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Day Jomo got backlash from members of the House

Jomo Kenyatta. [File, Standard]

On March 12, 1963, barely three months before Kenya attained internal self-rule, the then Minister for Constitutional Affairs and Economic planning Jomo Kenyatta faced a barrage of questions in the legislative assembly.

Mr R S Alexander, the constituency member for suburban Nairobi had wanted to know from Kenyatta how much economic planning the ministry had accomplished since it was started almost a year earlier.

Without giving any specifics, Kenyatta went on to explain that he had laid down the mechanism to put Kenya on a sure economic footing.

Taita Towett, the member for Kipsigis shot up and demanded to know what Kenyatta had done, “not in the past, but what has been planned. What is actually being done?” Kenyatta was getting irritated by what he termed as the members’ poor reading skills.

“We have organised several settlements and the members should do their homework,” said Kenyatta. He got reprimanded by insinuating that Speaker Humphrey Slade was among those who were supposed to do their homework.

Kenyatta got into more trouble when, in an answer to the member for Machakos George Nthenge, asserted that “these people” must do their homework.

“Is it in order for the minister to call us ‘these people’?” asked Charles Murgor from Elgeyo.

After apologising, Kenyatta once again lectured the members who seemed to “be ignorant of what my ministry is doing” including a recent census that members seemed to forget and only asked for one proof of planning after another. Towett, though was not ready to do the hard work. “Does the minister not see it fit for him to educate us and not for us to do the outside work?” asked Towett. 

Kenyatta got more infuriated when Nthenge suggested that he should start reading and give out the answers rather than tell members to read for themselves. To this Kenyatta replied: “You ought to know what is going on in the country if you are a member of this House.”

And when member for North Nyanza Eric Khasakhala seemed to prod the matter further, Kenyatta told him: “For the member to say that I have not given him any example shows that he has been sleeping or he has been out of the House.”

The debate died off without Kenyatta giving any satisfactory answer as to what kind of economic planning his ministry had done only saying that members “ought to be grateful because I have educated them a little this afternoon.”