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Why MPs on recess are ‘hiding’ in Nairobi

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A section of Parliament Buildings, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The short recess for Members of Parliament, which started last week and runs to July 22, is turning out to be one of a kind, especially for lawmakers who voted in favour of the Finance Bill, 2024.

Ordinarily, MPs would have used the break to visit their constituents; launch projects, and attend church events, weddings and even funerals.

But this recess has proved to be tricky. For those who backed the controversial Bill, the ground has shifted and has become hostile.

The leaders found themselves on the wrong side of history after President William Ruto declined to assent to the Bill following public uproar and sustained street protests led by Gen Zs.

The MPs have kept off social events for fear of being confronted by voters, and neither can they seek refuge in Parliament which suffered extensive damage after being overrun by anti-tax protesters. Renovation hasn’t began.

The majority of members of staff at Parliament Buildings are shaken and are yet to report back to work. There is a heavy security presence, and even journalists are not allowed access.

The lawmakers who voted to reject the Bill have been receiving a heroic welcome in their constituencies, and have no problem moving around.

But several MPs who voted for the Bill have faced hostile crowds, with others being roughed up by members of the public. Their homes and properties have also been targeted by the mobs.

During an interview at State House on Sunday, President Ruto hailed MPs who voted for the Bill as true heroes of Kenya.

“Those are the people who saw the opportunity for us to unchain our country from debt,” he said.

Kitui Rural MP David Mwalika, while sympathising with his colleagues for not reading the mood of the electorate, advised them to avoid going to their constituencies until things cool down.

“For now, they should wait until temperatures go down, they should not go to the ground until these demonstrations have slowed down because people are still angry,” Mr Mwalika said.

He said it is a bad sign when voters who elected their representatives to Parliament turn against them and even hold demonstrations in their homes.

“These people don’t forget, I can tell you that by just saying ‘yes’ some MPs have lost 50 percent of the votes they got and it will be a tall order to get them back,” he said.

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita, despite earlier facing a backlash from his party ODM, voted to support the Bill. The move earned him praises from supporters. The lawmaker yesterday planned to launch projects in his constituency.

Kitutu Masaba MP Clive Gisairo said it is a tricky affair for his colleagues who voted ‘yes’ for the Bill. He added that others voted ‘no’ in order to redeem themselves politically, as the ground was shifting.

“I would not advise anyone who voted ‘yes’ to rush to the ground at the moment. They should wait for the temperatures to cool down, then go and explain themselves to the people because in Parliament you must take a decision anyway,” he said.

“I know of some colleagues who voted ‘no’ and have been receiving messages from their supporters telling them that they have now started reading the correct signs,” the MP added.

Some lawmakers said that their problems are compounded by the fact that the government is broke and cannot give them money to go and appease the electorate with projects.

“If you have money, you can go and give the people two or three projects and tell them that you are sorry. But now even the Constituency Development Fund is not forthcoming. What reason will you give the people for supporting the Bill? Asked Mr Mwalika.

To ensure that they do not lose much support, some lawmakers have resorted to sending their representatives to silently deliver their donations to bereaved families, as going in person would likely result in chaos.

Speaking in the Senate on Wednesday, July 3, Kitui Senator Enock Wambua said those who voted for the Bill are sellouts.

“They have failed this country, they have let their supporters down and must apologise to the nation. They have left us with a mess which we have to clean up. They must listen to what people say,” Mr Wambua said.