National Assembly of Kenya Speaker Justin Muturi speaks as intrigues emerge on censure bid

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi survived a censure motion tabled my Kibwezi West MP Patrick Musimba.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi wants parliamentary Standing Orders reviewed to rein in runway indiscipline, which he says has spilled into House committees.

Speaking to The Standard on Saturday after surviving a censure motion, Muturi says there is a lot of “juvenile” conduct in Parliament that is undermining the reputation of the House as a place of “honour and decorum”, which the new crop of MPs in the 11th Parliament has failed to uphold.

“The management of parliamentary committees raises serious questions of integrity. The current Standing Orders are so weak that they cannot be relied upon to restore order and dignity of the National Assembly. We have to amend them to provide for stiffer penalties for errant Members of Parliament. It is also a pity even ordinary Kenyans are reluctant to understand parliamentary procedures,” he says.

Prior to the censure motion against Muturi by Kibwezi West MP Patrick Musimba, Parliament was in the eye of a storm following damning revelations of how parliamentary committees had become conduits for corruption with members of the Committee on Agriculture and Public Accounts parrying allegations of receiving hefty bribes to water down findings of a probe into how public institutions were rundown by corrupt senior managers.

Even before the censure motion, there had been tell-tale signs of political interests having taken control of activities in Parliament as the country heads to 2017 General Election.

One school of thought has it that President Kenyatta and DP Ruto are considering appointing Wamalwa to the Cabinet. Incidentally, there was another camp that previously pushed for the repacement of Muturi by Wamalwa. However, this attempt has since been overtaken by events.

After Jubilee Coalition, made up of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s The National Alliance (TNA) party and Deputy President William Ruto’s United Republican Party (URP), transformed into a fully fledged political party – Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) – there has been unease among elected leaders allied to the two partners.

With URP seemingly in disarray, the President’s side has been reaching out to erstwhile hostile electoral zones to bolster chances of retaining the presidency.

Consequently, there has been talk of Central Kenya shopping for allies in former Western and Nyanza provinces.

One way of achieving the objective, it is said, was to sacrifice Muturi in favour of former Justice minister Eugene Wamalwa.

Had JAP clinched the Kajiado Central parliamentary seat, it would have gained the buoyancy it needed to see off Muturi, our sources say.

The Speaker and Wamalwa dismiss the theory as baseless, with each saying they have not heard of the plot. However, Wamalwa, the New Ford Kenya leader, hinted at “more coming soon”.

“I have also heard of the government planning something for me soon, but not to be speaker of National Assembly. In his state of the nation address, the President spoke of inclusivity in public service appointments,” said the former Justice minister.

Asked whether he was aware of the plot, the Speaker denied the reports. However, he was categorical that the plot was hatched by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) at a parliamentary meeting held immediately after the burial of Leader of Opposition Raila Odinga’s son, Fidel Odinga.

“The genesis of the censure motion was a vote of no-confidence mooted at a meeting held in January. However, upon realising they (Opposition) could not muster two-thirds in Parliament vote to remove me, they instead opted for a censure motion. So it is not true that the motion was initiated by the Jubilee; it is CORD that wanted to use Dr Musimba to throw mud at the Speaker,” he explains.

Muturi, who says the censure motion has emboldened him, has no kind words for his charges.

“There are a lot of lazy MPs who cannot be controlled by honour and decorum. If I were to invoke the Standing Orders, most of them would be affected. I have to protect the dignity of the House and this is what MPs are resisting. When people receive bribes or are accused of rape, it is a criminal offence that should be handled by relevant agencies, but when the credibility and dignity of Parliament is at stake, I must defend it,” he defends his actions.

Although he would not link attempts to censure Muturi to political maneuvering both in opposition and governing coalition, ODM’s Funyula MP Paul Otuoma says actions and utterances by a section of the government lend credence to suspicions that the motion was informed by bigger political interests given the friction in Jubilee.

“The issue about the Speaker had already been discussed in Mombasa at a Kamukunji (informal meeting convened by the speaker). The problem is we have a Parliament that is not analytical at all. The leadership of the National Assembly has encouraged mediocrity and that has made it even more difficult for senior members to take part in debates,” the former Sports minister laments.

The legislator does not rule out the Speaker being a target of factional fighting in Jubilee. He recalls the Deputy President announcing at fundraiser in Bungoma County that western region was going to be rewarded with plum positions in government.

“He told Eugene who was present that whatever ‘Jubilee was cooking in the kitchen was now ready to be served.’ He did not elaborate, whenever such statements are made they are loaded with messages.”

It was interpreted as suggesting Wamalwa was going to be co-opted into government.

Wamalwa admits DP made the statement, but would not shed light on what exactly it meant in the context of 2017 elections.

Using a Luhya proverb, he cryptically says, “I was pleasantly surprised when he (DP) said so. He was giving an assurance that the Jubilee government cares about Western. It was not about me... Engila sevolela ogenda ta (the road does not tell a sojourner what lies ahead).”