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Meet tongue-tied MPs, who only speak at rallies, burials

Survey by ‘Mzalendo.com’ a stinging indictment of non-performing legislators, who grow cold feet once in the House as Muturi fires warning

Dinah Ondari @dinahondari

More than 14 per cent—over 50 of 349— of Members of the National Assembly have never uttered a word; not even attempted to make their maiden speech in the House since the inauguration of the 12th Parliament on September 13, last year.

Ironically, a survey by Mzalendo.com, an online platform that keeps tabs on performance of MPs in the House plenary, shows the mute legislators seem to find their voices once on public podiums where they are among the most vocal.

And while 70 per cent of the mute MPs are first-term members and assumed to be learning the Standing Orders,  eight months of learning may be too long a time for the waheshimiwas not to use the floor of the House. Yet they are paid by the taxpayers to represent them in the august House by, among other duties, articulating critical national and constituency issues.

Strangely, this crop of MPs instead find courage and vigour to address political rallies and funerals, where they make pronouncements without the rigours of debate.

And speaking on Saturday in Mombasa during a retreat with journalists, Speaker Justine Muturi confirmed some legislators were busy bragging of purported achievements in the House to their constituents yet the reality does not match the talk. Others, he pointed out, take credit for work done by other legislators.

“I was speaking to one young MP yesterday and I was not impressed. I told her that they should stop getting Kenyans excited out there. It puts me under pressure because I start receiving calls that I am sitting on some Bills which have not even been introduced,” said Muturi.

“You will even hear others telling their constituents they have passed very good bills in the House yet they do not even attend sessions to contribute to the legislations they are talking about,” he added.

National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai was equally concerned:“We see most of them speaking very well about issues in other forums but have failed to prosecute the same issues on the floor of the House,” he said.

Another senior official in charge of research and journal room at the Assembly,

Kipkemoi Arap Kirui,  also told the forum that several legislators had admitted to lack of capacity to debate bills and important motions. He said Parliament would soon roll out a programme to train those willing to utilise the facility.

The lack of capacity comes out as an excuse by members, given that all MPs were subjected to an induction programme at the beginning of their term.

“They are simply unable to cope. They say they cannot participate in debates because they fear being embarrassed,” said a Parliament official who did not want to be quoted exposing the MPs.

Interestingly, our source also revealed that some of the poor debaters have a penchant  for international trips which attract higher allowances.

According to Mzalendo.com those yet to speak in the House are Ernest Ogesi (Vihiga), Fatuma Gedi (Wajir), Ahmed Ibrahim (Wajir North), Mohammed Sheikh (Wajir South), Ahmed Kolosh (Wajir West), Lillian Cheptoo (West Pokot) Jacqueline Odao (nominated), Lydia Haika (Taita Taveta Women’s Rep), James Gichuhi (Tetu), Josephat Kabeabea (Tigania East) Lokiru Ali (Turkana East) and Odhiambo Karan (Ugenya).

Others are George Kariuki (Ndia), Charity Kathambi (Njoro) Joash Nyamoko (North Mugirango), Jerusha Momanyi (Nyamira county), Faith Wairimu (Nyandarua Women’s Rep), Lillian Gogo (Rangwe) Joseph Kabiyu (Mwea), Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon), Kalicha Gufu (Moyale), Pamela Odhiambo (Migori Women’s Rep), Kawira Mwangaza (Meru Women’s Rep), Kassim Tandaza (Matuga), Mary Wamaua (Maragua), Bashir Sheikh (Mandera North), Jonah Mburu (Lari), Joseph Tonui (Kuresoi), Irene Kasalu (Kitui Women’s Rep), Leonard Yegon (Konoin), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba).

The list also includes Fred Ouda (Kisumu Central) , Florence Koskei(Kericho), Hullary Kosgei (Kipkelion), John Wambugu (Kirinyaga Central), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret),Paul Kahindi (Kaloleni),Elsie Muhanda (Kakamega Women’s Rep), James Wainaina (Kabete), Rehema Dida (Isiolo Wome’s Rep), Said Bura (Galole), Joyce Korir (Bomet Women’s Rep), Gideon Mikutai (Chepalungu), Jane Jepkorir (Elgeyo Marakwet Women’s), Jane Wanjiku (Embu Women’s Rep), Alexander Kimutai (Emgwen),  Alfah Miruka (Bomachoge Chache) and Gladwell Cheruiyot (Baringo Women’s Rep).

Also on the list of poor debaters—those who have spoken less than three times in the House— is Esther Passaris (Nairobi Women’s), John Kiarie (Dagoreti South), Ali Wario (Garseni), Mercy Gakuya (Kasarani), Benjamin Taya (Kinango), Nimrod Mbai (Kitui East), Abdi Mude (Lafey), Samuel Gachobe (Subukia), Geoffrey Omuse (Teso South) among others. They have all spoken less than three times, with Passaris only giving her maiden speech a fortnight ago.

List of shame

Ironically, most Women’s Representatives, nicknamed Mama County by Kenyans, are in the list of shame, yet women face insurmountable challenges which should be articulated.

Recently, women resorted to street protests to raise critical issues, most recently being a demo to push for breastfeeding rights. The Women Reps’ voices, elected to represent women and push gender agenda, were conspicuously missing.

The Mzalendo.com survey also highlighted MPs who have performed impressively, including Kipipiri’s Amos Kimunya (has spoken 66 times) Wilberfoce Odhiambo (Funyula, 63 times) Hassan Halafo (Isiolo North, 56 times), Maoka Maore (Igembe North, 53 times) and Amin Ali (Laikipia East, 53 times).

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