How voters discovered the power of punishing inept MPS

Mark Mwithaga greets Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as Moi and JM Kariuki, among others, look on. [File, Standard]

The warning shots have been fired. Some Kenyans are angry and want their representatives in Parliament (Senate and National Assembly) to reject some of the proposed taxes in the Finance Bill 2023, which they fear will make their lives unbearable.

The MPs have been warned of dire consequences should they not undertake this mandate.

Such has been the trend since the introduction of a parliamentary system of government in 1907 when a gang of six civil servants and two white wananchi met in a mabati building along Haile Selassie Avenue, then known as Whitehouse Road.

This marked the beginning of leaders debating the fate of the nation. Since then, Kenya’s history has been replete with cases of uncooperative elected leaders being cut to size for disappointing their voters.

One of the severest blows to the elected leader was meted out by the voters in 1974 when 60 per cent of all the MPs who had served in the third parliament never made it back.

So unforgiving were the voters that when the elections were held on October 14, 1974, 83 MPs out of 153 were voted out. Out of these were four cabinet ministers. Ironically, four politicians who had successfully petitioned and caused the nullification of results in their constituencies were nevertheless rejected by the electorate.

The winners of this election were however to experience more grief.

After the shock caused by the assassination of JM Kariuki, a number of his friends also lost their seats after they were either detained or imprisoned after conviction.

Some of the most recognisable outspoken MPs who condemned JM's assassination and were detained included Jean Marie Seroney, Martin Shikuku, George Anyona, Mark Mwithaga and Chelagat Mutai.

Others who lost their seats after they were convicted were George Muhuri Muchiri, and Mwangi Gachago, while Kabeere M'mbijiwe and Anarita Karimi Njeru, lost their seats following election petitions.

Paul Ngei miraculously escaped even after he was found guilty of a criminal offence and technically knocked out of the general elections. The biggest shock however was the death of Jomo Kenyatta in August 1978, which altered the country’s political landscape and ended the careers of some of his close buddies.

Despite all the tribulations they faced, the MPs were quite active as they generated 3,980 questions, with a further 604 queries filed by members in their private capacity.

The Parliament etched its mark in history after it amended the constitution for a record five times. It is remembered for altering the supreme law to empower the president to pardon a convict to contest elections.

The MPs later undid this amendment as soon Paul Ngei was elected. Perhaps because of the fiery and lively debate that lit up Parliament, 160,000 visitors, the majority of them students visited its precincts even as the government pushed through 107 bills and lost only two.