Senators uphold Gloria Orwoba’s suspension over ‘unsubstantiated’ harassment claims

Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba

Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba at Parliament buildings in Nairobi on July 27, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation media Group

Nominated Senator Gloria Orwoba has been suspended from Senate until February next year over unsubstantiated sexual harassment claims. 

This is after senators on Wednesday evening approved an August report by the Senate Powers and Privileges Committee recommending the suspension of the Kenya Kwanza senator for six months. The suspension took effect from last month. 

The debate on the report was shelved last month after the intervention of Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot to stop the Senate from "airing its dirty linen in public".

However, the debate was allowed to continue with senators upholding the recommendation by the committee chaired by Speaker Amason Kingi to suspend the lawmaker for six months. 

The approval of the report means Ms Orwoba will be restricted from accessing the precincts of Parliament for the entire period of suspension and she will not attend Senate plenary and committee sessions and thus forgo sitting allowance.

Consequently, she will lose hefty perks and other personal privileges associated with being a legislator. 

Additionally, she will is also be barred from local and foreign travels, which MPs bank on for extra coin outside their normal pay.

“Pursuant to section 17(3)(g) of the parliamentary powers and privileges Act, 2017, the senator be suspended from the House for the remainder of the second session of the 13th Parliament,” reads in part the report. 

The MP will be required to apologise before her colleagues at the bar on the floor of the House before being allowed back in the Senate.

The apology will also be extended to the Clerk of the Senate and the secretariat of Parliament.

While supporting the motion, Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi said senators must conduct themselves with decorum and respect.

He cited another untoward behaviour by Ms Orwoba where he claimed that the nominated senator accused her colleagues of sabotaging her Bill, the Konza Technopolis Bill, after she was asked to align it with a similar legislation by the ICT ministry. 

"Rather than do as advised, she went ahead in social media to criticise her fellow committee members in social media for voting against the Bill," said Mr Osotsi. 

“I fully support this motion to serve as a lesson to others with similar intentions.”

Ms Orwoba was accused making unsubstantiated allegations of sexual favours by some parliamentary officials.

However, she failed to honour its invites and summons to defend herself against damning allegations.

The committee, nonetheless, went ahead to consider the evidence before it on this charge and given that there was no evidence to the contrary to refute the charge, the charge was therefore confirmed.

According to the report, the first-term lawmaker was also accused of disrespecting fellow senators by publishing information that was disrespectful to her colleagues, imputing improper motive on fellow senators, a charge that was also substantiated by the senator failing to appear before the committee to defend herself.

“Senator Orwoba made unsubstantiated allegations that there were instances of pursuit of sexual favours in parliament by posting various messages on senate business WhatsApp,” a report by the committee tabled on the floor on Thursday states.

In addition, the first term lawmaker was also accused of alleging that there was discrimination in parliament by posting various messages on the same platform.

“Having accorded Sen Gloria Orwoba an opportunity to be heard, the senator declined to participate in the inquiry by the committee on powers and privileges and hence the committee found the charges to stand," the report states.

Senators Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), Okiya Omtatah (Busia), Wakoli Wafula (Bungoma), and Beatrice Ogolla (nominated) also supported the motion.

The MPs said Ms Orwoba had not only shown contempt to the committee but to the House at large.

Senator Omtatah said his colleague was given a chance to prove herself but did not take the opportunity, but instead pulled the sexual harassment allegation at the tail end of everything. 

"The report before us is not a gender issue. You could remove the name Orwoba and substitute with Sifuna and the report would still stand. I do not get where the invitation to discuss gender is coming from," Senator Omtatah said. 

Mr Khalwale added, “Who are these young people who want to lecture us about gender? Grace was a woman who broke the grass ceiling to become the first female MP. Don’t talk about youth, women, but what kind of youth or woman.”

The senators were reacting to the gender card pulled by a section of female nominated senators who were against the report. 

The nominated senators included Hezena Lemaletian, Karen Nyamu and Miraj Abdulahi.