News 2008


MPs bury differences in House to get peace

February 13, 2008


By Patrick Wachira

Hostility and suspicion gave way to camaraderie as MPs from across the political divide crossed the floor and mingled on both sides of the Old Chamber of Parliament for the Speaker’s Kamukunji.

Exhibiting goodwill and harmony that has been rare among them in recent times, the MPs sat indiscriminately and mixed on the benches, fitting into the special occasion that called for them to chart a common course.

For the entire duration of the Speaker’s Kamukunji on Tuesday, there was absolutely no evidence that just a few weeks ago, the MPs viewed each other with disdain and open hostility.

The MPs started trickling into the chamber as early as 9am. Some arrived in twos or threes, oblivious of the clicking cameras and curious journalists keen to note sworn-enemies-turned-cronies.

Just before the deliberations started at 10.17am, the MPs mingled and exchanged pleasantries among themselves, exhibiting rare bonhomie, which looked distant behaviour from the shouting matches of the day they elected the Speaker.

Indeed, as the MPs sat and listened with rapt attention to the Speaker, Dr Kofi Annan and other speakers, it was heartening to see Pick boss, Mr John Harun Mwau, he of the "Think, Work and Grow Rich" slogan, sitting on the same bench with Mr James Magara, Mr Dalmas Otieno, Mr Mohamed Kuti and Mr Otieno Kajwang’.

Also, it was a curious mix as Mr Wycliffe Oparanya sat next to Vice-President, Mr Kalonzo Musyoka, Foreign Affairs minister, Mr Moses Wetangula and former Internal Security minister, Mr John Michuki, listening to the speakers for the day, totally oblivious of the severe hostility that may have characterised their relations just weeks ago.

Indeed, one would have been forgiven to think that their eyes were deceiving them as they espied ambassador Mohammed Affey sitting on the same bench as former Vice-President, Prof George Saitoti, and the comical MP, Mr Wakoli Bifwoli.

To extend this newly found reconciliation, this same show of companionship was repeated when the MPs went to have refreshments at the four open tents where parliamentary canteen staff served fruit juice and other snacks.

The MPs made small talk and, again, regrouped into two’s and three’s, even four’s, chatting away like old friends who had met after an unfortunate hiatus.

Some newly elected MPs made spirited attempts to mix with established old hands, obviously enjoying the limelight, whose faces they may only have seen on television.

When the speeches started, prayers were said by among others defence Minister, Mr Mohamed Yusuf Haji, who started with the familiar prayer line in Arabic: Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim (In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful the most Gracious), before he intoned for divine intervention in the difficult work of bringing the leaders together.

Haji prayed that God would make their minds supple, that they may agree to resolve the crisis that has seen the country witness violence of unforeseen proportions.

Thereafter, Christian prayers were said by the MP for Starehe, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, she of the Jesus is Alive Ministries, who beseeched God for humility among the leaders, that hearts may be softened.

But barely an hour later, some of the MPs in their characteristic impatience, which is legendary in some quarters, began leaving the chamber, glancing at their wristwatches as they called their drivers and bodyguards for departure.

And Kenyans who were watching these proceedings live from their sittings rooms and workplaces must have hoped that the new spirit of brotherhood will be replicated as the mediation talks enter the most crucial stage - that of deciding how to share power and who gets what.

Indeed, the overriding hope among Kenyans is that, as Annan said in his speech, the leaders would lead by example and enable the country to sail through this delicate process of healing and reconciliation.