Kenya’s MPs seek total immunity from prosecution

Members of the National Assembly yesterday overwhelmingly backed an amendment to the Constitution to shield them and their colleagues in the county assemblies from prosecutions for "anything done... in good faith" as they go about their work.

Even when they leave the Legislature, they say, their sins should not follow them in their retirement.

MPs also want the Judiciary blocked from interfering with anything being discussed in the National Assembly, Senate or in 47 county assemblies or even from entertaining any suit against lawmakers if the suit is filed to question incompetence or illegalities in the course of their work.

The Constitution of Kenya (amendment) Bill, 2015, was filed in March by Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma.

If approved, the constitutional amendment will join the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges law that protects MPs from prosecution for anything said on the floor of the House.

Kaluma, who wants to give elected representatives in the national or county governments blanket immunity, says in the memo of the bill that a representative (MP or MCA) is "not liable in an action or suit in respect of anything done or omitted to be done in good faith in the lawful performance of a function of Parliament or County Assembly".

The MPs argued that because they do not interfere with matters in court, courts too should stay away on matters ongoing in Parliament.

"In the Standing Orders, we have explicitly restrained ourselves and said that we shall not discuss matters that are in court, then surely that ought to apply to the Judiciary," said Irungu Kang'ata (Kiharu), who seconded debate on the bill.

Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando welcomed the amendment, saying it would help shield legislators acting in public interest from prosecution.

Mr Kabando told the House that MPs from Central Kenya who heeded President Uhuru Kenyatta's decree to raid alcohol dens were now facing a barrage of legal suits for destroying property. The raids, he said, were done in good faith and MPs ought not be prosecuted.

"Small matters even beyond Parliament where MPs are acting in public interest are being circumvented by the Judiciary... Now MPs are being sued by people bankrolled by the merchants of death," lamented Kabando.

However, Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita), Millie Mabona (Mbita) and James Oyoo (Muhoroni) warned their colleagues that as they pursue immunity from prosecution from "anything" done in their "role" they should remember that "they will not be in Parliament forever".

"This House is going to give birth to tyrants; a person will do something and then cite his privileges and immunities in the House," said Nassir.

And Abdikadir Aden (Balambala) added, "You do not go and do what tyrants do and say they were done in good faith. Tyrants don't do things in good faith."