Five things we learnt from Parliament this week

Onyonka also wants to be called The Man

It is not often that a man like Richard Onyonka stands on the national stage, grabs the microphone and is illuminated for so long that he becomes the topic of discussion of Twitter.

But the gasps of astonishment were loud on Thursday evening after he sat at a table arrayed with microphones and sound recorders at Parliament’s media centre and made the startling revelation that the Government would be perfectly comfortable to sit across the table and negotiate with the Al Shaabab.

Not only would the Government be happy to negotiate, said the youthful assistant minister (some prefer to refer to his ilk as junior ministers) but was aware of the presence of the Al Shaabab in Nairobi and had records of where their property is located.

One can tell how intense the rain is by the noise on the roof, and this noise was enough to rouse that impartial and apolitical and interfering man, the self-proclaimed fire fighter Francis Muthaura, from his Harambee House office.

Muthaura was among the first to contradict the junior minister.

Onyonka is yet to say he has been misquoted, in which case I would proffer a recording of his remarks, but he was actively pushing a long opinion matter on the matter on Saturday after other Government officials contradicted and clarified his remarks.

Well, it turns out minister Moses Wetang’ula is far away in Australia, where every African country has rushed to offer its support to Kenya against that very vile Somali Islamist group, and his assistant had to get into the limelight somehow.

We are yet to find out whether Onyonka intends to emulate Orwa Ojode aka Sirikal in the making of loud and amazing revelations, but we now know that he has a voice, and he also aspires to be The Man.

It is possible to shut Ojode up

There’s no denying the fact Orwa Ojode is quite the showman, and knows how to silence his colleagues in Parliament, the better if he is lecturing them on the need to show their identity cards, remove their belts and shoes and subject themselves to a full frisking before they board flights to Northern Kenya.

But he can also be silenced on security matters, it emerged last Tueday, if one is calm enough to see through the chinks in the armour he so effectively throws on when answering questions.

It was the calm and smiling former journalist Yusuf Hassan Abdi, the new MP for Kamukunji, who caught the man from Ndhiwa offside last Tuesday.

It turns out that although Ojode knows that the head of the Al-Shaabab is in Eastleigh, he knows not and can therefore tell anybody where the police post there is located, or whether there is another one at Muthurwa.

He got off lightly, as Speaker Kenneth Marende had spotted the swamp he was wading into, but the older members would perhaps have learnt that when it comes to Ojode, the old hectoring speech won’t do—ask a simple and specific question, and smile.

There is no shortage of possible reasons to fight

I should also add to the above that that there is no shortage of apologists and naysayers, but perhaps that would have some political conspiracy theorists wagging tongues.

The barrage of harsh words this past week was directed at the Prime Minister for the reported mishandling by staff at his office of the Kazi Kwa Vijana funds.

Youth and Sports assistant minister Kabando wa Kabando applied his linguistic skills in his condemnation of the PM before the mantle was taken up by Dr Boni Khalwale, the man whose tongue can sting when his head is hot.

He also chairs the powerful (is there a powerless?) Parliamentary Accounts Committee and he has declared they will be meeting officials from the World Bank, and they are the horse whose mouth they want to speak, about that missing cash.

Well, the head of heat had risen quite high by the time Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi presented the statement on behalf of the PM.

He did not have a tough time with the questions, though, as they were asked by ODM stalwarts Millie Odhiambo-Mabona, John Mbadi, Ababu Namwamba et al, and they were not the sort that gets him hot under the collar.

To ensure they have a chance to take a stab at the PM’s heart proper, Dr Khalwale and Co. still get to have the PM answer the specific queries raised by Eugene Wamalwa, the so-called brother to Jay Z, on Wednesday.

There is still some fighting to be done.

We can always hush these things up

The renovations to the big chamber were supposed to have been complete by the end of June, but apart from the loud drilling that disturbs meetings at Committee Room 9, there has been a loud silence over the delay.

