Land of anarchy as MPs break laws at will

Monday May 27 2019

 State of the Nation address

MPs and senators converge in Parliament for the State of the Nation address by President Uhuru Kenyatta on April 4, 2019. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

KENNEDY KIMANTHI
By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
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Parliament has been rocked by an integrity crisis as legislators continue to battle damning charges in court, shining a powerful spotlight on the objective and purpose of Chapter Six of the Constitution and the Leadership and Integrity Act.

SERIOUS CRIMES

Although not all members of the National Assembly or Senate are culpable, there is a growing list of MPs on the wrong side of the law struggling to clear their names from charges ranging from fraud and forgery to hate speech, corruption and incitement to violence.

Instructively, the conduct of MPs is regulated by various laws which seek to uphold the dignity of their office and facilitate the smooth execution of the House’s mandate.

These include the Constitution, the Leadership and Integrity Act, the Public Officer Ethics Act and the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act.

Laws governing the conduct of members within the precincts of Parliament include the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act 2017, the Speaker’s Rules and the National Assembly Standing Orders.

At least 15 legislators in the National Assembly and the Senate have been charged in court for serious criminal offences while many others, who are part of parliamentary committees, have been accused of bribery and extortion are under suspicion for graft.

Cases against the members of the 12th Parliament are active in courts countrywide and range from corruption allegations, breach of the Constitution and the Ethics and Integrity Act 2012, while others are facing charges of incitement to violence and subversion of the law.

Transparency International (TI) Kenya executive director Samuel Kimeu says that the law compels every person to obey and abide by the Constitution and national values.

But little effort has been made to realise the aspirations of the Constitution as concerns leadership and integrity.

Mr Kimeu says that the disparity of standards applied to serving and prospective officers as far as leadership and integrity are concerned should be remedied.

“Until we find a way for state officers to lose benefits and stature when charged in court, we may not make much progress,” Mr Kimeu told Nation.

INTEGRITY ACT

According to National Council of Churches of Kenya General Secretary Peter Karanja, while the august House does not deserve blanket condemnation, problems started when a rogue legislature and selfish politicians enacted laws that watered down the requirements of Chapter 6 of the Constitution.

Passage of the Leadership and Integrity Act, he says, failed to capture the aspirations of Kenyans as expressed in Chapter 6 of the Constitution.

The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) even challenged the constitutionality of the Act as anticipated by Article 80 regarding legislation on leadership.

Canon Karanja says state officers must pay regard to the competence, integrity and suitability of holding office and that only major institutional reforms would help.

“We need a very strong integrity law. MPs have sway because they make the laws. The era of such legislators with integrity issues hiding under the cloak of parliamentary immunity and protection should end,” he said.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi was unavailable when we reached out for comment.

However, the multiplicity and duplication of various provisions and statutes that seek to regulate the conduct of MPs are thought to have unintended consequence of creating uncertainty as to which relevant law is applicable in a particular set of circumstances.

According to a fact sheet published by the National Assembly last year, there is an overlap between the provisions of the Parliamentary (Powers and Privileges) Act 2017, the Public Officer Act and the Leadership and Integrity Act.

ASSAULT

“There is therefore need to bring harmony by collapsing the various regimes on leadership and integrity so as to eliminate the existing overlap,” the document says.

Today, Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria is set to be charged with assault, incitement, resisting arrest and causing disturbance at a police station.

Mr Gikaria was arrested last Saturday at Pipeline in Nakuru following a land-grabbing fracas. Police said the MP slapped a deputy sub-county police commander during the incident, forcing other officers to arrest him.

In January 28, the MP was arraigned on eight counts of land fraud.

Arrested and questioned for hours, Mr Gikaria was accused of forging land documents and grabbing parcels of land within Nakuru County between August 28 and December 18, 2007.

On June 25, 2018, Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama appeared before a Nairobi anti-corruption court on charges of conspiring to defraud Mr Ahmed Muhammad a of land in Nakuru Municipality in August 2015 and misleading Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) investigators.

He denied the charges before Chief Magistrate Douglas Ogoti and was released on a Sh1 million bail with an alternative bond of Sh2 million and a surety of a similar amount.

Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri on April 8, 2016, was arrested for assaulting a traffic police woman in Nakuru Town.

He was held at Nakuru Central Police Station before being charged at a Nakuru court where he denied the charges.

MALICIOUS DAMAGE

After months of court hearings, the matter was settled privately. Bobasi MP Innocent Obiri is still battling a case at the Kisii Law Courts in which he was charged with breach of peace.

Mr Obiri was arrested last May and charged alongside his bodyguard Charles Nyakweba, who was accused of assault and malicious damage to property. They both denied the charges and were released on cash bail of Sh100,000 each or a bond of Sh200,000.

Last year, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi was sentenced to four years in prison with an alternative fine of Sh1 million after he was found guilty of assaulting two police officers during ODM party nominations in April 2017. Mr Mwinyi paid the Sh1million and secured his freedom.

Lugari MP Ayub Savula is facing charges of fraudulently obtaining Sh122 million from the Government Advertising Agency (GAA). Last year, Embakasi North MP James Gakuya was charged, jointly with 12 others, with fraudulent acquisition of Sh39,858,050 National Government Constituency Development Fund money in fictitious road construction contracts.

That same month, Sirisia MP John Waluke was arrested over corruption allegations and a Nairobi court has ruled that he has a case to answer. In February 2018, Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter and two businessmen were charged with multiple counts related to forgery of Sh633 million Treasury Bills.

Mwingi Central MP Gideon Mulyungi, a former principal secretary, was in October last year charged with hate speech directed at President Uhuru Kenyatta. He was released on a Sh200,000 bail.

Additional reporting by Eric Matara, Mohamed Ahmed, Benson Amadala, Ruth Mbula and Rushdie Oudia