Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mr Duale, you are NOT the government spokesman.

Is it not time that someone informed the Leader of the Majority Party in the National Assembly that he is not the official spokesman of the National Executive. That job is reserved for the spectacularly verbosely voluble Muthui Kariuki. The National Assembly, indeed Parliament, generally, is supposed to keep a watchful eye on the goings on in the National Executive to ensure that the peoples of Kenya are not getting ripped of or having their rights whittled down by an Executive that is used to getting its own way. Mr Duale, the Majority Leader, must, necessarily, start doing his job instead of playing the role of attack dog for the Executive. Indeed, it is a sentiment that must be shared with Prof Kithure Kindiki of the Senate, who recently declared in the presence of the Deputy President that the Jubilee coalition Members of Parliament were the "[Executive's] foot soldiers." How such a wrong-headed statement from a lawyer of no mean repute was made beggars belief.

March 2013 is well and truly behind us and the Executive is all but in place, bar the confirmation of Principal Secretaries. Therefore, there is no need for the Jubilee MPs to run interference for the Executive on purely technical issues; their job is to protect the political interests of the coalition and where necessary, this may involve fudging the line between purely technical and purely political, but not always. Mr Duale seems to think that every query made about the Executive is a political attack on the Executive and reacts accordingly. Quite often he is quite wrong.

Take for instance the question of whether the Deputy President fired the public officers in the Prime Minister's office when he took over the premises. It is not the business of the majority Leader to respond to the Parliamentary Question; it is for an official in the office of the deputy President to present a report to the relevant committee of the National Assembly. It is the National Assembly's job to decide whether the answer by the Deputy President is sufficient or not. That is what "oversight" means. While the Jubilee government may enjoy a majority in Parliament, its Members of Parliament are not officers in the National Executive. This message needs to be driven home to the likes of Mr Duale and Mr Kindiki.

Tyranny comes in many forms. For years, Moi's brand was described as benevolent, though every now and then certain harsh tactics were employed to silence criticism or defend the Executive from the onslaughts of pressure groups. Mwai Kibaki's was more subtle; he kept a studious silence as his foot-soldiers did the dirty work. Dr Chris Murungaru and John Michuki took the war to the Mungiki with a ferociousness that brought the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to Kenya to investigate. he published a scathing report which resonated with a majority of Kenyans and painted Mwai Kibaki's administration in the worst possible light.

Mr Duale risks becoming part of an even more subtle tyranny. His robust, mostly unwarranted, defense of the National Executive may be used a means for ensuring that the Executive remains unaccountable to the people that elected it or the people it is supposed to serve. If Mr Duale carries on as he is, then it may be pointless to ask why certain budgetary allocations are made at the expense of others; why the Executive spends tens of millions on private air travel instead of commercial flight; why certain legislative proposals are prioritised over others; why devolution is at risk; and so on and so forth. Parliament is supposed to be the first line of defense against the excesses of the Executive, whether by the national or county governments. It is time that the Majority Leader started leading his parliamentary troops in protecting the people from the excesses of their government.

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