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VAS

Kenyan legislators must stop pampering their egos

EDITORIAL
By Editorials | August 22nd 2015

Our Members of Parliament have once again demonstrated their selfishness and failed the leadership test.

At a critical period in the country’s journey towards full implementation of the 2010 Constitution, the members of the august House have introduced and overwhelmingly backed an amendment to the Supreme Law shielding them from prosecutions for “anything done...in good faith” in the the  line of duty.

The amendment also seeks to shield their colleagues in the 47 County Assemblies across the country. What cheek in a country that prides itself for respect for the rule of law!

The members also want the Judiciary blocked from interfering with anything being debated in the National Assembly, the Senate and the 47 County Assemblies. This means nobody should file a suit against the lawmakers, questioning their incompetence or illegalities in the course of their work.

How absurd and self-absorbed can that be? The 2010 Constitution calls for separation of powers, where the three arms of government, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary operate independently, but within the confines of the Constitution. While the Legislature makes law, the Judiciary explains the Constitution and gives verdicts in constitutional contests. Still, nobody should operate above the law.

To seek total immunity from prosecution for each of the lawmakers even after they retire from office would be perpetuating all manner of impunity. For the record, several honourable members have been caught on the wrong side of the law and the amendment Bill filed by Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma would embolden those who do not respect the rule of law. Some members have the audacity to slight and even physically assault law enforcement officers. This could easily breed lawlessness among the honourable members and set a bad precedent, especially now that their numbers have expanded to include Members of the County Assembly (MCAs).

MPs already enjoy the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges law that protects them from legal action from anything said on the floor of the House. Why should those privileges be expanded to outside the Parliament? We read a sinister motive that could open a dangerous path where sections of the society could be tempted to seek illegal protection from the law.

Further, there are many issues the lawmakers should be handling now other than provisions that only seek to confer personal benefits. For instance, there are the 28 Bills that Parliament should pass before the August 27 deadline. Why haven’t we seen sustained effort in pursuing the crucial Bills to their logical conclusion? The Bills include one on land ownership, which stipulates the maximum amount of land an individual can own. This is crucial bearing in mind how emotive the land issue has been since independence. The social and economic disruption caused by land injustices is far more important than pursuit of immunity for lawmakers.

The argument that since lawmakers do not discuss matters in court, the Judiciary should also not have a say on what goes on in Parliament does not hold water. This is because the Judiciary is the sole interpreter of the law. It is possible that rogue lawmakers could say or engage in unlawful activities knowing that the law will shield them from taking responsibility. From past experience, we all know that there is a thin line between being straight and claiming to be “acting in good faith.” So why should we, as a country, open this window?

The Eleventh Parliament, the first after Kenya crossed to a new constitutional order, should strive to set the bar of leadership very high up there. The members of both the ruling Jubilee coalition and the opposition, CORD, should take this opportunity and lead this nation to real prosperity and the ‘Promised Land’ many Kenyans have sacrificed so much for.

It is unfortunate that so many ordinary Kenyans are routinely denied a decent shot at life just because a few members of the elite class are engaged in pursuit of individual pleasures. We demand visionary leadership from those elected to make laws.

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