On July 10, 1990, Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka interrupted the business of the House to discuss Kenneth Stanley Njindo Matiba and the quest for multiparty democracy.
On the chair was then Malindi Town MP, Francis Bobi Tuva, who allowed Mr Musyoka to invoke Standing Order No. 20. Mr Musyoka, who is today the Wiper Democratic Party leader, read the relevant clause: “If any Member rising in his place at any time shall propose to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent national importance, and if the Speaker rules that the matter is a definite matter…and not less than 15 other members rise in their places in support, Mr Speaker shall nominate a time on the same day at which such a Motion may be moved.”
Six days earlier, Matiba — who passed on last Sunday — and Charles Rubia, had been arrested and detained without trial for demanding the return of political pluralism in Kenya. They had also asked Kenyans to assemble at Kamukunji grounds on July 7, 1990, for a national meeting which the government refused to license.
Police clashed with pro-democracy activists — who tried to enter Kamukunji grounds by force — or who were protesting the detention of Matiba and Rubia and the cancellation of the rally.
To Kanu bigwigs, the quest for pluralism was “hooliganism”.
“We have witnessed chaos and hooliganism everywhere and unless this is arrested we are likely to come to grips as a country. It is absolutely clear because, among other things, what has been happening seems to question the very authority of His Excellency the President. We all know that we have an executive presidency and some of these demonstrators have been trying to question that very authority and indeed the security of this country is per se of national importance,” said Mr Musyoka.
Mr Tuva ruled that the matter was “definite and urgent” and asked Nicholas Biwott, one of the most powerful insiders in the Moi regime, to move for the adjournment of the House to allow Mr Musyoka to lead the debate.
First, Mr Musyoka took on diplomats “who have chosen to go against the very tenets of what is known as diplomacy”, threatening that they could “declare one persona non grata.”
By then several diplomats, including US ambassador Smith Hempstone, had been aiding pro-democracy activists in Nairobi and President Moi was on record stating that Kenya was not ripe for multiparty democracy saying it would bring chaos.
“I would like to declare right from the outset that we are all witnesses to one fact today,” said Mr Musyoka, “and that is the wisdom of His Excellency the President, that great son of Africa who has been proved right by recent happenings in our city and in the country as a whole. He has told us, as part of his wisdom, that time is not opportune for introduction of the so-called multiparty democracy and that, indeed, we would do well at this time in our country’s development to hold fast to single party democracy because multiparty democracy means tribalism. I am saying this because all of us today, in unison, will have witnessed tribalism at work since Saturday.”
The Saturday that Mr Musyoka was referring to was the July, 7, 1990 pro-democracy rally, christened Saba Saba.
Mr Musyoka then turned to the clergy and said they were to blame for the people who died during the riots. “I would like to suggest that the blood of those innocent people who have been victims of mob psychology as a result of tribal feelings that have come to the height since Saturday lies squarely on the shoulders of those clergymen. I would like to go on record as having told them that…”
He then congratulated the government for detaining “the subversives”. “I would like to congratulate the very gallant act by members of the security forces in apprehending these people and safely keeping them far from us.”
“I would like to suggest that it has become evident since Saturday that indeed these people should not be in detention today. They should be produced before open courts and be tried for criminal incitement of Kenyans. Evidence is available. This is a very clear example of tribalism…We have so many members of the front bench from the Central province and we would like to hear them.”
The Motion was seconded by Bonaya Godana, then an assistant minister for Health. For the record, we bring you excerpts:
Godana: “We have been treated to drama on the need for multi-parties. The two disgraced ministers ( Matiba and Rubia), Mr Paul Muite and the like, are not individuals who have come from outer space. We know them very well. It is up to the leaders of Central Province to come out openly and tell Kenyans that they do not believe in tribal superiority.”
David Mwenje, Embakasi MP: “It is pathetic that when Kenya has been so peaceful, some people are still determined to create chaos in this country for the reason that they simply want to be presidents of this country and do not want to recognise anybody else...”
Bob Francis Jalang’o, Rarieda MP: “As the mover of this Motion said the blood of innocent Kenyans, which has been shed, will follow these people to their graves…It is high time these people were paraded before all Kenyans and castrated one by one. When a child does not heed a warning, it (sic) comes a time when that child touches fire. These people have now touched fire. They have poked bees and should know that once you poke bees however fast you run, you may not live pursuing bees. Did we not have detentions before President Moi took over the leadership of this country? Why so much noise when one or two people are put in? Were they not detained because of the wrongs which they did to this country?”
Mwai Kibaki, Minister for Health: "We have had detentions before of individuals for mistakes the particular individuals had committed. Those people’s detentions were gazetted in their individual names. No one among the Kikuyu is claiming that Kikuyus have been detained. When people are jailed, they go to prison as individuals; even eventually, when we go to heaven we shall be judged as you and me, although we are friends. We must resist the temptation of pretending that the Kikuyu are hostile towards the government. Let us deal with individuals who have done what they have done. They have been arrested for those things and if they are found guilty they will be guilty individually…Let us tackle those criminal elements whoever they are and whatever tribe they are and whatever religion they belong to, as individuals.”
Nicholas Biwott, Minister for Energy: I agree with Hon Kibaki that 99.9 per cent of the Kikuyus are loyal…The few who have been detained (and) the criminals who have looted property should think twice. The purpose of the (Saba Saba) meeting was to organise a looting spree in the city. In fact, it fell short of organising an outright coup. This is outright subversion, lawlessness, anarchy and a deliberate act by a few individuals who have already had what they have.
