By Peter Opiyo and Edwin Cheserek
The Defence ministry faced the wrath of Parliament when a minister claimed the young military recruit kicked out of training over pregnancy allegations had aborted.
The House exploded after Defence Assistant Minister David Musila made the claim while answering a question on why Gladys Jepkechei Tarus was kicked out, yet three pregnancy tests after the saga turned out negative.
The uproar has intensified as what initially appeared to be ordinary news gained national prominence as human rights groups and politicians fell in line to demand justice and fairness for Tarus.
The girl questioned why she was told she was pregnant yet she had her periods, and in rare exhibition of boldness and willpower, journalists accompanied her to a public hospital for the tests. Yesterday her case began taking the picture of the Biblical David versus Goliath as the country’s political leadership debated her case, with four different House committees vowing to take it up and probe the Department of Defence.
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The row rocked Parliament as sources in DoD revealed the Chief of General Staff and his section commanders could have decided her case was closed because of the entry of politicians into the fray. "You must understand that the General believes it would set a bad precedent if she is taken back. Will she not go to politicians if she gets into another problem in the force?" a senior DoD official asked The Standard.
Musila found himself in a tight corner as another recruit thrown out of the camp came out to claim he was told he had bad eyesight despite having passed previous tests before the admission. Christopher Legem, 22, from Baringo East, which neighbours Baringo Central where Tarus was born to a peasant family, reported he was sent packing days after he was admitted and given service number 96679.
But he said on the recruitment day, his eyesight was declared perfect. He said another test at a private hospital showed he has good eyesight.
Tarus was kicked out of Recruits Training School, Eldoret. Musila claimed she had procured an abortion before coming out to claim she was unjustly denied a job in the military. Tarus maintained she was not pregnant and a test sponsored by The Standard at a private hospital in Eldoret turned out negative.
Another test carried at Uasin Gishu District Hospital has also showed she was not pregnant. She said she was having her monthly periods when she reported for training and there was no way she could be pregnant.
Musila found himself under siege when he said, in the opinion of military doctors, Tarus interfered with her pregnancy.
There was uproar in the House when the assistant minister claimed doctors at the private hospital found out that Tarus had vaginal bleeding.
Gichugu MP Martha Karua, Nominated MP Rachael Shebesh and Sotik MP Joyce Laboso protested when Musila made the comment about bleeding, pointing out that it does not necessarily mean that she had an abortion. They said blood could be a sign of monthly periods. "Normal monthly period is part of fertility, it is part of nation building," said Laboso.
Musila tried to exonerate the Ministry of Defence from claims of unfairness in the case of Tarus.
He said top military doctors in the rank of Brigadier were dispatched to deal with the matter and found out that there was vaginal bleeding and concluded that she may have interfered with the pregnancy. "In the opinion of the doctors that bleeding was not a monthly period and that it was an interference with the pregnancy," said Musila, claiming Tarus confessed having unprotected sex on October 9, a day after the first military test turned negative.
At this point Bura MP, Abdi Nuh protested saying it was unfair to assume Tarus was pregnant. "He (Musila) wants us to assume the lady conducted an abortion. He wants this House to assume the guilt of the lady having procured an abortion."
Limuru MP, Peter Mwathi said not all unprotected sex leads to pregnancy. Karua accused the minister of giving ‘unsubstantiated’ explanations as Nominated MP Amina Abdallah argued that pregnancy tests could only be determined by carrying out blood tests.
Musila dismissed claims that a bribe of Sh300,000 may have changed hands to swap Tarus with another individual.
And following the gravity of the matter and failure to be satisfied by the answers given, Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim instructed the relevant Parliamentary Committees to probe the matter and report to the House in a week’s time.
The Committees on Defence, Health and Equal Opportunities will jointly investigate the issue.
To add to the dramatic events in Parliament yesterday, Defence Assistant Minister Joseph Nkaissery and Internal Security Minister Orwa Ojodeh were suspended from the House by the Chair on the premise they were ‘shouting’ in the House.
Maalim had to restore order as emotions ran high, with Assistant ministers Linah Kilimo and William Cheptumo also showing intentions of interrogating the Government they serve, contrary to House rules. In disputing the military test, Mosop MP, David Koech, tabled pregnancy test result from Uasin Gishu District Hospital, which was conducted on October 26 and turned out negative. But Musila said they are yet to see that report. Nyakach MP, Pollyns Ochieng called on the State to convene a medical board to re-examine the girl.
Musila claimed Ms Tarus was not unfairly disqualified, saying she was found to be unfit for military training. "Gladys was not unfairly disqualified...we can’t admit a lady who is expectant, this is the military," he said.
On Legem, independent medical tests by a private optician in Eldoret town showed his eyesight was normal. "I did not know what happened when I was called to the reporting office and given my certificates and transport and told to pack and go home," he said.