MPs who are set to be locked out of Parliament and the Senate in the next elections because they lack university degrees have turned to President Kibaki to save their political careers.
The affected MPs were on Friday collecting signatures to petition the President to reject the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Bill 2012, to give them room to defend their seats in the General Election.
As is characteristic with most MPs who do not read and scrutinise documents, some of the victims of the new requirements approved by Parliament were in the House and even voted with the rest to support the provisions which may kick them out.
In fact, some of them were seen walking out of the Chambers minutes before the vote which was preceded by intense debate on amendment to Section 22 of the Elections Act.
Indeed, a number of their counterparts who understood the ramifications of the changes such as Yatta’s Charles Kilonzo, who moved the killer amendment, Cabinet ministers Amos Kimunya, Moses Wetang’ula and assistant minister Ndiriitu Muriithi and MPs Adan Keynan, Charles Keter and Aden Duale had cautioned their colleagues to understand the import of the changes before passing them.
The MPs were revisiting the specific provisions, which they had passed on Wednesday night through an amendment by Bura MP Abdi Nuh to exempt current MPs and councillors from requirements that to be eligible for the seats, they must possess a post-Form Four certificate.
Mr Kilonzo suggested that Dr Nuh’s proposals be revisited and he was supported by the House with most of those who spoke arguing that the changes were not only seen by the public to be self-serving and discriminatory, but also retrogressive.
But confusion reigned when Mr Kimunya, the deputy Leader of Government Business in Parliament, suggested an amendment to make it mandatory for MPs in the 2017 elections to be university graduates.
The proposals received unanimous approval with MPs welcoming the five-year grace period for those without degrees to go to school.
Mr Kimunya, however, did not have issues with Dr Nuh’s contentious exemption clause.
The Transport minister’s amendment to make it mandatory for MPs to be university graduates was then approved by the House together with Dr Nuh’s proposals.
Then came Mr Kilonzo’s proposal to revisit and delete the Bura MP’s exemption clause arguing it was discriminatory, self-serving and unconstitutional.
“I know that we are trying to help some of us. But we cannot legislate for ourselves. But to say that it should serve only those of us who are here, that is discriminatory and I am sure if you go to court it will be declared unconstitutional.’’
His amendments were unanimously voted for, including by some of those who are now victims.
However, the import of the changes soon started sinking in as MPs strolled out of the Chamber to discuss them.
A minister was overheard telling one of the MPs affected by the changes ‘“mumejifuta kazi” (you have sacked yourselves).
A nominated MP said to have only primary school qualifications confronted a colleague who supported the proposals accusing him of betrayal.
They resolved to collect signatures and petition the Speaker for a reversal.
On Friday, the Saturday Nation learnt that they had decided to petition President Kibaki instead.
He can give them a lifeline by refusing to assent to the amendments, in which case he would refer the Bill back to the House and a memorandum giving his reason for not signing.
The MPs can also save themselves from being blocked from contesting by bringing a Bill to Parliament to amend the “offensive’’ provisions.
However, this can only be done after the President has assented to the Bill and once it is gazetted.
Gatundu North MP Clement Waibara, a secondary school drop-out was among those who were lobbying colleagues to sign the petition.
Others in the petitioners’ list are Joint Government Chief Whip Johnson Muthama, assistant minister Beatrice Kones, Makadara MP Gidion Mbuvi and Narok South MP Nkoidilla ole Lankas,