an assembly to make it their stock in trade to gallivant in the countryside, sabre-rattling and spewing threats against each other. It is worse when such ‘shoutants’ elect fanatical ethnic crowds as the audience for their hate campaigns. Apart from denuding the National Assembly of its dignity, they are a threat to national peace and security.

In all civilised societies, it is normal for Parliament to discuss and even censure members whose conduct goes beyond the pail. But this practice loses its meaning and nobility when Parliamentary censure becomes a tool of vindictiveness. That each time we disagree you gang up tribal alliances against me. Parliament couldn’t possibly sink any lower than this, anywhere in the world. And there is little doubt that Kenya’s National Assembly has hit an all time low.

MPs should be today addressing constitutional reform, the country’s sickly economy, corruption and peace building after the mayhem of last year.

Mr Amos Kimunya was censured last year in what many believed was a genuine effort inspired by public good. Mr William Ruto was recently discussed in an environment where both those who were for him and those against him did not measure up to the decorum befitting august House.

During this season when Parliament stands prorogued, several members have told charged tribal crowds that they will be moving Motions of no confidence against their colleagues when Parliament resumes. There are threats here and threats there, the most prominent being the one against Justice Minister Martha Karua. If anyone has good reason to bring up such a Motion against her, or against any other member, they should bring it up. Such is our law. But the uncouth conduct of the people baying for Karua’s political blood cannot pass the test of decorum and common decency. Their public conduct, and especially the ethnic fires they have been fanning in the countryside, disqualifies them from the privilege of censuring anybody, least of all in Parliament. Those who would presume to censure others ought to arrive in the chamber with clean hands. Those who demean the dignity of Parliament lack the moral high ground that a Motion of no confidence requires.

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