The little birds whisper that only one person bid to bring the nice and soft leather seats needed, and there has been a bit of a worry that he might just deliver whatever he gets on the market in China.

There was going to be a delay anyway, given that this is still a government job, but the heat has been generated by another quarter, the perpetually unhappy MPs.

This has come in the form of that loudly filed motion by the pugnacious MP for Gwassi, John Mbadi, seeking to reconstitute the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Not only is it male-dominated, the lions have also been realized to be the selfish types, the sort that does not allow jackals to have a bit of the meat, the sort, in short, that imagines that everybody else is fine.

The situation gets sticky when a man with some clout such as one Jakoyo Midiwo steps in and complains too.

Well, the little birds now say that Mbadi was quietly asked aside over the motion and convinced the matter can be best addressed by the wazee at an informal meeting.

So laid back is the atmosphere at these sort of meetings they are referred to as Kamukunjis   and there are no records kept and not much given out to the Press.

The chambers have a red/maroon/scarlet/whatever wall-to-wall carpet, and if you spread the stuff thin enough, one would hardly notice it was there in the first place.

The quiet man has a voice

I don’t bet a lot of people outside Bonchari Constituency know who Charles Onyancha is.

I also don’t bet a lot of people know who Alfred Bwire is, outside Butula and the general area is.

The two MPs are uncommonly quiet and do not quite fit the profile of a typical Kenyan MP—quiet, pugnacious, publicity-hungry, attention-grabbing, rolling on the tarmac shouting (ok, only Sonko does that) and generally irritating.

This little piece is about Charles, who we learnt this week is a member of the Public Accounts Committee and is the quiet bespectacled man in a blue suit that quietly ruminates about a statement before he makes it.

When the noise about the supposedly lost KKV money got irritatingly loud and Dr Boni Khalwale got too hot behind his ears, Charles shot up and quietly suggested the PAC chairman was lying.

Here is what he said:

Mr. C. Onyancha: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, Sir. I have listened to the contributions of hon. Members and the PAC has been mentioned several times. I want to say with regard to Kazi Kwa Vijana Programme that our Committee is not yet properly seized with the matter.

The fact that the Chairman went out and gave a statement and went beyond where he should have reached, has given a wrong impression.

Mr. Speaker, Sir, we will be meeting the World Bank tomorrow to see whether they have any valid report. As a Committee, we have not apportioned any blame to anybody. So, any impression which might have been given out there by the chairman’s statements and by anybody in this House is erroneous and should be withdrawn.

Read that again.

The good man says the committee is not properly seized of the matter and all goes along well enough until he says the same committee is meeting some World Bank official over the same said matter.

He has a voice, and we have heard it.


Five things we learnt from Parliament this week

Some coveted offices are very small

The House had adjourned on Wednesday, the bar had been opened and we were hanging out at the media centre when information came through that the Vice President had called for a press conference.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga had earlier in the day told Justice Kalpana Rawal that President Kibaki was politically responsible for the killings by the police during the post-election violence.

Although the President had sent a message to refute this, the Vice President and the PNU were outraged and felt the event necessitated a statement from them.

Never mind that it was after the initial editions of the newspapers had been sent to press, a few hours before the holiday and a few minutes after drinks had been opened at the bar.

And so we trooped to the office of the Leader of Government Business in Parliament.  And we were disappointed.

One would have imagined that the office of such a dignified personage would have been bigger and more spacious.

With eight MPs squeezed in it, and one even having to sit on a desk beside the Vice President, it was a monumental task having to accommodate three television cameras- and some had even carried the huge cameras because it was supposed to be a major event.

Well, the Vee Pee spoke as eloquently as he usually does, thoroughly condemned the PM’s statement, described his statements in court as “unfortunate and uncalled for in the context of national healing” and then we left as he started the Swahili version.

Next time you hear that there is a big heart-stopping row over the position of LGB, kindly ignore and read the sports section. It is not really a big office.

