Outside the Box
BLOG: Wrong timing as pomp marks opening of new House chamber
There was a feast in Parliament Tuesday hosted in honour of President Kibaki, the oldest member of Parliament.
It was also a lunch to celebrate the inauguration of Parliament’s new debating chambers.
The five-star meal was served by Safari Park Hotel.
But there was something awfully wrong about the date on which the MPs chose to have a fete: It was August 7, the 14th anniversary of the 1998 bombing in Nairobi, in which over 200 Kenyans died and over 3,000 injured.
The sad thing is that, as the victims marked their day in solitude, their leaders had a ball in Parliament and even forgot to observe a ‘moment of silence’ to show respect for those who lost their lives 14 years ago.
President Kibaki and Speaker Kenneth Marende presided over the ceremony, but apparently they forgot that anniversary, when Kenya tasted the wrath of al Qaeda terrorists. And this at a time when the Kenya Defence Forces is fighting terrorists in Somalia, while grenades and improvised explosive devices go off in Nairobi and Kenya!
MPs too failed to notify the Speaker of the importance of the day, because, those who were there, were pre-occupied to have their names mentioned because of the role they played in giving the debating chambers a facelift.
Chief Justice Willy Mutunga was also an invited guest in the event, but he was in the Speaker’s gallery, meaning that all he could do –assuming he had problems with the protocol- was just wait.
Granted, Parliament had planned for the inauguration of the new chambers days back—they actually hoped to do so in mid-June, but the chopper crash in which a minister and his assistant were killed had it postponed. Then the President went to London, and the MPs were getting jittery, so, they had to open the new chamber as soon as possible.
They were tired of sitting on “benches”.
Okay, the MPs can say, that you can’t mourn forever. Well, why then do we lay flowers on some prominent grave, erected long long ago, on some public land, just next to Parliament.
The sad thing though is the man-hours wasted on what was supposedly a straight-forward function, to just inaugurate a building. The function was booked for 10.00 am and all visitors among them journalists, ambassadors, the ombudsman, the police commissioner, the spy chief, permanent secretaries, judges, the clergy, and most of the MPs, were seated by that time.
But it was not until an hour later that the President got into the chamber.
The thing is, these people had left their offices, to come and attend a State function. Work had stopped. Yet, the President came in late. We all say that time is money, if the President comes late, how many man-hours did we waste.
Yes, he’s given the country super infrastructure; he’s given Parliament a “spectacular landmark” and a “structure to behold” as the Speaker called the refurbished chambers, but really, why should he keep people waiting.
The last time the President came late (it was a meeting of MPs with the Executive) Lands Minister James Orengo was not amused. And he told him as much. On Tuesday, I hoped someone would remind the President, but then again, let’s just say, he is the President.
They say, respect a man’s time, and he’ll respect you.
Women MPs in Parliament caused a spectacle after the inauguration. Their beef was that none of them had been allowed to speak. But there’s the small matter of relevance in Parliament, you just don’t speak, just because you’re a woman MP. It has something to do with the patriarchal nature of Parliament.
Those who spoke were Nicholas Gumbo, he is the chairman of the House Broadcasting Committee; Dr Chris Obure, he’s the minister of public works; James Orengo, who represented the Prime Minister; Speaker Kenneth Marende; and President Kibaki. Adan Keynan, the vice chairman of the Parliamentary Service Commission gave a vote of thanks.
It was a bit heartbreaking to see nominated MPs Millie Odhiambo, Rachel Shebesh and Sofia Abdi Noor protesting that they were “not flowergirls”, but really, where did they want to be slotted, and what did they want to speak about? When these things (programme for the inauguration) was being prepared, where were they?