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.


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