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Spectre of MPs behaving badly matter of grave concern

By The standard | July 10th 2015

A foreigner chancing upon the ruckus coming out of Parliament on Tuesday would have been forgiven for thinking football fans were going for each other's throat after a disagreement over a foul awarded for a hard tackle. The tragedy is that it was not football fans, but our honourable Members of Parliament transacting the day's business in a way they know best - in a pandemonium.

On Tuesday, Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru appeared before a parliamentary committee, the Departmental Committee on Finance, Trade and Planning to defend herself against the Opposition's claims of fraud as well as shed light on allegations of financial impropriety at the National Youth Service (NYS), which falls under her docket. As anybody conversant with how our divided parliamentarians operate would expect, the probe degenerated into a deplorable shouting match characteristic of Kenya's august House.

It is alleged there were attempts to fleece the National Youth Service of over Sh800 million and even though the Cabinet Secretary has maintained that her ministry blew the whistle on the attempted heist, the Opposition coalition Cord, has persisted in demanding the Cabinet Secretary for Devolution steps aside to facilitate investigations.

It is easy to imagine that the Opposition's demands stem from the fact that Ms Waiguru's colleagues, Kazungu Kambi of Labour, Charity Ngilu of Lands, Michael Kamau of Transport, Felix Koskei of Agriculture and Davis Chirchir of Energy had to relinquish office on mere suspicion and so therefore Ms Waiguru's case should not be any different.

The Opposition advances the argument that if the Government is serious in fighting corruption, there must be no sacred cows. That has been the bone of contention, which has pitted Jubilee die-hards against Cord. While Cord demanded Ms Waiguru's resignation, Jubilee legislators vehemently defended her. Thus, it was necessary to invite her before the parliamentary committee to clear the air. The opportunity, to say the least, was wasted with the loud boos and heckling from both sides ringing the air. The scenes on Tuesday were a stark reminder of the low road our politics has taken of late; politics often punctuated by grotesque partisanship and an utter lack of objectivity.

These embarrassing scenarios raise serious doubts on the competency and standing of the Kenyan legislator. Indeed, our leaders hardly engage each other on national issues with decorum and by resorting to intellect as opposed to the invective that comes so naturally to them.

In December, a parliamentary session that was to give the country a set of laws to help in containing runaway insecurity turned physical. Blows were exchanged, shirts and trousers torn and the Speaker got drenched in water. That is the calibre of our legislators, yet they have the audacity to rate themselves an authority on virtually everything that goes in the country.

There are Members of Parliament of goodwill and sound mind who mean well for the country. The onus falls on them to implore on fellow members to respect the institution of Parliament, if for nothing else, to save Kenyans the nauseating lack of depth and mind-boggling mediocrity in the august House.

House Speaker Justin Muturi owes it to the Kenyan electorate to restore Parliament's lost sheen; he must think of the legacy he wishes to leave behind when he exits the scene.

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