Kenya’s National Assembly is the embodiment of abuse of power. It is a representative body of individuals basking in the vainglorious title of ‘Member of Parliament’; a majority of whom have allowed to be controlled by their stomachs than their brains. For the few who still have theirs in situ, my felicitations.
Bastille, the supposedly impregnable fortress in which the French aristocracy imprisoned opponents - a symbol of abuse of power as much as our parliament is -was attacked by civilians on July 14, 1789. Seven detainees were set free, and that birthed the French revolution.
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While Bastille held only seven inmates at the time, millions of Kenyans are being held hostage by a cabal of parliamentarians in whom the constitution invests too much power. Sadly, they can barely handle it despite wielding the power of life and death over Kenyans. For as little as Sh10,000, MPs mortgage our souls to the devil.
In 2017, incensed Macedonians stormed a lethargic parliament that was undecided on the formation of a new government despite months of acrimonious debates. Venezuela’s parliament suffered similar fate the same year when demonstrators stormed it and beat up legislators.
So, while parliamentarians dare Kenyans and inadvertently court civilian rebellion, it could well come to that. Exasperation with MPs trying to thwart the fight against corruption could easily be the trigger.
This vice robs Kenya an estimated Sh650 billion annually. In the latest ranking by Transparency International, Kenya holds position 143 out of the 180 most corrupt countries ranked. Uganda is at position 36, which tells you how dire the situation is locally.
And not only that. While the lives of Kenyans are endangered by the possible imbibing of mercury and other metals allegedly found in imported sugar, some legislators who long ago formed an alliance with the devil, the middleman being ‘corruption’, would rather hush the truth.
From the conduct of parliamentarians and the haughtiness displayed by a few individuals holding public offices, Kenyans now know who their enemies are. They have something on which to focus their anger and frustrations.
A few days ago, the Associated Press (AP) reported that President Uhuru Kenyatta had asked members of the public to make civilian arrests of the corrupt and hand the culprits over to the police. Parliament is a good starting point. But were that to happen, the irony is that police top corruption charts in the country.
Parliament’s vanguard role in corruption is not just reflected in the parliamentarians’ greed for money and fascination with power; it also manifests itself in the number of corrupt public office holders.
Those charged with corruption and abuse of office are university degree holders, vetted and given a clean bill of health by parliament, or by other government agencies that carry out background checks State nominees. If nothing else, this exposes the futility of vetting exercises. Companies and institutions that have so far been run down and looted clean in Kenya have been under the steerage of university graduates.
The requirement that senior public office holders possess a university degree is discriminatory. It is in conflict with constitutional provisions. There is no evidence, scientific or otherwise, that the possession of a university degree makes one a better manager or, better still, the exemplification of honesty. While many degree holders have proven their mettle, there also are thousands of Kenyans out there who, for one reason or another, did not complete their degree programmes but have the drive to make them some of the best managers around. There are many diploma and higher certificate holders who can turn the fortunes of this country for the better, but their potentials have been bottled by defeatist elitist laws. A review of such repressive laws is overdue.
No doubt, parliament lacks the basic fundamentals of a dependable institution. Parliament long ago mounted a quiet coup that expunged chapter Six of the constitution. It is therefore dumbfounding that individuals who cannot come within a mile of demonstrable moral values, intelligence and competency would deign to judge those virtues in others; it simply beats common sense.
There is no acceptable reason we should let a handful of bigoted individuals hold this country to ransom. Kenya’s Opposition has its work cut out. It can have, and run away with public sympathy, but it is disjointed, hurting and limping. It amazes that the Opposition is not willing to latch onto the public mood and exploit it to advantage.
Now, more than ever before, the Opposition should cause the recall clause in the constitution to be operationalised. The Opposition should go to hospitals and expose the rot and scam that is the medical sector, and while at it, propose workable solutions to what ails us. Stop whining about Odinga, he is having his party. Exploit the visible chinks in the ‘handshake’ and see if we don’t finally get someone who will take us to Canaan.
Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]