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The year voters sent home half of their MPs

By Patrick Alushula | Published Tue, September 12th 2017 at 15:29, Updated September 12th 2017 at 15:40 GMT +3
Parliament building, Nairobi

In summary

  • During voting period, activities at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, now Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) reduced with the NSE All Share Index falling by 3.95 points to 184.22

The journey to the third Parliament was a long walk for incumbents. The only political party, Kenya African National Unity (Kanu) had barred Jaramogi Oginga Odinga from contesting.

The surge in oil prices was also posing danger to Kenya’s five-year old economy and inflation was hurting mwananchi.

These arising issues, coupled with corruption and the talk that Odinga’s sympathisers could be punished made October 14, 1974 election troublesome. In addition, it was the first election for those above 18-years to vote.

More than half of the sitting MPs lost their seats in the 1974 General Election leading to one of the most assertive Parliaments in Kenya’s history. Four cabinet ministers and 13 assistant ministers joined 88 of the 158 MPs who were shown the door by the more than 4.7 million voters.

Some 778 candidates had got the Kanu ticket to vie for parliamentary seat. Too competitive was the election that Lang’ata constituency attracted 10 candidates and so did Embakasi.

In Nyeri, one of the contestants P Nderi had to fly in a privately hired aircraft over the area appealing for votes. This was meant to woo rural voters who got excited by the plane.

In the editorial by The Standard titled ‘Smooth Operation’ on Tuesday October 15, 1974, the newspaper noted that the only way to describe the election was ‘smooth.’ “Some voters appeared to have been up all night and there were queues forming long before the polling stations were due to open at 7:00a.m.

The result was that in many constituencies, well over half of the electorate had voted by lunchtime,” noted the editorial.

To achieve this assignment that saw many bigwigs sent into political oblivion, brewing and selling of beer had to be banned and President Jomo Kenyatta had to make polling day a national holiday.

Alcoholic drinks

In Western Kenya, Provincial Commissioner (PC) P Boit issued stern orders that all bars, beer canteens closed the whole day of voting to ensure “no brewing or selling of any type of alcoholic drinks throughout the province.” The same order was issued by Nairobi PC and replicated across the provinces.

Those contesting were also warned to keep off from the voters to ensure they have enough time to think about the best leaders to represent them in the third parliament.

“You have had enough time to speak to the people during your campaign meetings and wananchi should completely be free to cast their votes according to their wishes,” stressed Boit.

Postal voting was also permitted for election officers, certain employees who could not have time off for voting, and persons who, on polling day, were travelling abroad or could not get to a polling station by reason of ill-health or disability.

In Voi town, which served as cross-road for travellers to Taita, Nairobi and Mombasa, there was an unprecedented crowd as people queued to make a choice out of five candidates. “In Sagalla area, many voters, particularly elderly women had to be turned away when they called at the polling station with the 1969 electors’ card,” wrote The Standard on October 14, 1974, capturing the determination of voters.

Even on the Nairobi Stock Exchange, now Nairobi Securities Exchange, the activities reduced as people went for the voting.

The 20 All Share Index fell by 3.95 points to 184.22 with leading counters that time such as East African Breweries, East African Power and Lighting Company and City Brewers recording a drop in volume and price.

When President Kenyatta appeared in public after the polls, accompanied by vice President Daniel Arap Moi, Minister of State Mbiyu Koinange and Attorney General Charles Njonjo, he was all praises to the electorate.

“This is a massive demonstration that our people are responsible citizens and have reached political maturity, which signifies a bright future for our country,” he said.

Final papers

His own personal physician Dr Njoroge Mungai, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and one of the forces behind “Kiambu mafia”, was trounced in Dagoretti by little-known medic Dr Johnstone Muthiora.

The supervisor of elections, J Montgomery asked the many candidates who were contesting the outcome to move to courts.

According to election laws that time, losers had to wait until October 28 when winners would file their final papers with the returning officers.

Kenyatta appointed 20 assistant ministers, many being new faces in parliament. Four assistant ministers including J M Kariuki of Nyandarua North and Butere MP Martin Shikuku were sacked and became back benchers in the third House. Shikuku, the self-styled debater was regarded as “ the President of the poor.” Then radical youthful politicians, then teamed up with other young parliamentarians such as Elijah Mwangale (Bungoma East), Chelagat Mutai (Eldoret North), Jean Marie Seroney (Tinderet) and Grace Onyango (Kisumu Town).

Parliamentary sessions became electric. Mr Shikuku and Seroney were detained the following year for saying that Kanu was dead and JM Kariuki assassinated.

University lecturers such as Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o who supported the young vibrant parliamentarians were also detained.

Another highlight in the third House was attempts by Nakuru North MP Kihika Kimani to rally Parliament to alter the constitution in order to bar former President Daniel Arap Moi, then vice president - from succeeding Kenyatta.

It took Kajiado South MP who was also Minister for Natural Resources Stanley Oloititip’s effort of collecting signatures of two thirds of the house to defeat Kimani’s scheme.

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