Opposition MPs cause commotion in House as Uhuru gives Jubilee scorecard

Jubilee MPs watch as their Cord counterparts protest inside the chamber on March 31, 2016. Five of the protesters were ejected. PHOTO | RAPHAEL NJOROGE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • The MPs blew whistles, shouted and waved placards, ignoring orders from Speaker Justin Muturi to behave with decorum.

  • Some had to be dragged out shouting and resisting by parliamentary orderlies.

  • Drama started the minute the President stood to make his speech.

  • The protesting MPs had planned with care and secrecy and until the last minute, parliamentary staff had no idea what was going to happen.

President Uhuru Kenyatta could not make his State of the Nation Address in Parliament for a full 30 minutes Thursday as Orange Democratic Movement MPs held a noisy protest in the chamber.

The MPs blew whistles, shouted and waved placards, ignoring orders from Speaker Justin Muturi to behave with decorum.

Some had to be dragged out shouting and resisting by parliamentary orderlies.

Drama started the minute the President stood to make his speech. About a dozen MPs jumped to their feet, blew whistles and removed placards from their pockets.

Mr Kenyatta watched them for a few moments but took his seat when National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi got on his feet to restore order. Parliamentary etiquette requires members to take their seats when the Speaker rises to speak.

Mr Kenyatta regarded the protest with a bemused smile most of the time.

The protesting MPs had planned with care and secrecy and until the last minute, parliamentary staff had no idea what was going to happen.

The placards they had were hand-written on foolscaps and the whistles were the plastic ones used in football matches.

One MP, Mr Opiyo Wandayi of Ugunja, was eventually forcibly removed from the House by a phalanx of sergeants-at-arms.

Mr Muturi was ignored as he read out the Standing Orders on order in the chamber.

The Speaker ruled that for defying the order to leave, Mr Wandayi would not be allowed in Parliament or its offices for the rest of the session.

A session translates into a whole calendar year, meaning Mr Wandayi will not sit in the chamber and will not be allowed in his office and neither will he attend committee meetings for the rest of the year.

While the Constitution says an MP who misses eight sittings should lose his seat, it was not clear last evening whether Mr Wandayi would suffer that fate.

Those with the whistles were all from ODM:  Mr Wandayi, Mr Tom Kajwang’ (Ruaraka), Mr Simba Arati (Dagoretti North), Mr John Mbadi (Suba), Mr Irshad Sumra (Embakasi South), Ms Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay Woman Rep) and Senator Moses Kajwang’.

Ms Millie Odhiambo (Mbita, ODM) stood in her place and put on her make-up to mock the events. She was later asked to leave.

The placards were written; “Jubilee are thieves”, “Thieves” and “Ethnicity is killing Kenya”.

There appeared to have been calm after Mr Wandayi was kicked out of the chambers. President Kenyatta, who was about to resume his speech, said: “After having been thoroughly entertained ...” but before he could continue, the whistling resumed.

Mr Muturi then ordered the rest of the protesters to leave. Mr Kajwang’, Ms Wanga, Mr Outa and Mr Mbadi left without too much trouble but with their placards aloft.

When it seemed like calm had been restored, Senator Kajwang’ joined in. After him was Ms Odhiambo, whose protestations to the Speaker were that Senator Mike Sonko (Nairobi, TNA) also deserved to leave the chamber for appearing to have threatened colleagues across the floor.

When she was ordered to leave, she replied, “With pride,” and marched out.

President Kenyatta had barely spoken for a minute when Mr Arati stood and blew his whistle.

With the protests entering the thirtieth minute, Mr Muturi struck a more conciliatory tone. “Those members wishing to withdraw may withdraw,” he said.

The President was eventually able to make his  46-minute address, which he modelled around the idea of the Constitution enacted in 2010 as a national covenant.

He said that while the Opposition had disagreed with Jubilee’s understanding of the national covenant, this had created the most active and effective Opposition and civil society in Africa.

“However, our Opposition should be reminded that they are the alternative side of the Nationalist Covenant. That they are part of it, and are bound by it through normative law,” he added.

“This way, we can go through election cycles without worrying whether the gains of one administration can be destroyed rather than built on by the in-coming one.” 

The President used the annual address to highlight the achievements of the government he has led and at the same time to criticise the county governments and the Judiciary for their actions regarding corruption.

Citing the amounts that the counties have received since the start of devolution, the President said the fact that the national government has given above the 15 per cent minimum set in the Constitution was proof of its commitment to devolved government.

“We need, therefore, to be frank. A significant proportion of the funds transferred to the devolved units have not met the expectations of the Kenyan people,” he added.

SEARING QUESTIONS

The MPs chanted “No” to each of the questions he then asked: “Is the one trillion sent to the county governments reflected in what you see? Is there clean drinking water and proper sanitation,  efficient garbage collection, medicines in hospitals, and agricultural extension workers visiting your farms?”

President Kenyatta also tabled documents showing the progress made so far in the prosecution of public servants named last year as under investigation for corruption-related offences.

These will be scrutinised when the House resumes sitting on April 12 but will contain statistics on the more than 300 individuals prosecuted and the efforts made by the Assets Recovery Agency to get the proceeds from the money corruptly obtained from the National Youth Service.

The President also challenged the Judiciary to speed up the prosecution of the cases and give little leeway to those who challenge the authority of the EACC and their prosecutions.

“I understand the frustrations of those who feel that investigative and court processes have been manipulated by the corrupt in order to escape accountability, and delay and derail justice,” he said.

 “It is crucial that the Judiciary reduces and eliminates the frivolous exploitation of legal technicalities to defeat the course of justice,” he said. 

EACC secretary Halakhe Waqo said on Wednesday that all governors it has attempted to investigate have filed constitutional petitions to challenge its authority.

“Kenyans are justified to demand from the Judiciary a tightened regime that is impatient with unwarranted delay. The Judiciary has the funding and the requisite leadership. It must, therefore, play its rightful role. It must not be perceived to be helpless, a bystander, or complacent in this war that is a threat to our development and our security,” said President Kenyatta.

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