It was not going to take long for the AG to get in trouble with Khalwale

The Ikolomani MP is one of those people you don’t want to get in trouble with, especially if you sit on the Government side and are in the habit of showing up late.

On Tuesday afternoon, Prof Githu Muigai reportedly stayed longer at State House, where the Cabinet had just endorsed, as if they could have have been expected to do anything to the contrary, the so-called invasion of Somalia by the Kenyan army.

According to Dr Khalwale, the good man was having lunch, and it did not help that he showed up and then asked for two weeks to answer the question.

On Wednesday morning, he was again absent, and there was no circumstance and nobody  to explain this lateness, and so Dr Khalwale had the perfect opportunity to unleash one of his clinical attacks.

We have had to put up with an AG who smiles as a hurricane blows through Government, who smiles his way through serious Parliamentary jargon and smiles as he places the handcuffs of the law in the protesting arms of the MPs.

He has left, and we have in his place a man who has promised to be nothing like his predecessor, who convinced the tough-talking 27-member committee on oversight that he is the right man for the job.

If he is to learn anything, he has to have sanctions for this lateness, because we do not want to watch him grow into the rather large shoes of his predecessor, the doctor, whose names means “the sick one”, ranted.

The sanctions were brought out, but the professor had a solid explanation. There was a bill he was supposed to have put out by midday, he said, and was busy finalizing that.

He did not answer the question of that day, but we assume he was sufficiently warned of the perils of having a run-in with The Bull Fighter.

Karua does not think much of Nguyai

I don’t suppose there are many Kenyans who don’t know who Lewis Nguyai is. If there are, I doubt they would be looking at this blog, or this post in particular.

Before his trip to The Hague earlier this month, the Kikuyu MP’s biggest achievement was to take the Parliamentary seat from the hard-hitting Senior Counsel, the eloquent Paul Muite,  at the 2007 General Election.

Well, we now know that the Local Government assistant minister is also Uhuru Kenyatta’s right-hand man, so trusted that he was handed the task of showing the International Criminal Court that the First President’s son is not the Mungiki leader Luis Moreno-Ocampo has painted him to be.

In Parliament, he has also often read out an answer to a question put to the Finance ministry one or two times in the past.

Well, if you ask Gichugu MP Martha Karua, the assistant minister for Local Government is also in the habit of christening himself the deputy of the Finance minister.

last Tuesday, Mr Nguyai had just informed the House that he would find out where the Finance minister was and communicate to him the wishes of the backbench.

Ms Karua was not impressed, and delivered one of her trademark withering statements, accompanied, as you know, by that characteristic facial expression.

“I remember that Mr. Nguyai was here. He is the one who sought indulgence on behalf of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance. He does, on many occasions, appear here as his self-appointed deputy.”

Well, Mr Kenyatta did eventually show up, although we are not sure whether it was his “self-appointed deputy” that informed him that he was needed in Parliament.

It is difficult to have Ojodeh keep a secret

We now know that there will be a “mother of all operations” in the foreseeable future in Nairobi and it will be intended to weed out members or sympathisers of the al Shaabab in our midst.

One would have expected that such an operation would be carried out in the middle of the night and when we least expect it, so that the bad elements can be caught by surprise.

One would have expected that the Government would not go out of its way to inform the bad elements that it has its eyes on their tails, or the animal with the tail in Somalia, and will be glad to put a hand on them soon.

One moment we were discussing why  flights to and from North Eastern are subjected to rigorous scrutiny and the other the outspoken assistant minister was telling us there will be an operation and it is most likely to be in the Mogadishu of Nairobi.

But he did give us one of those rare ones.

“you are aware of what is going on; this is like a big animal with a tail in Somalia. We are still fighting the tail while the head is resting here in Eastleigh.”

Some records are not very reliable

This one was actually stolen from the previous week, whose significant event was the discovery by Garsen MP Danson Mungatana that there was an error in the Elections Act.

