Current woes lessons for future lawmakers

Monday July 17 2017

From left: MPs Cecily Mbarire, Grace Kipchoim, Joyce Laboso and Rachel Shebesh arrive at Marigat in Baringo South during a women enterprise empowerment meeting on June 18, 2016.  PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP

From left: MPs Cecily Mbarire, Grace Kipchoim, Joyce Laboso and Rachel Shebesh arrive at Marigat in Baringo South during a women enterprise empowerment meeting on June 18, 2016. PHOTO | CHEBOITE KIGEN | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By EMMAN OMARI
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The 11th Parliament and the Second Senate since independence kept quarrelling for the entire tenure before disbanding this year.

The issue at hand was that the media were fanning supremacy wars between them.

The matter came up at a retreat this month in Mombasa attended by chairpersons of Senate committees and senior editors.

There was a tirade of accusations between Senate committee leaders and the editors.

It was a reminder of the hatred the media faced after the 1992 multiparty General Election after decades of single-party rule under Kanu.

FOURTH OPPOSITION

The government then perceived media to be oppositionists supporting the Ford-Kenya of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Ford-Asili of Kenneth Matiba and Democratic Party of Mwai Kibaki.

Editors were always inundated with phone calls from Kanu headquarters, accusing them of acting like they were the fourth opposition party.

In the just expired second bicameral House, Senators perceived the media to in bed with the National Assembly.

They complained that Senators had been given a raw deal in publicity, with MPs hogging coverage. Gender also featured prominently – male Senators and MPs got more favourable coverage than female counterparts.

AGGRESSIVE

But an editor explained that the male legislators were more aggressive.

One could call them any time for a television interview or to answer question for print and they would oblige.

The women would either keep off or decline to give a comment.

But the story of women in Parliament has been impressive as they earned attention in fair competition with their male counterparts.

GRACE ONYANGO

Kenya’s first of firsts, Mrs Grace Onyango – the first woman mayor (Kisumu) in 1965; and, the first woman MP (Kisumu Town) in 1969 – found herself lonely in a nearly all-men Parliament.

She was assertive. She even became the first woman on the Temporary Speakers panel.

Her apex came when she was elected to the Elijah Mwangale-led parliamentary committee, which investigated the murder of former Nyandarua North MP Josiah Mwangi Kariuki in 1975.

When Mwangale was summoned to State House to delete the names of powerful Mzee Jomo Kenyatta Cabinet minister Mbiyu Koinange and his aide, Wanyoike Thungu, Mrs Onyango remained behind with an original copy.

PROTEST

After Mwangale had tabled the deleted version, she waved hers in protest. With this, she put an indelible mark and has been chronicled in books.

Today, she  lives happily in Gem, Siaya County.

The other one was from Meru, Mrs Anarita Karimi, who after winning her seat was framed up as having ‘eaten” (stolen) money when she was the headmistress of a school.

She lost her seat, but had stamped her mark on the House.

FIERY LAWMAKER

Ms Chelagat Mutai, a former MP for Eldoret North, was a fiery lawmaker.

She was targeted after the JM murder and fled to Tanzania. Supreme Court Judge Njoki Ndungu made her name with her anti-rape law, as a nominated MP.

She learnt the ropes from her seniors such as James Orengo (Siaya senator) and Kiraitu Murungi (Meru senator).

Senator Beatrice Elachi has acquitted herself well, seizing every opportunity to be heard in the Senate or on television and in the newspapers.

BICAMERAL HOUSE

She is running for the Dagoretti parliamentary seat.

The next bicameral House ought to learn from the past where all the legislators competed on ability rather than gender.

Senate Deputy Speaker Kembi Gitura said the next Senate and the 12th Parliament should learn from the mistakes of the current one – and move forward.

Mr Omari is a political commentator. [email protected]