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When politicians would be sent on sabbatical leave

Julius Gikonyo Kiano. He was temporarily replaced in the Legco because he could not discharge his duties effectively. [File, Standard]

Imagine sending some politician on leave and picking someone else to fill the vacuum, albeit for a week.

Back in the day when politics was a calling and laws allowed teachers to contest political seats, and simultaneously serve as councilors, this was possible.

It was also possible for a member of the Legislative Council (Legco), the equivalent of today’s Member of Parliament, to take a sabbatical leave.

Against this background one of Kenya’s most controversial politicians, Peter Habenga Okondo was temporarily replaced after failing to perform his duties as a member of the Legco.

The announcement of Okondo’s replacement was made by Governor Patrick Renison on January 19, 1962. In his communication, Renson said the action had been necessitated by Okondo’s inability to discharge his duties because he was away.

Okondo’s place was taken by Dome Okochi Bundohi. However, Bundohi’s stint as a lawmaker only lasted a week. The elected member was reinstated on January 19, 1962, via a Gazette Notice signed by the governor.

“In pursuance of the provisions of subsection (3) of section 30A of Kenya (Constitution) I do hereby declare that Peter Habenga Okondo is unable to perform his functions, pursuance of the provisions of subsection (3) of section 30A of the Constitution I do hereby declare that Okondo, is again able to perform his said functions.”

 Peter Habenga Okondo. [File, Standard]

Okondo, who later gained infamy when he banned Anglican Bishop Alexander Muge from touring Katakwa in Busia in 1990 - was not the only politician to take a sabbatical.

Dr Julius Gikonyo Kiano was also temporarily replaced in the Legco because he could not discharge his duties effectively. “In the exercise of powers conferred to me, I do hereby declare that Julius Gikonyo Kiano, a constituency Member for Fort Hall has from January 15, 1962, been unable by reason of absence to perform his functions.”

In the same breath, the governor appointed Kariuki Karanja Njiiri to occupy Kiano’s position for about a week.

This law has since been discarded.

Had it still been in force, it would have come in handy in West Pokot where Deputy Governor Nicholas Atundonyang was away for five years in the US.

Nairobi too had to do without a deputy governor from 2018 after Polycarp Igathe resigned after only six months.

Under the current laws, an MP can be recalled but the process is not easy. Governors can be impeached but it is a laborious affair.