By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 14 October 2012
President Kibaki has declined to sign into law a Bill
that, among other things, sought to award members of parliament a
“winding up allowance” of close to Sh10 million each. This would
have cost the exchequer upwards of two billion shillings at a time the
government was adamant that there isn’t enough money to pay teachers,
lecturers and other public sector workers demanding a pay rise.
show of insensitivity only goes to demonstrate the inaccuracy of the
belief that one should go to parliament with the intention to serve the
country, rather than to enrich oneself. In Kenya, parliament has
become one of the ways an individual can say goodbye to poverty without
too much trouble.
To cure this malady, it may be worthwhile considering
paying MPs a salary based on the average income of the citizen. This
way, they may become more likely to support legislation that improves
the average income of Kenyans through sound economic policy and prudent
management of available resources.
Alternatively, their pay should
be pegged on their income immediately prior to their election or that
of someone with their qualifications and experience in the public
service. This will ensure that they get remuneration commensurate
with whatever they would be getting were they in other areas of the
public service, eliminating parliament’s current reputation as a cash
The President’s argument that he rejected the Bill due to its unconstitutionality also raises interesting possibilities. Article
2 of the constitution proclaims the supremacy of the constitution, and
provides that any law that is inconsistent with constitutional
provisions is a nullity to the extent of the inconsistency.
therefore, beats reason why the executive arm of government found it
necessary to send back the Bill to an avaricious bunch in parliament who
will, in all probability, find ways to get it enacted anyway. In
my opinion, President Kibaki should just have assented to the Bill and
then refused to implement the unconstitutional sections.
constitution makes it the duty of every citizen to protect its
integrity, and the President could have argued that implementing an
unconstitutional law would expose him to the danger of impeachment and
possible prosecution now or in the future.
Interestingly, it has
been argued that the golden handshake provision was just a red herring,
and the MPs never intended to get it passed in the first place. Some
commentators claim that perhaps their key intention was to blind the
public to the change in the elections law making it easier for them to
defect from their political parties as close as two months to the
From where I sit, it is difficult to believe
this argument given the sneaky manner they passed the amendment. It was
not on the order paper, and it was passed without debate at night when
very few Kenyans were paying attention. They wanted it badly, and they
hoped that Kenyans would not notice.
It is necessary for Kenyans
to institute a process by which the legality of the many self-serving
laws our MPs have recently been making can be examined.
system of government, any combination of judicial, legislative and
executive powers in the same person or institution is a recipe for a
dangerous plutocracy over which the citizen would have absolutely no
Dr Atwoli is secretary, Kenya Psychiatric
Association, and senior lecturer, Moi University School of Medicine.
firstname.lastname@example.org; twitter @LukoyeAtwoli