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MPs for sale? A story as old as Kenya

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KAMAU NGOTHO

By KAMAU NGOTHO
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As campaigns heated up in the recent Kibra by-election, I called a mechanic friend on Lang’ata Road who lives in Kibra to ask him whether widespread reports of voter bribery in the area were true.

“Why get it on hearsay?” he asked me. “Just come here in the evening and I’ll take you to three places where money is changing hands.”

Then early last week, I called Nominated MP Maina Kamanda to ask him to elaborate on his weekend remarks that MPs are trooping to a “hotel” in Karen to be instructed on how to sabotage the BBI report.

He replied in surprise: “Kamau, you must be the only journalist in town not aware of a hotel in Karen where MPs go for free lunch!”

Lunches — free or otherwise — aside, the phenomena of MPs for sale has shadowed Kenya’s “House of the Honourables” right from the First Parliament (1963 -1969) to the current 12th Parliament (2017- 2022).

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In the 140 member First Parliament, there existed two hostile camps. One aligned to Cabinet minister Tom Mboya and one to Vice President Jaramogi Odinga.

The Mboya camp was actually the government side but President Jomo Kenyatta tried as much to give a facade of neutrality as the Head of State.

Though a one-party — Kanu — the House was sharply divided along ideological lines in those days of East-West Cold War.

At the outset, each side could count on up to 40 loyalist MPs.

With 80 already taken, the question was who would “buy” the highest number from the “neutral” 60 should push come to shove.

The stakes were high because the Constitution at the time stated that in the event of a vacancy arising in the presidency, Parliament would pick the acting president for the remainder of the term of the incumbent.

The talk in Parliament and outside was which of the MPs was paid in “red quid”, meaning they were in the payroll of Mr Odinga, who had financial support of the Russians and the Chinese, or who was paid in green buck (dollars), meaning in Mboya’s payroll, the darling of the Americans.

At one point, Home Affairs minister Daniel arap Moi publicly alleged that Odinga had received from his communist friends the equivalent of one million dollars to buy MPs to pass a vote of no confidence in Kenyatta’s government.

He used it as an excuse to expel from the country over a dozen diplomats and journalists from the eastern bloc countries.

In the wake of the bombshell from Moi, 15 MPs from the “neutral” 60 came together in an informal outfit they called the Kenya Group and vowed to always vote with the Kenyatta/Mboya loyalists. Soon they were joined by another 25.

Kenyatta/Mboya side now could count on at least 80 out of 140 MPs, which was double the number in Odinga’s command, with 20 still up for grabs.

A chance for a show of might came when the Odinga-leaning secretary of the Kanu parliamentary group, Pio Gama Pinto, was assassinated.

When Parliament sat to vote for his replacement, Mboya’s candidate won with 71 votes against 34 for Odinga’s choice.

Having smelled blood, the Mboya camp went for the kill, this time voting out Odinga allies from leadership of all parliamentary committees as well as installing their men as chief whip and deputy.

Outnumbered and pushed to the wall, Odinga gave up. He quit Kanu to form his own party, on whose ticket he returned to Parliament.

With the Odinga threat vanquished, the coalition that brought him to his knees split right down the middle, within Kanu and in Parliament.

There came Kanu “A”, or what was called the Kiambu Mafia, and Mboya’s Kanu “B”.

At stake was the question of Kenyatta succession. Suspecting Mboya had the numbers to upset the apple cart in Parliament, the Kiambu Mafia bulldozed a constitutional amendment to remove the provision that Parliament picks the acting president in the event of a vacancy, and replaced it with one that it is the vice president to act for 90 days.

Evidence of the vicious wars between the two camps was to emerge from a seven-page letter Mboya wrote to his American friend, one William Scheinman, minutes before he was shot dead.

In the letter, he appealed for funds to help him tackle his political adversaries who, he wrote, were hell-bent to ensure his allies in Kanu and Parliament were routed in the scheduled party and parliamentary polls.

Too late though, because it turned out that by then, Mboya’s enemies had decided to sort him out through the bullet, not the ballot.

Talk of “bought MPs” would return in the JM Kariuki saga.

In the weeks before he was found murdered, rumours were all over the place that the MP had received huge amounts of money from unnamed foreigners to buy MPs to pass a motion of no confidence in Kenyatta’s government.

Other variants of it had it that JM’s huge slush fund was intended to buy MPs and ensure he had enough numbers to stop Vice President Moi from succeeding Kenyatta when the time came.

But, like with Mboya, it is the bullet not the ballot that settled the JM matter.

