Why MPs branded Jaramogi Oginga a 'hard parent'

Jaramogi Oginga Odinga (centre) when he addressed a public rally in 1963. [File, Standard]

News that the doyen of Kenya's opposition politics, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga was a tough man was never in question.

His qualities as a 'soft parent' were however subject of a parliamentary debate when he demanded that tough conditions be imposed on Kenya Meat Commission (KMC), after it borrowed a loan from an insurance company intending to pay it in 15 years.

Jaramogi was concerned that KMC had initially planned to borrow a loan of PS125,000 (Sh21.98 million now) from Guardian Assurance Company Ltd at an interest of 6.5 per cent repayable in 15 years.

However, this figure was adjusted to PS150,000 (Sh26.371 million) but was still repayable in 15 years with effect from July 1, 1963.

What concerned Jaramogi and several opposition MPs was that Parliament was just supposed to note this loan without any further action of either rejecting or approving it, as required by the August House, even though the government was supposed to guarantee the loan.

"...there is something that is worrying me. Supposing that this is business - it is not something that you give to somebody for nothing - and if I was asked to guarantee a loan for somebody, I would definitely expect to get something out of it because the government is guaranteeing this loan."

He argued that in the event KMC defaulted on the loan, the lenders would sue the government, demanding to be paid their money back... "and I am sure that this 6.5 per cent should be considered as to whether the government should get something out of it for guaranteeing the loan."

He was of the opinion that if the government was getting nothing out of the deal, it should reconsider guaranteeing such companies when they were seeking loans.

However, FWG Bompas, the Secretary to Treasury was not amused and informed the Legislative Council which was hearing this debate, "One is inclined to wonder whether the member (Jaramogi) who has just sat down would not be a very hard parent. As I see it, KMC is a baby of Kenya government whether we like it or not."

When a number of members described KMC as a big baby of the government, Bompas further observed that were Jaramogi to make similar demands whenever he guaranteed any of his children a loan, "he would perhaps be rather hardhearted if he insisted on getting something out of the transaction for himself."

As for the disclosure of the loan conditions, the government was unwilling to make public all the clauses, arguing that this had not been the case when it guaranteed United Kenya Club.

The member for Kiambu, JHP Butter, who was acting as the temporary Minister for Finance said that conditions for such loans were best left to the lender and the borrower, explaining that the government would only step in to ensure that the terms were reasonable.