What you need to know:
- The Speaker’s directive seeks to restore status and decorum of the August House in the discharge of its mandate.
- The Speaker of the House is the custodian of the rules that govern a decorous dress code within the precincts of Parliament.
Inappropriately dressed MPs and staff will not be allowed within the precincts of parliament, National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula has ruled.
The Speaker’s directive seeks to restore status and decorum of the August House in the discharge of its mandate.
Mr Wetang’ula also warned MPs against carrying guns to the debating chamber and committee rooms as well as inviting strangers in undesignated areas within the precincts of Parliament.
“I have decried the emerging tendency by certain members of the House to breach the rule on the dress code. I indicated that the breaches are occurring in plenary, committees and in controlled members’ facilities within Parliament, particularly the lounges and restaurant,” the Speaker said.
The precincts of Parliament include areas within the main Parliament Buildings, members and staff offices, the committee rooms and in controlled members’ facilities.
By virtue of his position, the Speaker of the House is the custodian of the rules that govern a decorous dress code within the precincts of Parliament.
Rule 9 of the Speakers Rules, first published by then Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai in 2017 and revised in 2022, provides that MPs, members of the press and guests should not enter the House’s plenary, members’ lounge, dining room or committee rooms without being properly dressed.
Cases of MPs appearing in committee rooms dressed inappropriately are rampant. Some appear in House committee meetings without a tie, bedecked in jeans trousers, T-shirts, short sleeved shirts and others in very tight fitting trousers.
“A proper dress for men means a coat, collar, tie, long-sleeved shirt, long trousers, socks and shoes or service uniform,” the rules state, meaning that Kaunda suits that appear popular among male MPs and staff, stands banned.
The rules further state that for the ladies, a proper dress code implies business, formal or smart casual wear.
The rules further state that skirts and dresses should be below knee-length and decent and that sleeveless blouses are prohibited.
“I have seen on TVs members in committee meetings looking like street fighters. Standards of decency are a must in the August House,” Wetang’ula said.
The Speaker wondered why a member would carry a gun to undesignated areas within parliament.
"The government has already given you security. Why would you carry a firearm in undesignated areas?” posed the Speaker noting that members’ firearms must be deposited with the Serjeant-at-Arms’ Office and must be picked when they leave Parliament Buildings.
Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah accused his male colleagues of tagging along female companions in members’ only bar even as he wondered why an MP would carry a gun while in Parliament.
“I cannot trust a member with a gun inside this House,” said Mr Ichung’wah noting that the dress code with parliament is not a choice.
Similarly, Minority Leader and Suna East MP Junet Mohammed castigated MPs who carry guns in the chamber.
“Members who come here armed have ulterior motives,” said Mr Junet.
Mr Wetang’ula also directed that members donned in Kaunda suits should not be allowed in designated areas.
“There are several members, both ladies and gentlemen, who have on various occasions approached the chair to point out how indecently or inappropriately some of their colleagues are dressed,” he said.
The prescription of a dress code in parliaments all over the world has meaning and is well intended.
It was intentional so as to preserve the honour and dignity of Parliament, the August House, the House of debate.
English dictionaries define the word “August” largely to mean hallowed, decorum, honour, distinguished, great importance, and high respect in society.
The other meaning attached to the word is that it is the eighth month of the year.
Therefore, an “August House” means a House of honour decorum, hallowed, distinguished, venerated among others.
Consequently, it was intended that a Member of Parliament behaves well in a manner befitting the dictates of the “August House”, including observing the dress code while within the precincts of parliament.
One would be forgiven to think that the Kenyan Parliament has lost the meaning of an August House.
A good number of serving legislators do not observe the dress code within the precincts of Parliament.
It is worse for female legislators and staff, some of whom have taken to dressing skimpily.
Seeing a female MP, staff or a member of the press in inappropriate attire has become a common occurrence, in total disregard of the Speaker’s rules.
The 10th, 11th and part of 12th Parliament, especially towards the end, were keen to protect the honour of the August House on matters of dress code.
But the 13th Parliament, inaugurated after the August 9, 2022 General Election and barely halfway in its second session, has not impressed.
To save the image of the 13th Parliament, Speaker Wetang’ula has issued firm instructions to chairpersons of committees and Clerk of the National Assembly Mr Samuel Njoroge that a decorous dress code for MPs, staff, members of the press and visitors is not a matter of choice but a dictate of the Speaker’s rules.
In the debating chamber, the Speaker has had to flush out members who are deemed inappropriately dressed.
In the committee meetings, the extensions of the plenary, this rule has not been treated with the seriousness it deserves.
“As the custodian of the rules of decorum of the House, it is incumbent upon me to constantly remind Honourable Members of the inescapable imperative to dress appropriately and within the boundaries prescribed in the Speaker’s rules currently in place,” Mr Wetang’ula said.
At least five MPs have been kicked out of the chambers for dressing inappropriately.
They include Mr Gabriel Kagombe (Gatundu South), a first time member, who was ejected on the last Thursday of June 2023.
On June 6, 2023, Mukurweini MP John Kagucia attended a meeting of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC), where he is a member, in black long trouser jeans.
Early this year, Mr Kagombe, a first time MP, attended the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting one afternoon garbed in black long trouser jeans and without a tie and nothing happened to him as he sat through the meeting.
In the 11th Parliament, Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga, then chairman of the House’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC), was forced to eject then Kiharu MP Kang’ata Irungu, now Murang’a Governor, for dressing inappropriately.
At the time, the committee members had met to vet retired Justice Kalpana Rawal following her nomination by then President Uhuru Kenyatta as Deputy Chief Justice.