Saturday, 23 June 2012

Rogue MPs strike again!

Rogue MPs strike again!
On Wednesday 20th June, with a slim quorum no less, parliament passed several amendments to The Statute Law (amendment) Bill 2012, set to be turned into law in Kenya. The most outrageous and notorious of these amendments included an amendment to section 22 of the Elections Act 2011, which allowed for the academic qualifications of aspirants to elective posts to be basic education and not a university or college degree. Thankfully, this particular amendment was deleted the next day during the session of the Committee of The Whole House. Kenyans are still outraged, but like placated natives, full of “primitive energy”, we are satisfied that with the miracle of college education, impunity will die.

Still, a more concerning amendment was passed by parliament on that night. This particular amendment affected the Political Parties Act, a law that is meant to govern the conduct of political parties in Kenya and their members. The amendment in turn allowed for sitting members of parliament who for various political reasons have abandoned the party vehicle that elected them into parliament, to retain their current seats until after the first general elections held after commencement of the Act.

Let’s not rant and rage at parliament for making the amendment; as the Attorney General generously stated on Friday 22nd June – Parliament was doing what it was meant to do and that is pass legislation. I will be even more generous and say that I admire the swift and egregious manner in which obviously self-serving amendments are passed in parliament. The only amendments passed faster this year involved increased remunerations to Members of Parliament, backdated to 2006. Notably, both amendments were not only unconstitutional but clearly went against the express interests of Kenyans.

Let’s face it, when it comes to self-serving legislators, Kenya is blessed with the best of the lot. The crème de la crème of the most selfish, shortsighted, and ultimately greedy sort the world has to offer. We know they are this way, and we love them as such, which is why repeatedly and routinely, every 5 years, we elect them.

Perhaps it would serve me a sense of civic duty to curtly inform Kenyans that such amendments that directly serve the interests of sitting members of parliament are unconstitutional for the very fact that the essential role of parliament as stipulated in article 94 is to legislate in the interests of the people of Kenya from whom the legislative authority of the republic is derived. That means that when they pass amendments they should rightly act in the interests of the people of Kenya and not their own. Is the amendment to enact the strict guidelines of party membership vis a vis party-hopping after the next general elections in the interest of the people? Certainly not.

Let’s pray the President reacts in favor of public outcry and declines to assent to this amendment. Let’s pray the Attorney-General in his capacity as an ex-officio member of parliament, can come back and present the unconstitutionality of the amendment to the MPs in a language that they can understand and respond to lawfully. Let’s pray that they speedily recollect the supremacy of the constitution and delete the amendment forthwith. Come on, let’s pray for a miracle!

Naturally, I am a pessimist when it comes to leadership in Kenya. I have come to be convinced that unless the general public and the civil society in Kenya sit with the charged and electrified cattle prong of threatened protests, litigation and demonstrations, Kenya’s legislators will undoubtedly whittle away at the laws of this country mainly for their own benefit until there is nothing left.

Could it be that the constitutional mandate of Parliament is so vastly complex that it is utterly incomprehensible to the MPs? Is the idea of being elected to Parliament in order to serve the interests of Kenyans so ethereal, so other worldly weird that it simply cannot register as logical to these leaders? Could it be that in reality, despite Parliament boasting many lawyers, professors, engineers and all sorts of elite members of the Kenyan upper class, none of them can read and understand the constitution of Kenya?

As they continue fiddling, diddling and snipping away at laws in the dead of night in the August House, primarily to suit their own interests, we Kenyans slumber away, dreaming of all the miracles that will happen because we have a new constitution. It’s because we think that one vote, once every 5 years, will bring the much desired change to Kenya. In amending the political parties Act 2011, to give a somewhat grace period to party-hopping sitting MPs until after the next general elections, parliament put the whole country into a legal time warp where “poof!” The events of August 27th 2010 did not happen and MPs are still allowed to jump from one political party to another and another and another, as often as they change their shirts.

Kenyans, we say we want change, well here is the change. MPs change the law, change bills, and make amendments; all of that is change. Not for your benefit of course. Maybe next time you choose to vote and do nothing else, in your prayer for a miraculous change, you could be more specific and tell your personal deity, that you want “Change in the best interests of Kenyans”.

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