Kenyan MPs Focused on Own Pay at Critical Time for Country

The Parliamentary pay fiasco is a stark reminder of how out of touch Kenya’s political classes can be with the needs of the general public, the wananchi. Corporate CEOs may get “plus ups” in their compensation packages to pay for their taxes, but the notion that MPs in Kenya should be taxed fully on their compensation only if they get more pay, so as to make more than Members of Congress in the U.S. or almost any other legislators in the world, is guaranteed to be offensive to most Kenyans.

While Parliament as an institution does seem to have been making progress in its functioning, but it still has a long way to go. As I have written before, one of the problems is that there are a fair number of MPs who likely did not legitimately win their elections based on the problems shown by the Kreigler Report looking at the last election. And many of the people in the previous Parliament that had a record of serious public service and support for reform were defeated for re-election, in many cases at the party primary level.

We have heard rumors and discussion of bribery issues in parliament irrespective of the high pay–what are Kenyan taxpayers getting for their money?

A positive aspect to this is that it may help unite those who are frustrated by poor governance and selfishness by the political classes. The momentum from protesting this foolishness may help pass the constitutional referendum by prioritizing voters attention on the many positive aspects of the draft constitution instead of on the “contentious provisions” that have seemed to be attracting disproportionate energy.


Vote Buying and Women Candidates in Kenya

Following up on my last post noting the FRIDE study assessing democracy assistance in Kenya, here is a paragraph from a paper I drafted for the “briefing book” for our IRI 2007 election observation delegates.  This is an example of the challenges faced in seeking to bolster female candidates while staying in graces with the powers that be:

While we at IRI try to train women candidates to do the most that they can with the least resources, and to find non-traditional sources of funds, the reality is that Kenyan political culture places heavy financial demands on those seeking office—from the fact that vote buying is extremely common, accepted and expected, to the fact that there is very little “free” or “earned” media available for races below the presidential level.  Most women running for parliament will face daunting challenges financially.   [On vote buying, 20% in our IRI/USAID poll admitted accepting money on this basis—I suspect the real number is significantly higher.   A senior minister in government who has done training for IRI in the past explained unashamedly how in this year’s campaign he will spend twice what he has in the past, but will use his established practice of keeping crisp flat bills in denominations of 50, 100 and 200 KSh in his suit pockets as he campaigns, to be distributed based on the socio-economic and gender status of the potential voter.]

An interesting academic inquiry into vote buying in Kenya is posted here at the Working Group for African Political Economy.

Marende praised by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, meeting with Biden; South Mugirango by-election this week

Kenyan Speaker of Parliament Kenneth Marende seems to be getting an increased international profile. Navanethem Pillay, UN Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Marende on Monday, expressing concern regarding progress on prosecution of suspects for post election violence. According to the Standard she singled out Marende for praise, “saying he had made immense contribution in stabilising the country through some historic rulings and the manner he handled issues in Parliament”.

U.S. Vice President Biden will call on Marende Tuesday as well, along with his meeting with President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga.

Interestingly, Marende says that Parliament “would easily pass” legislation to provide for a “local tribunal” to try election violence cases under Kenyan criminal law “if the ICC acted swiftly by taking away key perpetrators of the violence”.

Biden will leave Thursday morning, the day of the South Mugirango by-election to fill the seat vacated by a successful election petition against Omingo Magara, originally of ODM. As it stands the race is hot, with Raila Odinga campaigning for the substitute ODM nominee, Ibrahim Ochoi, William Ruto campaigning for Magara running as a PDP nominee and heavyweights in PNU affiliates split among Magara and other candidates.

Before new World Bank Loan announcement Kenyan Parliament Grills Asst Minister over issue of whether the gov’t is paying costs to the benefit of private shareholders of Kenya Power & Light

From the Official Actions of the Parliament, April 14, 2010 (The Hansard)

Mr. Washiali: Mr. Speaker, Sir, I beg to ask the Minister for Energy, the following
Question by Private Notice.
(a) What is the relationship between Kenya Power and Lighting Company
(KPLC) and Rural Electricity Authority (REA)?
(b) How much money has the Ministry paid to KPLC through the REA since its inception
to date?
(b) Could the Minister also provide details of the amount paid as dividend to the major
shareholders of KPLC since its privatization?
Continue reading

Updated: Starehe Recount Concludes–sitting MP Bishop Wanjiru trails 49,306 to 34,871

“MP Falls Short in Recount” from the Saturday Nation

In other words, this race was not close based on ballots cast if the recount is anywhere near accurate. (Update: Will have to look into this further to have an educated opinion about whether that is the case.) Which of course doesn’t touch the other problems of “2 million dead voters” and such.

The next step is to return to the court that ordered the recount.

The candidate receiving the most votes in the recount, then-MP Maina Kamanda, running for re-election on the PNU side, asserts that he lost through “falsification of Form 16A”. This would certainly seem to be an obvious explanation–and the one that would be accord with the evidence that has come to light in regard to the Presidential election and in other constituencies.

I remember Ambassador Ranneberger explaining to us all that recounts were “impossible” when the EU and others called for them at the beginning of 2008.

