Kakamega County Assembly Speaker suspends MCA for calling him 'coward' on WhatsApp

James Namatsi

Kakamega County Assembly Speaker James Namatsi.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

Kakamega County Assembly is facing a leadership crisis after the Speaker-Mr James Namatsi suspended a member of his panel for three weeks over disagreement on a WhatsApp group.

He also removed her from the House Committees amid resistance from members of the assembly.

Ms Victoria Zillah Ungai-a nominated MCA on Democratic Action Party of Kenya (DAP-K) is said to have angered the Speaker after she allegedly referred to him as ‘a coward’ on the Assembly’s WhatsApp forum.

She has been removed from the Speaker’s panel, Committee on Finance and Economic Planning and that of Implementation and Monitoring.

Ms Ungai will also be forced to miss the county assembly sittings for three weeks after the House Powers and Privileges Committee tabled a report recommending the suspension of the MCA.

Part of her post on the WhatsApp group reads:  "Hon Speaker, you removed me from the Speaker’s panel two months ago without notice or being served any letter. I am equally not interested in sitting in that panel.”

She went on: “You appointed me without asking me, thinking that you would silence me with that position to stop questioning your conduct. You should know I am enjoying the freedom so that I can push for accountability without fear or favour."

Mr Namatsi reconvened the assembly sitting via a text message on Tuesday last week asking them to attend a special plenary sitting on September 27, 2023 at the county assembly chambers.

However, fellow MCAs ganged up and rejected the tabling of the report on grounds that 'they were not informed' of its contents.

Ms Everline Shitandi, a member of the Powers and Privileges Committee was prepared to table the report but faced opposition from MCAs present who insisted they will not discuss the conduct of their colleague.

But despite the MCAs blocking the presentation of the recommendations from the Powers and Privileges Committee, Mr Namatsi went ahead to rule that the nominated MCA was suspended the same day via a letter from the County Assembly acting clerk Esther Ariko dated September 27.

Protested decision

“The Powers and Privileges Committee report recommended that you (Victoria) be suspended from the House for the remainder of the Second Session of the Third County Assembly,” read the letter in part.

It further reads: “You will be restricted from accessing the precincts of County Assembly and the use or enjoyment of facilities provided to ward reps during the suspension period; and that upon resumption, you should offer an unconditional apology before being admitted to the House."

The clerk informed the MCA that Standing Order 192(3) was invoked to warrant her suspension.

The Ward Rep has protested the decision saying that the Speaker’s decision is null and void since the due process was not followed.

She accused Namatsi of trying to 'intimidate' her by calling for accountability at the county assembly.

“I was not given a fair hearing and I am moving to court to seek redress. When a report is tabled, there must be a proposer and a seconder, this did not happen. The report was rejected in totality and can only be brought back after six months or in the next assembly. What happened was an illegality,” said Ms Ungai in a phone interview.

A section of MCAs has backed her decision of moving to court to obtain stay orders saying the Speaker acted out of anger without justification.

Butali-Chegulo MCA Kevin Mahelo said the Speaker arrived at the decision based on standing orders that were amended, not approved by the County Assembly and not gazetted.

“We were called to the assembly via a text message and through a Gazette Notice as required by the law. Any business transacted on that day is null and void. The special sitting was not gazetted and there was no resumption motion and this invalidates everything that was transacted on that day,” said Mr Mahelo.

The MCAs have petitioned the Speaker to explain to them whether they are still in recess or they have resumed their House businesses.