Authors: Roselyne Obala and Moses Nyamori
AfricaPress-Kenya: Arrests of three senators yesterday morning triggered high-octane political exchanges, forcing the House to adjourn.
The Senate was meeting for the ninth time to try and unlock the revenue sharing stalemate that has turned ugly, with reports of State intimidation against lawmakers opposed to it.
The House united in castigating the security bosses for the harassment of Senators Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Christopher Langat (Bomet) and Steve Lelegwe (Samburu), who were picked up from their homes after a night of drama and standoff on the eve of the crucial vote.
Speaker Ken Lusaka bowed to pressure from legislators demanding deferment of the order until their colleagues were allowed to participate in the revenue debate.
Consequently, Lusaka ordered for the appearance of top security chiefs before the Security Committee to shed light on the arrests as sought by senators before they could proceed with the business of the day.
Earlier, speaker after speaker piled pressure on Lusaka to exercise his discretion in the Standing Orders and the Constitution to protect the integrity of the House from external pressure and guarantee the safety of the senators.
In unity of purpose, the charged debate saw senators recall past harassment and intimidation meted against politicians, some dying under mysterious circumstances, and vowed to protect their own.
“I will plead with you Speaker to use the authority of this House that in the next hour, the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his Principal Secretary Kibicho Karanja, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai, Attorney General Kihara Karuiki and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti should appear before the Security Committee.
Then the Security Committee should report to us at 2.30pm. Of course, if there’s no report to give because somebody has not turned up then we know what to do,” said Minority Leader James Orengo.
Orengo had received his fair share of criticism alongside his Majority counterpart Samuel Poghisio, Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata and the Speaker to rise to the occasion and show leadership.
“I was elected in this Senate because one person who was a member of this Senate was found dead in his bed, Senator Mutula Kilonzo, my dad…and if it is not Senator Malala or Lelegwe it’s going to be you or me,” cautioned Minority Whip Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr.
The Makueni Senator added: “When did this become a police State? Lelegwe was arrested on his way to the Senate and is being taken to Maralal, Samburu County. He could be found in Ngong Forest.
They could inject him with something and kill him slowly.” Kilonzo Jnr moved the House when he talked about his father’s death under unclear circumstances. “I have seen the pain of death, I have smelled death.
I have seen what happens when somebody gives you poison. You bleed and bleed like my father did. May it not happen to another person,” said Kilonzo Jnr. Senator Okong’o Omogeni said he was not scared of a government that takes bodies. “I only fear God who takes the soul.”
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja recounted his ordeal weeks ago, saying if action was taken, they would not be having challenges now.
“A few weeks ago when I raised concerns about my own security, I think members didn’t take it seriously, especially the leadership. This morning I have seen the exact same vehicle trailing me and the same officers at Dr Langat’s residence,” said Sakaja.
Senator Millicent Omanga said: “As a mother and a wife, I cannot imagine what the wives and children of the three senators are going through.”
Senator Kipchumba Murkomen reminded Orengo of his past warning that revolutions eat their own children and affirmed he has been devoured and thrown to the backbench.
“The integrity and independence of Parliament is on trial. It is your choice this morning Mr Speaker, whether you are going to be subservient to the authorities that want to undermine the powers and the constitutional authority of this House,” said Murkomen.
But Orengo responded: “When I said revolutions eat their own people I was not excluding myself. I know that time will come and I know how to deal with it.” Senator Enock Wambua said what was happening was an archaic attempt to rig the vote before it was taken.
“The situation that we are facing today is that we have a government that is not just eating its children, but a government that has not seen any child that it doesn’t want to eat,” Wambua said.
Senator Rose Nyamunga said: “I think it should be very clear to this House that incitement, drama and callousness will never take the nation anywhere.”
Senator Susan Kihika said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. I believe it is important that our colleagues’ whereabouts are established.”