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After the JM murder, the battle for Kenyatta succession was fully enjoined.

In came the Change-the-Constitution Group, a grouping of MPs who embarked on countrywide rowdy rallies to campaign for removal of the constitutional clause that stipulated the vice president act for 90 days in the event of a vacancy arising in the presidency. There was no guessing who the target was.

But Moi’s allies weren’t sleeping on the job, either.

Word spread that Parliament toilets had been converted to banking halls as money changed hands to buy MPs to shoot down the Change-the-Constitution bid should it come to Parliament in form of a motion.

The “money in toilets” operation apparently gained traction when indeed 98 in the 158 member House called a press conference at Parliament buildings and released a signed statement to the effect that they were opposed to the anti-Moi bid and would shoot it down if it came to the House.

The next talk of “bought MPs” would come in the Moi era.

Early in his presidency, two camps came up in Parliament, one leaning towards Vice President Mwai Kibaki and the other towards Attorney General Charles Njonjo.

At one time, Njonjo publicly alleged that a senior politician (read Kibaki) had bought a group of MPs and instructed them to ignore the President’s clarion call that Kenyans follow his Nyayo (footsteps).

Kibaki angrily hit back that nobody “had a Nyayo-meter to measure who was more Nyayo than the other”.

Next, the shoe was on the other foot. President Moi alleged at a public rally in Kisii that a prominent politician was msaliti (traitor), working at the behest of unnamed foreigners to overthrow his government.

A few weeks later, Njonjo was named in Parliament as the said traitor. Moi sacked him and appointed a judicial commission of inquiry to probe him.

During the commission hearings, an MP testified that Njonjo had summoned him to his office to ask him why he never went for “harambee money” from him (Njonjo) when every other MP was doing so.

He alleged that Njonjo had boasted to him that he had enough numbers in Parliament and would take over the government when the time came.

President Moi called a snap General Election a year ahead of schedule where all MPs deemed to have been on Njonjo’s “payroll” were voted out — fairly or through foul play.

Kibaki was next in the guillotine. A grouping of Cabinet ministers and MPs emerged to stage guerrilla attacks on him. They had deep pockets and enjoyed State patronage.

It was not hard to guess who was paying the piper in the anti-Kibaki parade.

At one point the VP described his political adversaries as “political tourists on a sponsored junket”.

Whoever was the sponsor, he was six-packed indeed, because all MPs suspected to be sympathetic to the VP were rigged out in the infamous queue-voting General Election of 1988, and Kibaki demoted to an ordinary Cabinet minister.

The next talk of “bought MPs” would come with the return of a multiparty parliament in 1993.

Determined to ensure Kanu remained in power for as long as possible, the State machinery went out of its way to “buy” opposition MPs who would defect and seek re-election through the ruling party. The defecting process was christened “ugali-eating”.

So effective was the “ugali-eating” by the opposition that Moi had such an easy time holding his own in the 10 years he ruled in a multiparty setting.

A most horrible buy-out in the multiparty era under Moi was when chief architect of the Goldenberg heist, Kamlesh Pattni, bribed the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to “clear” him of any wrongdoing, and recommend he be paid more money on top of the billions he had stolen!

Talk of buying politicians surfaced only once during the Kibaki presidency when a former PS for Ethics in his government, John Githongo, alleged that a Cabinet minister had approached him with a veiled threat that he go slow on Anglo-leasing scandal because “it is through such schemes” that the Kibaki administration would get slush funds to “buy” support in a hostile parliament, and at the Bomas constitution-making conference.

However, by and large, Kibaki never believed in handouts for whatever cause.

In the first UhuRuto Parliament, talk of bought MPs was mainly confined to Parliament, where MPs retained the long tradition of converting committee sessions into extortion rings. That is the position to this day.

The talk of “Hotel” Karen first surfaced during 2017 Jubilee Party nominations when allegations were made that a line-up of candidates was trooping there to lay strategy and get facilitation to rig the party nominations, especially in Nairobi and Mount Kenya region.

Then last year came the talk that MPs were queuing at the said “Hotel” Karen to collect “harambee money”.

I remember some wag commenting in a TV talk show that over 90 per cent of the money donated at fundraisers attended by a group called Tangatanga and another called Inua Mama always comes from one source — “Hotel” Karen.

Postscript: Since bribery is so ingrained in the Kenyan DNA and such a lucrative going concern, why not consider legalising it, but tax it at 50 per cent of the gross amount?

Shouldn’t that have been included in the BBI recommendations?

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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