An important thing to note here is that a recount could have cost various ODM politicians their parliamentary seats, just as it might have cost Kibaki the presidency. Everyone who was tapped as a winner by the ECK by the evening of Dec. 30, 2007 benefited in part at least from leaving the election results as they were claimed to be by the ECK and negotiating among themselves from there. The real losers being of course the voters.

Marende Deserves Credit in Kenyan Constitutional Reform Process

I shouldn’t neglect to recognize the significance of the fact that the new draft constitution was presented, debated and voted on in Parliament fully in compliance with the legislation establishing the process. The draft was ultimately passed with the outstanding issues and arguments about the substance of the constitution rather than the process in passing it.

Parliament is fractious, and there were ethnic as well as party divisions cutting across various issues regarding a new constitution. Shepherding the process to conclusion on schedule without major procedural controversy seems to me to be a real accomplishment for Speaker Marende. He really has been Kenya’s Man of the Hour as reflected in his dual roles as Speaker and as leader of government business in Parliament–a role he took on to prevent gridlock when the coalition government could not agree on a leader.

Draft Constitution going to Referendum without amendments

Not surprisingly, Parliament reached agreement on and passed none of the proposed amendments to the draft constitution during the days provided by the authorizing legislation, so the current draft will go to a vote as is. It would seem that many members are significantly disappointed in some or many respects in the details of the document.

How hard will the various major players and prospective presidential candidates work to support passage? Which will work against it–publicly or privately?

Will the voter registration be comprehensive and credible? Will the votes be counted fairly? What will be the involvement of donors in the campaign?

Kenyan Constitutional Review–Debate Opens Tuesday Amid Wrangling

A nutshell:

Lots of daily ins and outs and ups and downs, with actual debate and, probably more importantly at present, lots of political posturing, on the draft revised Constitution.

The Coalition “partners”, ODM and PNU, have gelled into a split: ODM supports passage by Parliament of the draft in its current form; PNU wants to do amendments in Parliament before final passage. Debate opens Tuesday and a final vote is due by March 31.

PNU lost a procedural vote Thursday (25-23, or 48 voting out of 212 Members) to adjourn for Parliament to go on retreat to Lake Naivasha to further review and discuss possible amendments, etc.

Former (“retired”) President Moi says he will campaign against draft without changes. Some ODM MPs from the Rift Valley aligned with William Ruto voted with the PNU side to adjourn for the retreat.

Kenyan Parliament breaks deadlock–ODM drops Ruto from key Committee

“Breaking News” story from the Daily Nation. In a nutshell it would seem that PM Odinga was able to assert leadership within ODM in the face of opposition from Ruto and Balala, and the Parliament overall broke a deadlock and is position now to take up substantive business, to the extent that it choses.

Going forward, it seems hard not to expect Ruto to formally break from ODM but probably not during this session of Parliament. Parliament will again be faced with a “local tribunal” bill on the post-election violence, but I would think it is unlikely to move. While the ICC awaits further submission from Ocampo early next month to explain why the Court should authorize an investigation of key suspects, visions of complete immunity must be dancing in the heads of the perpetrators.

Bishop Tutu has come out against Kiplagat on the Truth Commission, as the leader of a group of nine former heads of such groups, saying they are seriously troubled by a range of allegations against the Ambassador. Perhaps replacing him would provide “meat” to those who care about human rights, the ICC will pass, and the VP and others who have called for the Commission approach in lieu of legal action can have their day, and the suspects can focus more comfortably on the next election.

Kenyan Parliament Opens Tuesday

The opening of Parliament promises to showcase the political wrangling toward 2012, as well as the key thing that Members seem to be fully dependable on: salary and expense increases. The most important business, consideration of a new constitution, will kick off with the delivery of the latest “harmonized draft” from the Committee of Experts to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution on Wednesday, with the Committee to then table the draft on the 25th for 30 days of debate.

The opening ceremony will feature the opportunity for President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga to be in the same room at the same time under strained circumstances–a bit of a reprise of the opening of the first session of this 10th Parliament back in 2008. Of course, at that time Odinga was the leader of ODM as the majority party that proceeded to elect the Speaker in during the contested post-election period, whereas he is now Kibaki’s “partner” in the Grand Coalition, and Prime Minister, at least on paper.

PNU stalwarts seek to challenge ODM by moving to change house rules to provide to the President the unilateral power to appoint the leader of government business, with the intent that Kibaki would then appoint VP Kalonzo Musoyka, the erstwhile leader of the ODM-K. See my post with the choice words Kalonzo had for the performance of Kibaki when he was running for the ODM nomination back in the summer of 2007. This will of course raise the question of whether Agriculture Minister Ruto, having been “suspended” by Prime Minister Odinga and “unsuspended” by President Kibaki remains in a meaningful sense aligned with ODM, of which he holds a deputy position, or sides with Kalonzo and Uhuru Kenyatta and others on the PNU side of the “Grand Coaliton”. A move to add to the unilateral powers of the Presidency, in regard to the Parliament, is also an interesting element in terms of what Kenyans might expect in regard to a new constitution.

Parliament is also to take up the matter of finally appointing a new head of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission in the face of renewed public and diplomatic pressure on corruption.

Here are the stories from the government’s KBC, the Daily Nation, and the Standard.