Former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo.
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Francis Ole Kaparo: When curtains came down on my position as House Speaker

Former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo.

Photo credit: File

Toward the end of the Ninth Parliament, I knew I had steered the House well enough and had done the best I could for my country. I wanted to retire at the end of that season.

However, in the face of the momentous challenges facing the nation, I changed my mind when several colleagues, including Prof George Saitoti, Kalonzo Musyoka, John Michuki, and even the President, asked me to stay on as Speaker of the House.

President Mwai Kibaki wanted a steady hand in that very grim hour, when the winds of strife were sweeping through the land, threatening our tenuous peace. He saw that quality in me, and I was glad to offer myself once again – this being the fourth consecutive term – as a candidate for Speaker of the National Assembly.

I was pragmatic enough, though, to realise that under the changed circumstances, where intense competition characterised relations between the Government and the Opposition, there were newer dynamics on both sides that were going to make party leaders evaluate how useful I would continue to be for their causes if I was re-elected. Though I had heard a few voices of discontent about the manner in which I had handled my third stint, I had heard more voices of approval – a factor I felt would work in my favour.

I went into that vote confident of a win and prepared a speech, but it was one I would never get to make. In an afternoon of high drama, the ODM, which had since turned into a political party after their referendum vote success, got its troops in the House in a sour mood against my candidacy and rallied them to back one of their own. With their superior numbers in the already-charged Tenth Parliament, the die was cast and they narrowly defeated my re-election bid after a stiff contest.

The final bow came when the Clerk of the House went through the usual routine of notifying Members of the names vying, explaining the voting rules, then counting the votes. When tallying was eventually done, I lost to a new entrant, Kenneth Marende, by just four votes. Because of that slim margin of loss, the exercise was repeated three times, according to provisions of the Standing Orders of the House.

After a third-round vote, Kenneth Marende became the new Speaker of the House, and I left Nairobi to live a quiet, reflective life up north. While in my native lands in the frontiers, I embarked on a new stage in my career, which in many respects was no less important than the one I had pursued for the previous 15 years.