Monday, April 09, 2018

A Kenyan politician

Individual parliamentarians have served their constituents well. Peter Kenneth led the Gatanga CDF committee to great heights in the 9th Parliament, so much so that he parlayed his CDF record into a damp squib of a presidential run. Ken Okoth has inspired the Kibra CDF committee to build the schools that Matiangi's and Amina Mohammed's education ministry isn't interested in building. Otiende Amollo has taken the plight of widows in his rural Rarieda so much to heart that he has successfully rallied friends and well-wishers to come together to build modest homes for some of them and to organise a few extra funds or the widows to start businesses with. This has earned him praise in some quarters, scorn in others, and confusion in different ones.

Kenyan commentators tend to obsess with labels and what those labels mean. For elected representatives, they insist that parliamentarians should only do what the Constitution says that they should: represent the interests of their constituents in Parliament; make legislation; and oversee the executive and judicial branches. Kenya is impossible to so neatly pigeonhole.

The broad outlines of public policies are to be seen in the laws that Parliament and county assemblies pass each year but that is not how policies are implemented, if they are implemented at all. Take affordable housing as a policy objective of Government and the Housing Act, Chapter 117 of the Laws of Kenya, is one of the instruments for the achievement of that policy goals, especially sections 6 and 7 dealing with the Housing Fund. Obviously, what the law intended and what the law has achieved have a great deal of light between them. 
Mr Amollo's efforts for the widows in his constituency is a harsh admission that he may perform his three official roles with great energy, but there are no guarantees that he or his colleagues will not be called to intervene directly on behalf of their constituents. This is to say that Mr Amollo is not necessarily wrong for doing what he is doing in Rarieda even if sometimes it may appear that he is less that 110% committed to parliamentary business.

Kenya's parliamentary tradition, though founded on those of the British system, are singular in their qualities. The majority party and the opposition only work in concert when it is an issue that affects the personal welfare of their members: salaries and remunerations, medical benefits, committee memberships, domestic aka Mombasa and foreign junkets. But hen it comes to major political and policy decisions, the ruling party rules alone while he opposition stares from the sidelines because, in this day and age, major political or policy decisions are code words for tender opportunities in which the interests of the people rarely form a major part of the ration for the decisions. Mr Amollo may or may not wish to reverse this odious trend; but in taking an active role in ameliorating the suffering of widows in Rarieda, I don't think he can be faulted for his charitable works at the expense of parliamentary business.

Since his appointment as a member of the Committee of Experts, Mr Amollo's public service has been largely flawless. He has thoughtfully considered what is best for the peoples of Kenya and shared his views with us in a language that was free from the usual histrionics of some of his more excitable colleagues. He may not have sponsored any legislative proposals yet but since law-making is not an individual sport, this is not a black mark on his record. Mr Amollo is a Kenyan politician in a Kenyan parliamentary tradition. He is doing the best he can in those circumstances. If the good people of Rarieda decide that his do-gooding is not for them, they can either recall him before the end of his term or elect someone else come the next general election.

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