Prof George Saitoti, Minister for Finance: The last three days have been a nightmare. We have witnessed hordes of rogues, hooligans and thugs running through the streets. There should be no illusion on this score that the government will not take a firm action against any enemies or force that threatens the lives of its people. When the advocates of multipartysm made their debut in a press conference, they said without shame that Parliament must be disbanded….That elections must be held. We all wondered what this was all about. Many of us were able, right from the beginning to see that this was not a debate on multipartysm. The perpetrators and criminals of these crimes might have thought that by sending out those hordes of crooks into the streets, the other Kenyans were going to join them. Kenyans have proved they are not with them. As I have said, we are dealing with criminals. They had also plans of carrying out assassinations…Those who have gone to detention are not detainees but actual criminals.
Zachary Onyonka, Minister for Planning: "I do not think that His Excellency the President or any sane leader of this country is prepared to hand over this country to criminals, thugs and thieves. It is common sense that people were hired (for Saba Saba rally). If that is the multiparty democracy, sorry Charlie, you will go alone."
George Muhoho, Minister for Research and Technology: "I stand to condemn in the strongest possible terms the perpetrators and inciters and any organisers of the acts of hooliganism that have taken place in this country. If anybody thought that he was going to get any political capital from those kinds of acts, he is grimly mistaken. Last week, prior to the so-called Saba Saba meeting, I issued a statement on behalf of Kiambu people and condemned in the strongest terms possible any individual or group of people who would organise or promote any unlicensed meeting on July 7, 1990. We have isolated, and would want everybody to continue isolating, those who are advocating for multipartysm… Detention laws have been here and have been used and this country has continued to exist."
Phillip Leakey, Langata: The ambitions of those two people, who are now fortunately locked up, was not to serve Kenyans but other people and to bring chaos. I congratulate the government and the security forces who have taken action.
Joash wa Mang’oli, Webuye MP: We want the front bench to know that the hooligans still plan to take over the government. Let people realise that we are not sleeping anymore. During the riots, these hooligans were looking for Hon (David) Mwenje, Hon (JJ) Kamotho and Hon Mang’oli. If it was not for His Exellency the President being a warrior, things would have been worse than they are.
A week later Dr Godana invoked Standing Order No. 20 once again to adjourn House business to discuss “disturbances, hooliganism and thuggery that took place one week ago.” Again, the debate revolved around Matiba and other multiparty advocates in detention. He said that the “strategy” of the proponents was to “cause a general breakdown of law and order, so that in the ensuing confusion, people would then seize power.”
John Keen, Assistant Minister: “This (Kamukunji rally) was highly orchestrated and organised to overthrow the legally constituted government of this republic. A Cabinet has already been formed, a constitution drawn up. We say here that the Kenya government is extremely lenient because elsewhere, people who plot, or imagine, the overthrow of a legally constituted government are normally summarily executed by firing squad. We have just placed them in safe custody so that the public can be protected from their mischievous deeds and, maybe, when they reform they will be back to their wives. We saw in Sudan 90 people being executed. That has happened in many other African countries, but we have not executed anybody here and it is not our intention to do so. If one goes beyond reason, then, of course, he will be dealt with.”
Mr Keen then named the Matiba Cabinet as having consisted of Charles Rubia (Prime Minister), Jaramogi Odinga (Vice President), Dr Josephat Karanja (Foreign Affairs), Eliud Mwamunga (Health), Ngugi wa Thiongo (Universities and Colleges), GBM Kariuki (Attorney-General), Masinde Muliro (Minister of State), Kimani Ngumba (Commerce), Ibrahim Mwaruwa (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands) Kamau Kuria (Chief Justice), John Khaminwa (Deputy Public Prosecutor), Paul Muite (Head of Civil Service) and Gitobu Imanyara (Solicitor-General).
Others were George Anyona (Community Development), Bishop Henry Okullu (Culture and Religious Affairs), Luke Obok (Information) and Laban Kitele (Office of the Prime Minister).
Hon Members: "And who is the president?"
Keen: "The name of the President has not been mentioned and I will leave it to the wise judgement of this House to tell who would have taken the seat. These gentlemen are lucky that none of them has faced a firing squad so far."
Joseph Kamotho: "We have heard of the pseudo-cabinet of the crooks who have been undermining the authority of this country. The US Ambassador (Smith Hempstone) has demonstrated beyond any doubt that he is not a diplomat. The man is journalist who spends his time loitering around Nairobi and eating meat in Mathare. All those who have not been picked up should be brought to book so that everybody may know that the government of this country, under President Moi, is fully in control."
Francis ole Kaparo, Assistant Minister: "A lot of people have been talking about the rule of law, human rights, the Constitution, justice and so on. You cannot talk of justice in a vacuum. I read in one of the newspapers that the American embassy is very concerned about a few Kenyans who were detained. Why is it that two or three people are more valuable than 22 million Kenyans? The fact is this: Those people who were detained were under a mission of a particular embassy… The matatus which were burnt belonged to ordinary people. Mr Matiba and the rioters cannot pay. If Bishop (Henry) Okullu also wants to be detained, why not detain him? He has already committed so many crimes against this country. Put him in jail ndipo kama kondoo atazaa mbuzi, azae (put him inside like a goat."