Uhuru's 'Is It Fair' Speech Ignites Debate

  • President Uhuru Kenyatta speaks during Jamhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo Stadium on Thursday, December 12, 2019. File
  • President Uhuru Kenyatta's speech during Jamhuri Day celebrations has ignited a debate on various issues pertaining to conflict of interest.

    On Thursday, December 12, Kenyatta issued a stern warning to legislators who have in earlier instances represented accused persons in court. This is after Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and his Makueni counterpart Mutula Kilonzo represented Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko in court on Monday, December 9.

    “I have ordered the attorney general to move to Parliament and present the law on conflict of interest that intends to curtail public workers from attending to other private duties that would affect their service provision. This law has gone through consultations,” remarked president Kenyatta.

    Citizen TV's News Gang, on Thursday, December 12, discussed the issue in detail, breaking down Kenyatta's speech on the current bone of contention. 

    Citizen TV presenters, (from left) Joe Ageyo, Linus Kaikai, Jamila Mohamed and Francis Gachuri. On Thursday, December 12, Ageyo, Kaikai and Gachuri debated on President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jamhuri Day speech.
    Citizen TV presenters, (from left) Joe Ageyo, Linus Kaikai, Jamila Mohamed and Francis Gachuri. On Thursday, December 12, Ageyo, Kaikai and Gachuri debated on President Uhuru Kenyatta's Jamhuri Day speech.

    Citizen TV's Director of Strategy and Innovation Linus Kaikai argued that the issue has been around since 1971, when the Public Service Structure and Remuneration Commission (Ndegwa Commission) recommended that civil servants should be allowed to participate in private business as long as they exercised ethics and professionalism.

    The recommendations, however, are what Kenyatta wants to be scrapped off through the BBI report. 

    "Whether you see it from the angle of Sonko's case, I think the aggregate lessons for politicians is the selective application of the constitution and the law does not work. Somehow it catches up with you. Kenyatta will find himself in a very difficult spot. He has opened a pandora's box with this issue.

    "Questions are already rising on whether Uhuru himself has lived with that issue.  Politicians will put him on the spot over what the political class has delved in since long ago," Kaikai argued.

    Francis Gachuri wondered how the legislators would approach the issue when it is tabled in the National Assembly and the Senate, as they have the power to pass it or shoot it down.

    "The legislation will still go to Parliament to meet the same people who are accused of conflict of interest. They will have to decide whether to make the law or not.  Then there will be a conflict of interest in making laws that affect them.

    "Legislators will tell you that they have been called to 10, 000 harambees where they donate almost Ksh 10,000, that's almost Ksh1 million at the very end of it.  Where do they get such an amount of money out of their earnings if they are not allowed to participate in private businesses?" Gachuri wondered. 

    Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko (left) at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on Monday, December 9, 2019, with his barrage of lawyers
    Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko (right) at Milimani Law Courts in Nairobi on Monday, December 9, 2019, with his barrage of lawyers

    He further recalled that the issue also roped in Kenyatta himself, as Murkomen was part of his legal team in the contentious 2017 Supreme Court battle against ODM leader Raila Odinga. He further pointed out how Siaya Senator James Orengo represented Busia Governor Sospeter Ojamong in a graft case as well Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu.

    Joe Ageyo, on his part, wondered how the legislators would react if Sonko appeared before a Senate committee on any matter whatsoever. Take for example, if an impeachment motion is tabled against the governor.

    "One can say that these are the very same guys who sit in committees which Sonko may appear before. What are the two legislators going to do yet they defended him in court?" Ageyo wondered. 

    On social media, economist David Ndii also weighed in on the matter, arguing that Kenyatta himself was embroiled in the issue.

    "Uhuru Kenyatta talking about conflict of interest is like that MP who went to a public meeting on illicit brews while drunk," Ndii opined.