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Forget sweets, there’s a time cows were House currency

By Amos Kareithi | Jan 19th 2022 | 2 min read

William Ole Ntimama was the interpreter when Queen Mother visited Narok in February 1959 [File]

Forget about sweets being distributed in Parliament to sweeten debate. Ignore, too, rumours of envelopes being smuggled into the august House to win MPs support.

There was a time when goats and cows found their way into parliamentary debate. Apparently, the animals were a currency in parliamentary deals and ministers then could be swayed with a few goats and cows.

That was 29 years ago, when Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama went ballistic on the floor of Parliament after he was accused of receiving gifts in form of bleating goats and mooing cows.

The salvos against Ntimama were fired by an equally combative Kibwezi MP Agnes Ndetei who charged that Ntimama had made the government unpopular in Machakos. She claimed the local government minister had been demanding gifts from nominated councillors so as not to de-gazette them.

Mbooni MP Johnstone Makau added fuel to the fire when he told Parliament that Wamunyu Ward councillor Wilson Waki had been nominated by the minister. He was reacting to Ntimama's explanation, after the 1988 elections, that 12 councillors had been nominated into the Masaku CountyCouncil and Machakos Municipal Council. At the same time, 15 councils had had their nominations cancelled.

When the minister got an opportunity to defend himself on December 5, 1991, Ntimama declared he would not be intimidated. He caused palpable tension when he said he was ready to wage holy war to defend his honour. He said he had more goats and cows than his accusers could imagine and did not need gifts.

"I do not eat goats from Ukambani. I want to bitterly protest the accusations which have annoyed me a great deal. I will fight him if he continues with this,” roared Ntimama.

Makau, too, said he was ready to rise to the challenge but Speaker Jonathan Ng’eno cooled matters by observing, "I can see that tempers are rising so may we move to the next order."

Makau, Ntimama said, had been kicked out of Cabinet due to corruption claims, and was  then “the worst person in Parliament and the worst kick back taker.”

According to Francis Kaparo, who was an assistant minister in charge of supplies and marketing, journalists, too, had been corrupted by some MPs so as to give them cheap publicity by reporting falsehoods.

“I have to protest to the media that they are giving cheap publicity to a few disgruntled politicians.” And the echoes of similar circus still ring in Parliament whenever there is heated debate.

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