National shame: ‘Hustlers’ run riot as MPs scamper for safety in day of drama

A teargas canister explodes as Anti-Finance Bill protesters watch along Moi Avenue in Nairobi on June 25, 2024.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada | Nation Media Group

The raid on Parliament that happened concurrently with the damage of some lawmakers’ properties yesterday was an unprecedented occurrence in Kenya’s history.

One has to wind the clock back 117 years to the time when Kenya’s Parliament started to have a feel of how revered the legislative premises was designed to be. It was then called the Legislative Council, or LegCo, and it was along what is known as Haile Selassie Avenue today. When it was started, it adopted the model of the British legislative chambers.

“The structure of the legislative building, the decorum and etiquette, dress code of the Speaker and that of the members, the procedure of the House replicated those of the House of Commons,” says a Parliament document detailing its history.

Anti-Finance Bill protesters leave a trail of destruction after storming parliament

It is the August (dignified and noble) House. A citadel of decorum. A protected space whose chambers are only seen through video cameras controlled by Parliamentary staff. A place occupied by members who have to be addressed by the words “The Honourable”. A place whose chambers cartoonists and satirists are not allowed to portray.

However, on Tuesday, the House that began its sittings in August 1907 was raided by riotous “commoners” far different from the “Commons” whose mannerisms informed its conduct.

Dress code

Youths protesting the passage of the Finance Bill had little regard for decorum as they stormed the establishment where people are not allowed to enter without adhering to a dress code.

As this happened, properties belonging to lawmakers who had participated in the passing of the controversial Finance Bill were targeted across the country. Molo MP Kuria Kimani, Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Njoroge Wainaina (Kieni), Zaheer Jhanda (Nyaribari Chache), Emathe Namuar (Turkana Central), David Gikaria (Nakuru East), Samuel Arama (Nakuru West) and Paul Chebor (Rongai) were among the MPs who saw private residences, businesses or offices targeted.

By the way they were dressed, many of those who stormed Parliament would ordinarily not make it past the gate.

As per the existing rules, which were last reviewed by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula in November 2023, no one can access the Parliament precincts without being “properly” dressed.

“Properly” in this context means that for men, one has to be in a coat, a collar, a tie, a long-sleeved shirt, long trousers, and socks and shoes or service uniform. For women, the requirement is business dressing, formal, or smart casual. They are not allowed in with skirts or dresses that don’t cover the knees and below. They are also not allowed in with sleeveless blouses.

Without such dressing, no one is allowed in the Parliament chambers, lounge, dining room or committee rooms.

However, yesterday these areas and the decorum rules behind them were mere pearls on the feet of angry protesters, who breached the defences and accessed the building. Windows were shattered, furniture looted or broken, food eaten, electronics yanked off their places and carried away, and some went as far as accessing the public gallery.

MP's car damaged while trying to escape protesters surrounding Parliament

Protesting from early morning, and enraged when the news went out that lawmakers had passed the Finance Bill, some youths dared live the #OccupyParliament clarion call. Despite Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki having warned that no access would be granted to critical installations, the unmoved youths marched on.

Deaths of protesters

A more serious dent to the revered image of the legislative house came in the form of deaths of protesters. A number of them were shot dead outside and inside the precincts of the legislative buildings. The hallowed address witnessed bloodshed inside its compound in a fashion never seen before.

When the Parliament historians will be updating their document on the history of the building, which has details like the abolition of the bicameral Parliament in 1966 and its return in 2013, they are sure to dedicate some space for the happenings of yesterday. They may write about how a section of it was set ablaze as a police truck burnt outside the premises.

They may record how the legislative buildings’ metallic fences were defenceless on the hands of hundreds of enraged youths. They may, or may not, write about the day when “The Honourable” members had to use an underground tunnel to ensure their safety because the majority of them had passed a Bill that was unpopular.

Weighing in on the happenings of yesterday, former Mandera Central MP Billow Kerrow said MPs were to blame for the turn of events.

“The buck stops with you. Was it really necessary for you to debate this Bill today in this atmosphere, literally under the barrel of a gun, after turning Parliament into a bunker? Was it? When millions across the country have expressed concern about the Bill?” He posted on X, formerly Twitter.

On the MPs suffering losses, the home of Mr Kimani, the chairman of the National Assembly’s Finance and Planning Committee, was vandalised and looted by mobs who also set three cars on fire.

Still in Nakuru, rowdy youth also attempted to storm the house of Mr Gikaria along the Section 58 road, but they were repulsed by police. At one point, the MP’s security had to fire on the air to scare away the protesters who were chanting songs and slogans, castigating the lawmaker who voted to support the Bill in Parliament. The MP’s residence is located along Section 58 road near State House Nakuru.

Protesters also stormed the offices of Mr Arama and Mr Chebor.

In Kikuyu, the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) offices were burnt, as was a vehicle parked outside.

Timba XO

In Eldoret, youths targeted Timba XO, a club linked to Mr Sudi, looting stocks and attempted to set it ablaze. They took away public address systems, alcoholic drinks, gas cylinders and furniture among other valuables.

In Nyeri, Mr Wainaina had his Chieni Supermarket looted. Youths made away with foodstuffs, electronics, among other items.

In Kisii, police had to put up extra efforts to repulse mobs that were after the residence of Mr Jhanda that is located in Kisii town, opposite the Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital.

In Lodwar, youths charged towards the CDF offices for which Mr Namuar is the patron.

Other politicians in the ruling United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party were also targeted. Among them is Embu Governor Cecily Mbarire, whose offices were set ablaze. Mobs equally burnt vehicles belonging to county officials.

In Nairobi, a part of City Hall was on fire briefly before a police water cannon extinguished it. Carrefour Supermarket along Wabera Street suffered looting, as were many businesses nearby. Uganda House along Kenyatta Avenue was on fire by yesterday evening.

Two wheelbarrow models symbolising UDA in Kapenguria were brought down.

Reporting by Elvis Ondieki, Caroline Wafula, Eric Matara, John Njoroge, Titus Ominde, Barnabas Bii, George Munene, Mercy Mwende and Ruth Mbula