Somebody had conspired to include the words “not” and “Presidential  and Deputy Presidential candidate” in Section 34 (9) of that Act, contrary to what had reportedly been passed in Parliament.

The Hansard of August 26, the day that controversial Act was discussed and the amendments inserted, was downloaded from the website of Parliament.

It read as follows on the page of the two or three minutes during which the amendments were debated:

Mr. Mungatana: Madam Temporary Deputy Chairlady, I beg to move: THAT, Clause 35 of the Bill be amended by deleting the words “shall not” and substituting therefor the word “may”.

Naturally, there was a furore about it, and fingers were pointed in the direction of the Government Printer, that man who was famously depicted sitting on a desktop printer with cobwebs growing out of its corners and with a big padlock on his lips (The People Daily put him on their cover the next day and I wrote a chronology of his errors for our Page 3 on Thursday).

Well, it emerged later (these words!!) that the Attorney General was prepared to be the fall guy as it was his office that had missed out on the word “not” in their preparation of the Act for the signature of HE.

But where did the words “Presidential and Deputy Presidential candidate” come from?

The Hansard of August 26 downloaded on Thursday, October 17 read as follows on the part recording the amendments to Section 34 (9):

Mr. Mungatana: Clause 35, sorry! Madam Temporary Deputy Chairlady. I stand corrected! I have given notice that it will be an amended version.

“The party list may contain a name of any Presidential or Deputy Presidential candidate nominated for an election under this Act”

Yes Madam Chair, I was explaining and now if— The point I wanted to make—

Hon. Members: It is okay! Sawa!

Mr. Mungatana: Madam Temporary Deputy Chairlady, if it is okay, then I do not need to explain.

I also don’t suppose I need to explain.

Don’t just shoot them between the eyes

Among the unwritten rules of football, whether in the village or on the English Premier League, is that a player must remonstrate with the referee whenever the match official reaches into his pocket for a card.

The referees also seem to obey another  rule that forbids the reversal of a decision or a return of the card to the pocket once retrieved.

A while ago, while watching a rugby match between the Springboks and the All Blacks (that’s the South African and New Zealand teams, in case you did not know), a friend who could pass for a soccer fanatic pointed out something.

Whenever a player got involved in a foul, the referee would summon the captain and warn him about it. If the player repeated the foul, the referee would call him aside and have a word of two.

Because the ref’s mic is connected to the broadcasting system, we once heard him tell the player he would not entertain any more talk from him, and the matter ended there.

The player did not raise his hands or scream “Fuck You” a la Wayne Rooney, and neither did he try to use his size (he was twice the size of the ref)  to intimidate the man.

In other words, in rugby the referee is a respectable gentleman, who is actually respected by the players even when he makes the rare wrong call.

The other notable aspect about rugby is that a yellow card earns the player 10 minutes off the pitch two minutes in seven-a-side rugby, meaning there is a direct and often palpable effect on the team’s performance.

There’s nothing of the sort in football, where players are free to kick and break their opponents as much as they wish provided they don’t do it too hard and too often to deserve the red card.

In rugby,  Luis Suarez, the Uruguay man who cost Ghana a place in the semis of the World Cup, would have gotten its team what it deserved.

In rugby, if a player commits a professional foul on another clearly bound for the try-line, the offended team is awarded the try –five points- and given the chance to convert a really easy penalty. The result of a professional foul on a try-bound player therefore comes to eight points.

In football, as the Suarez affair showed, the result of a flagrant foul on your team might just be progress to the next round with the chance of getting some silver, like Uruguay nearly did. It’s clearly bullshit that sinners should be so well paid.

The point of all this is that football should really grow up.

Rugby can assist get the players to respect the referee, make the punishment harsher for intentional offences by having an effect on the team.

I’m sure some fans would not mind a rule that allows the referee to have a selected fan shoot offending players between the eyes.