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MPs unease over gender rule advisory

By Allan Mungai | September 23rd 2020

ODM Chairman John Mbadi at Chungwa House in Nairobi on September 3, 2020. [Collins Kweyu,Standard]

Legislators have everything to lose if President Uhuru Kenyatta takes the advisory of Chief Justice David Maraga and dissolves Parliament over failure to enact legislation on the two-thirds gender rule.

The MPs unease was evident yesterday on the floor of the House as they questioned the timing of the CJ’s advisory. They blamed some of the MPs for missing sittings that saw the National Assembly fail at least four times to marshal numbers to pass the law.

Kiminini MP Chrisantus Wamalwa and Suba South MP John Mbadi said the reason why the two-thirds gender rule flopped was because some of the female legislators were not present in Parliament.

Wamalwa named Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga as one of the absentees when the gender Bill was being debated.

But Ms Wanga said she was in the House in the four instances that the Bill was shot down. “I have been here every time. This is a matter ?for all of us to resolve together. We will not get to the bottom of it by attacking and bad-mouthing each other and trying to put each other down,” she said.

Ignore the activism

Majority Leader Amos Kimunya expressed concern over the domino effect the dissolution of Parliament would have on 4,000-odd staff of the MPs

Kimunya noted that each of the 416 MPs has 10 staff. “Collectively, there are 4000 people and their families who are anxious about whether they are going home or not because once Parliament is dissolved, the constituency office is also dissolved,” he said.

The Kipipiri MP said the CJ’s advisory was worse than Parliament’s failures and asked the president to “ignore the activism that has been shown and save the country from chaos.”

“There is no way a solution to the problem can be worse than the problem itself. The president now has to make a decision between saving the baby or killing it,” he said.

Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch wondered why the CJ has been silent since 2015 and questioned his motive now. “Is the CJ acting at the behest of persons outside this House who would like to scuttle the BBI process?” Olago posed. He said the advisory was reckless and ought to be ignored.

At stake is not only the MPs’ status but also the loss of parliamentary resources, key among them the hefty perks.

Lawmakers earn Sh710,000 per month exclusive of allowances. They are also entitled to Sh5 million car grant per 5-year term, a personal car loan of up to Sh7 million and repayable at three per cent interest, mileage and car maintenance of Sh356,525 monthly.

In addition, the MPs are eligible for a State-backed mortgage of up to Sh35 million repayable at an interest rate of three per cent and tax-free pension.

They also receive a generous medical allowance for themselves, their spouse, and up to four children below 25 years.

Maraga observed in his advisory that the dissolution of Parliament will cause inconvenience and even economic hardship to the 416 members of the National Assembly and the Senate, as well as their two Speakers.

It is instructive that towards the 2017 General Election, the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) said MPs and parliamentary staff owed the Car Loan Scheme Sh213.1 million.

The PSC said in 2017 that more than 100 MPs had defaulted on the loans and faced the risk of having their cars repossessed to recover outstanding loans.

As of 2019, 183 MPs had received car loans and mortgages and were servicing them and should Parliament be dissolved, they will be forced to seek alternative ways of repaying the loans.

South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro admitted that members would be hard hit should Parliament be dissolved but said their contract was binding for five years.

“MPs are challenged if you look at it politically. From the psychological trauma of preparing for another election, some have not paid party dues so they cannot be cleared to vie for the seat again,” he said.

“Looking at it from a legal point of view, the contractual agreement that we had with PSC is five years. That means that even the agreement that I had with any other parties including Saccos stood at five years. When my contract is canceled not through my own doing, the element of loss is handed over to the other party that loses big,” he said.

He added that in that scenario, MPs could petition PSC to pay them for the remainder of their term.

MPs Maoka Maore (Igembe North), Godfrey Osotsi (Nominated) and Mwangi Gichuhi (Tetu) said their interests were secondary to the difficult position that the country would be in if Parliament is dissolved.

“It is not personal on the MPs. The implication is to the country and not the individual,” Maore said.

Individual interests

Osotsi said: “Let us look at the bigger picture. Even if we might have our own individual interests, the bigger picture is the country. We have to ask ourselves if the county is ready for such an action. I think it is not.”

Gichuhi disclosed that the MPs were wary of the CJ’s advisory. “We have a contract for five years and of course no one wants their contract cut short. We were all prepared to face the electorate after five years,” he said, and added the matter was about the interest of the country and not MPs’ perks.

“It is not about me personally or about mortgages, salaries, or car loans. It is about the whole country and the risk of a constitutional crisis,” Gichuhi said.

But while other MPs were wary about the decision the president would make, Kimilili MP Didimus Barasa called for dissolution of the House.

He said the MPs, like Kenyans, who had lost their jobs and businesses due to Covid-19 should be ready to bear the brunt of the decision.

“There are many Kenyans who lost their businesses because of Covid-19 and they haven’t died. MPs will look for another way to mitigate. We cannot worry about protecting the interests of the MPs or about losing houses and cars,” he said. “We swore to protect the Constitution.”

Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo supported Maraga’s decision. “Parliament has done its bit, we have brought several Bills before and Parliament has expressed itself and said no. Since Parliament said no, the matter moves to a different authority and that is the CJ. No one abused Parliament when they made their decision. The CJ has made his decision and it’s nothing personal. So, if we really want to help this country and this House, let us depersonalise attacks against the CJ,” she said.

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