Senator Sifuna files censure motion against Kuria over attacks on media

"...the CS for Investments, Trade and Industry, whose reckless tongue has now reached an unmatched level of infamy in the country, and whose divisive, abusive and demeaning rhetoric continues to cause consternation, Sunday, June 18, 2023, posted on his verified social media handles, in reference to the Nation Media Group that 'Kwa wale xxx(unprintable)wa Aga Khan pale Nation Centre. You can still advertise auctioneers and funeral announcements. We will not stop those," the Deputy Minority Whip's motion reads in part.

The censure motion is an official admonishment of a person's character, and if successful, could lead to the process of Kuria's dismissal, a role that rests with the National Assembly.

"On the same verified social media accounts, CS Kuria posted a screenshot to celebrate a drop in the share price of the Nation Media Group, an indication that Kuria has chosen to run a vendetta against the Nation Media Group for its perceived failure to echo the regime's lies and false promises. An attack on one media house, as history has shown in other jurisdictions, often leads to attacks on press freedom as a whole," Sifuna says.

The senator further wants the government compelled to denounce the CS's utterances, made on his verified social media accounts, as they risk passing off as the government's official position, noting the constitutional safeguards against state interference and persecution of the media.

The ODM secretary general, who also demands an assurance made to the media that their freedoms shall be safeguarded, is concerned that Kuria's statements risk taking the country down a path of abuse of rights.

"The media has remained an integral partner in the liberation, democratization and governance history of this country since independence, and whose freedom has been a catalyst to the growth of nearly all sectors of the economy by providing timely and sound information. Indeed, we have been the envy of our neighbours in the region for the robustness and boldness of our media, a hard-earned conquest that we do not take for granted," Sifuna writes.

The motion has already been received by the Senate, which is soon expected to debate it. Article 152(6) of the Constitution states that a CS may be dismissed on the ground of a gross violation of the Constitution, such as Article 34, which the senator argues Kuria has offended, and any other law, committing a crime under national and international law or gross misconduct.

"A member of the National Assembly, supported by at least one-quarter of all the members of the Assembly, may propose a motion requiring the President to dismiss a Cabinet Secretary," the article states in part, prescribing a threshold of 88 MPs to support the proposal of a motion to dismiss the CS.

Such a motion would subsequently need the backing of 117 Members of Parliament to advance to the next stage of establishing a special committee of 11 MPs to investigate the matter. If the committee recommends the CS's removal, and the resolution adopted, the president shall dismiss the said CS.

Kuria, who also faces censure for snubbing the Senate's sittings, has been criticised over his statements, with several stakeholders urging President William Ruto to dismiss him.

The Media Council of Kenya, the Kenya Union of Journalists, the Editors Guild and the Media Owners Association are among the bodies that have joined the Nation Media Group in condemning the CS's attacks.

In a statement, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), on Monday reacted strongly to Kuria's threats about denying the press advertisements.

"No person can lawfully be denied an opportunity to participate in any public procurement except as may be authorised by the law," EACC chief executive Twalib Mbarak said.

Kuria has been on the spot over his foul mouth, which has previously gotten him in trouble with the law. His eight-month stint has featured controversy as he has made statements that government officials have criticised.

Such include tweets he made against welcoming the Chinese to Kenya as "traders" in February.

"We welcome Chinese investors to Kenya but as manufacturers, not traders.," Kuria tweeted amid outcry over the China Square business complex by local traders.

Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Korir Sing'oei would later contradict him by tweeting that "all actors, no matter their nationality- operating within the law should suffer any apprehension," a tweet he deleted.

Sing'oei also faulted Kuria's remarks over the ongoing war in Sudan, where he urged the African Union to invade the country and "bomb Khartoum to smithereens." The Foreign Affairs PS said the statements did not reflect the government's position.