Twelve longest serving MPs, including the most senior -- senators James Orengo and George Khaniri, have lessons on how to successfully defend a seat in highly competitive elections.
Every election year, close to 60 per cent of MPs are voted out, according to statistics from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), but this group of MPs, although not all with uninterrupted terms, has had the longest tenures in the House.
Reasons for the high turnover of MPs range from misuse of development funds, failure to articulate agenda of constituents on the floor of the House, reneging on election pledges, inaccessibility and absenteeism in the constituency, among others.
For instance, in the August 8, 2017 General Election, 170 MPs from the country’s 290 constituencies did not make it back to the National Assembly, representing about 59 per cent.
In the Senate, 17 of the 47 elected senators (36.17 per cent) successfully defended their seats, meaning 63.83 per cent did not make it back.
However, of the 30 senators who did not get back to Parliament, five contested and won governorship elections in their areas. Nyeri County had six of its seven MPs – nearly 86 per cent -- sent home in 2017.
But even as others shudder at the ignominy of losing their seats, there are some who seem to have mastered the art of defending them.
In the current 12th Parliament, at least 12 MPs are serving their sixth, fifth and fourth terms in office.
Mr Orengo, the leader of minority in the Senate, and Mr Khaniri, came in through a by-election. Although Orengo has had his time disrupted by election losses, Mr Khaniri has served uninterrupted terms since he was first elected in 1996.
Before his 2013 election to the Senate, Mr Orengo served as Ugenya MP. Mr Khaniri first served as MP for Hamisi Constituency.
Mr Orengo was first sent to Parliament in a by-election in 1980. He lost the seat, but regained it in the 1992 multiparty elections.
He defended the seat in the 1997 General Election, but was voted out in 2002 when he vied for presidency on the Social Democratic Party ticket.
He regained the seat in the 2007 General Election and in 2013 and 2017, he was elected senator.
Kitutu Chache North MP and deputy leader of majority in the National Assembly Jimmy Angwenyi (Jubilee) is serving his fifth term.
His many years as a lawmaker have prompted National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi to nickname him “the indefatigable one”.
Those in their fourth terms are Adan Keynan (Eldas, Jubilee), Maoka Maore (Igembe North, Jubilee), Dr Naomi Shaban (Taveta, Jubilee), Katoo ole Metito (Kajiado South, Jubilee), Cecily Mbarire (nominated, Jubilee), Wafula Wamunyinyi (Kanduyi, Ford Kenya), Samwel Muoroto (Kapenguria, Jubilee), Maina Kamanda (nominated, Jubilee) and Gideon Konchella (Kilgoris, Jubilee).
So how did they manage to hold onto their seats this long?
'One of the most privileged positions'
Last year, former Alego Usonga MP Otieno Mak’Onyango made some comments in the National Assembly that may have unsettled MPs, while he pushed for enhanced allowances for former legislators.
Mr Mak’Otieno served for one term, from 1992 to 1997. While appearing before the House Committee on Finance and National Planning, Mr Mak’Onyango said; “Being an MP is one of the most privileged positions in this country and anywhere around the world.
"However, the salary you get for instance, here in Kenya, is not yours but the people’s. You do not have your time. Any time is people’s time. By the time you get out of Parliament, you are worse off than when you came in. It is really frustrating to be an ex-MP.”
Mr John Marimoi, the former assistant minister for Finance in the late Daniel Moi’s government made similar remarks.
Mr Marimoi, who served as Marakwet East MP between 1997 and 2002, admitted it is difficult being a former MP.
“Once you are out of Parliament, no one will want to employ you. I have been out for 18 years now and it is terrible. You can’t do business! Everyone is just looking at you for favours yet you have nothing,” he said.
He added; “When you are in (Parliament), you don’t imagine that at some point you will be out. I never knew that I would become a victim.”
“It is not easy to get elected to parliament but it is even harder to defend your seat,” said Mr Khaniri, a Political Science graduate from the University of Nairobi.
“When my father died, it was a unanimous decision within the family that I succeed him. I got outside there to reach out to the people. I didn’t have the kind of money that people splash around but they took me as one of their own and that is how they have trusted me to articulate their issues all this time,” he said.
He, however, noted that if he was not a politician, he would be a farmer.
“I have a passion for crops and animal farming and if I were to leave politics now, I will comfortably venture into this business full time,” he says.
The late former president Daniel Moi, the late former Kajiado North MP George Saitoti, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi, former Ford People leader Simeon Nyachae and former Bobasi MP Chris Obure are some of the people who made a mark in Mr Khaniri’s early political career.
He said: “Because there was no CDF (Constituency Development Fund) at the time, they helped me with Harambees to assist my people. I have built over 13 secondary schools all named after me. I have also built 11 dispensaries using the CDF and ensured that electricity gets to the remotest part of Hamisi Constituency.”
According to the senator, these are the things that endeared him to the people for these years.
But Mr Keynan said being a legislator has unique and underlying characteristics depending on personality and party.
“Politics has two aspects -- pleasure and pressure. You have to strike a balance between the two. Expectations are always high, but you must be accessible to the people who sent you to articulate their issues,” Mr Keynan said, admitting that since he was first elected, Parliament has undergone an extreme makeover.
Served nonstop for 15 years
Mr Maore, the Igembe North MP, said winning a parliamentary seat is easy but getting re-elected is the most difficult thing for a parliamentarian. “Serving is an honour from the people,” says Mr Maore. “The trust the people have in me is the reason I have managed this far,” he added.
Mr Maore was first elected to Parliament during the first multiparty elections in 1992. He served nonstop for 15 years and was out in the cold for 10 years, before he came back in the 2017 General Election.
“Once you are in the House, you must be honest with the people who elected you. Tell them the truth always because it is the right thing to do. Do not promise what you can’t do, don’t have or cannot deliver.”
“Usually, some politicians have no agenda when seeking positions other than fancying to be called ‘mheshimiwa’ (honourable). Seek office to do something for the people,” he said.
Mr Maore is known for being a whistleblower in the multibillion-shilling Anglo Leasing corruption scandal of 2004.
The scandal brought political careers of some powerful individuals from his Mount Kenya region to a debilitating end, making him enemies.
“We came to realise that people who were complaining about the Kanu regime had sinister motives. After exposing them, they went on to steal my two elections. Indeed, corruption fights back,” said Mr Maore.
'I have delivered'
Ms Mbarire, who entered Parliament through nomination in 2003, said: “I have delivered for my people, I listen to them and I am accessible whenever they want to see me. It is a fact that you can’t solve all the problems facing your constituents, but being there for them always shows that you have their feelings at heart.”
She added that her constituents feel well represented whenever they see her articulating the issues affecting them on the floor of the House, even as she pushes for national government projects on the ground.
Ms Mbarire served as an elected MP for Runyenjes Constituency for two terms- 2007-2013 and 2013-2017.
In 2017, she tried the Embu governorship but lost to Martin Wambora. She was then nominated to Parliament.
“In the management of the NG-CDF (National Government Constituency Development Fund) kitty I always adopted the bottom-up approach, where the people would always come up with suggestions on what projects should be done.”