A tale of two handbags: Senators catfight over committee perks

Saturday July 04 2020

And on Wednesday, two senators were in the limelight for the wrong reasons as they engaged in a physical confrontation over the election of a committee. IMAGE | JOHN NYAGA | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Politicians live by one mantra; That there’s no bad publicity, especially if they are caught up on the bad side of media coverage.

And on Wednesday, two senators were in the limelight for the wrong reasons as they engaged in a physical confrontation over the election of a committee.

The fight between Senators Beatrice Kwamboka (ODM, Nominated) and Mary Seneta (Jubilee, Nominated), both members of the Health committee, was hard to explain especially since the stakes were not that high.

Yet, both being also new in matters legislative, it may be understandable. It must have been a ruse, perhaps aimed at hogging the media limelight that either of them has never attracted since 2017 when they found themselves in the House.


Both had attended a committee meeting to conduct elections of the vice chair after the recent purge in which lawmakers sympathetic to Deputy President William Ruto were removed from leadership positions and shuffled from powerful and influential committees to less glamorous ones.


Ms Seneta wanted the seat and was willing to take her colleagues head on, despite her battling disciplinary issues with her party after she snubbed the President’s meeting a month ago.

Ms Kwamboka, who is also the deputy minority whip, was not in the race, but she was so immersed in the process to help a colleague win the seat.

In between these two, was Senator Farhiya Ali (Jubilee Nominated), who like Kwamboka, is the deputy majority whip. Whether it was planned or not, it was Ms Ali who made nonsense of the House rules when she cast two proxy votes, a move that would trigger the physical confrontation between Kwamboka and Seneta.

The House rules give a whip the power to nominate a senator to cast a proxy vote on behalf of another senate during elections of such committees. But the proxy is only limited to one vote, not two as Ali tried to do.


For Ms Kwamboka, Senator Ali’s conduct was against the bipartisan agreement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

“Since we cannot verify or authenticate Ms Ali’s claims of being instructed to step in to vote on behalf of Milicent Omanga who is not present, we will have to adjourn this sitting,” Dr Michael Mbito, the chairman of the committee, ruled, puncturing Ali’s schemes.

The cancellation of the poll spiralled into the corridors as the two senators hurled unprintable epithets at each other.

“You cannot tell me anything, Mimi ni mtu ya Raila Odinga and I am in the leadership, I will deal with you,” Kwamboka purred as she went for Ms Seneta’s face. They threw their handbags at each other and hurled insults. Parliamentary orderlies stepped in and separated them.

Both have not passed any momentous legislation in the House. 

Although a leader of the House, Ms Kwamboka’s performance hasn’t been as scintillating as the plum position she holds in the House. She is a former MCA in Nairobi.