PHILIP ETALE: I urge legislators to read bills before passing them and stop pleasing their masters

A great writer Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Teamwork missed in 2014 when parliament passed the draconian security Amendment Bill. There was acrimony as Kenyans, civil society groups and activists united with the opposition to fight the passage of the security laws.

Lorry loads full of armed GSU personnel in full combat gear were stationed outside parliament buildings ostensibly to deal with any protesters that came near Parliament.

Inside the chambers, there were shouting matches. Outwitted opposition legislators tried what they could to have their voice heard. The majority party (then Jubilee Alliance) had their way. They used all means possible to pass the offensive laws.

“We do not need to get good laws to restrain bad people. We need to get good people to restrain us from bad laws”, said Gilbert Keith Chesterton, a great English writer and philosopher.

Had we united as a nation in 2014, shunned our divisive political tendencies and stopped being over-zealous over our party loyalty, the security laws would not have been passed, and we would not be where we are today.

I say this with a lot of bitterness as a Kenyan who believes that one day we will have a nation where not our tribe or ethnic community but the call for a one Kenya will be the clarion call on such matters of national importance.

I remembered the events I watched on television when I was a High School student in the late 1990s where police officers could be deployed outside and within parliament to intimidate lawmakers. The days a celebrated man of God, Rev. Dr Timothy Njoya was whipped mercilessly by state-hired goons outside parliament buildings as police officers watched.

As a social media user, I vividly remember how Jubilee legislators celebrated the passing of the security laws on their social media tools. Some told opposition legislators and their supporters to “accept and move on” a term used in 2013 during the perpetuation of election rigging after the blatant one that happened in 2007.

Senator for Elgeyo Marakwet Mr Kipchumba Murkomen tweeted on the 18th of December 2014 “The Security Amendment Bill 2014 is done”. He was happy that despite the outcry by Kenyans, they had pushed through the bill on the floor of the house.

On January 5, 2017, Siaya County Senator James Orengo stood on the floor of the Senate during a debate on Election Laws (Amendment) Act 2016 and made a statement that has now returned to haunt Jubilee leaders three years down the line.

The indefatigable Senior Counsel, while gesturing towards the opposite side of the House composed mainly of Senators from the ruling party, said: “Sometimes revolutions eat their own children… governments eat their own people. This government is going to punish you more than they will punish me, I am telling you. In another one year, you’ll be crying in my office to come and represent you.”

The arrest of Senators Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Dr Christopher Langat (Bomet) and their Samburu counterpart Steve Lelegwe is as a result of the bad laws that our parliamentarians pass without reading them to understand.

I condemn the arrest of the three Senators, but urge our legislators to take time and read the bills that are brought before them before passing them; not just to please their masters.

The writer is the Director of Communications of the ODM Party.

Twitter @Etalephilip