Youthful MPs break promise, deliver shame
The victory of young parliamentarians in 2017 when they floored political giants advanced hopes for the youth who had grown tired of the age old narrative that they are ‘leaders of tomorrow’.
The emergence of the new crop of youthful leaders had in essence signalled a brighter future for youth leadership.
The last elections saw the highest number of youthful leaders joining the National Assembly and Senate, with former Nandi County Senator Stephen Sang being elevated to governorship at the age of 32 years, a demonstration of the confidence the electorate had in young vibrant leaders. Their work seemed cut out with expectations from the electorate running high.
“Instead of acting as role models to the millions of youth, who form majority of voters, they turned themselves into a disgrace. They have become the bad boys and girls in society,” Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary General Francis Atwoli says.
Instead of being poster boys and girls of good leadership, most of them have gone rogue and plunged themselves into situations of ignominy leaving a devastating disappointment and embarrassment over young leaders which observers warn could be hard to redeem.
If they are not being rated poor performers, they are getting convicted over drunkenness, fighting or appearing in public events drunk, being arraigned in court over misuse of firearms, fraud, hate speech and violence, being kicked out of Parliament for misbehaving or turning out to be motor mouths, who shameless spew hatred on behalf of their masters and even immorality.
There is consensus among pundits and politicians, including the young MPs themselves, that most of them have not lived up to the peoples’ expectations and their actions have only served to embarrass them and cast doubts on whether the youth can be trusted with leadership.
Dr Samuel Nyandemo, a senior lecturer at the School of Economics at the University of Nairobi, while analysing the conduct of some of the youthful MPs, said most of them have proven to be untrustworthy.
“They are a total disappointment. I think we expected a lot from them but they have proven to be tenderfoots, who lack a sense of direction and purpose of what MPs should do, particularly in championing issues affecting the youth. It’s a total embarrassment and I don’t think going forward the electorate, even the youth, will trust them,” Nyandemo toldPeople Daily.
At least 15 youthful MPs have thrust themselves into public shame, and they include the chairman of Young Parliamentary Association, Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who was caught breaching curfew orders on July 18, 2020, at Ladies Lounge Bar in Kilimani area where he was found drinking alcohol.
Ironically, at the time, Sakaja, who at 27 years was seen as a poster-boy of youthful leadership after he chaired The National Alliance party and served as a nominated MP, was the chairman of Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19, a post he relinquished.
Pushing for policies
Less than two weeks ago, abrasive Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro, who police once fingered for his alleged links to political violence in Murang’a county, was suspended from the House after he abused his colleagues during the debate and voting on the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020.
Jubilee Party deputy secretary general and Cherangany MP Joshua Kutuny said performance of youthful MPs during the Grand Coalition government, which included pushing for policies targeting young people such as internship in government agencies, motivated the public to vote for younger people.
“What I see today is show off and fashion displayed by young leaders just to please their masters. You hardly hear them on the floor of the House.
The only time you hear about them is when they are engaged in brawls. They have eroded the confidence that we had built.
I am afraid that going forward, the electorate will have a problem electing younger people,” said Kutuny who joined Parliament in 2007 at a young age.
For instance, the Young MPs’ Association’s secretary Babu Owino of Embakasi East, has not only become infamous for his loose mouth where he once hurled unprintable words against President Uhuru Kenyatta but has also become famous for his flamboyance and show of opulence.
He is currently fighting an attempted murder case where he allegedly shot and seriously injured Felix Orinda, a deejay popularly known as DJ Evolve in a city bar.
Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati, who was born in 1980, was recently on the spotlight when he fought with South Mugirango counterpart Slyvanus Osoro, another youthful member, during the burial of Kisii deputy governor Joash Maangi’s father over political differences pitting opposition chief Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto, who were in attendance.
Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga has earned the wrath of Kenyans on Twitter, who describe her as a “socialite”, who frequently graces entertainment places on weekends and splashes online sites with latest fashionable clothes.
And if she is not engaged in heated online arguments with activist Boniface Mwangi where they hurl insults at each other, Omanga will be posting pictures of her current looks on social media.
Owino and his equally youthful Starehe counterpart Charles Njagua alias Jaguar, were caught on camera exchanging blows in Parliament in 2017 after the latter, who was also facing a separate incitement case in court, got irritated after Owino referred to Uhuru as “caretaker president”.
Peter Ng’ethe, a youthful political scientist opines that the current youthful MPs are a let-down and only a few have carried the inspirations of the Kenyan youth, saying the only news Kenyans hear about them are scandals.
“The MPs seem not to don’t understand their core mandate which is legislation.
We have not seen pro-youth bills being tabled by these young MPs which is a big let-down to their electorate, majority of whom are the youth,” the Kenyatta University political science graduate toldPeople Daily.
On July 4, 2019, Molo MP Kuria Kimani showed up in a meeting meant to discuss increased sale and consumption of illicit brew in Elburgon, ironically drunk and staggered to the podium upon invitation to address the crowd.
The first-time lawmaker was whisked away by police and his security detail after some angry residents threatened to beat him up for violating law on integrity and ethics.
And in April 2020, Embakasi Central MP Benjamin Gathiru Mwangi was arrested at Ruai Gardens for violating social distancing and public gathering directives by the Health Ministry to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Former Mukurwe-ini MP Kabando wa Kabando, who was once rated among the best performing lawmakers, said though there are some good youthful legislators, there is a big challenge among others because of their involvement in corruption, violence and alleged drug trafficking.
“Some have also become so sycophantic to elderly senior politicians that they forget that their base should be the youth.
Some were even cited in the Kemsa procurement scandal as well as violating Covid-19 protocols. So, there is a big crisis but there is also some hope. People should get the leaders they deserve,” Kabando said.
In February, Nyali MP Mohamed Ali escaped sanctions by a whisker after he was found to have sneaked his pistol into the National Assembly debating chamber.
In yet another embarrassing instance, some three youthful lawmakers, two female and one male, are said to be on the radar of investigative agencies over extortion.
The three MPs reportedly request for statements in Parliament about irregularities in government institutions, corporates and business firms.
Working in cahoots with some unscrupulous journalists, they ensure the statements are given prominent coverage in the media.
“Once the message has been sent to those implicated in the irregularity, the three embark on negotiations for kickbacks to have the matter withdrawn from the House,” one MP privy to the tricks told People Daily.
One of the female lawmakers implicated in the scam, once caused a stir at a public function in Nyanza where she appeared seemingly drunk, leaving her male colleagues in shock as they spiritedly tried to remove her from the podium in vain.
In November 2018, Igembe South MP John Paul Mwirigi, then 24, was charged in a Meru court with mobilising taxis and motorcycle drivers to oppose a road safety crackdown.
Though the State later withdrew the case, it had already dented his reputation.
On August 4, 2020, Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa, who is grappling with allegations of masquerading as a retired Air Force captain, was paraded before a Kajiado court where he denied charges of fraudulently obtaining Sh450,000 from John Irungu purporting to sell him a car.
Senator Cleophas Malalah (Kakamega) and his Nandi counterpart were arrested and charged for perpetrating election and political violence during the Matungu by-election while Lang’ata MP Nixon Korir was captured kicking back a tear gas canister to police during the London Ward by-election in Nakuru.
Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei has been charged twice with hate speech and election violence while Wajir Woman Rep Fatuma Gedi was cited for “acting in a dishonour and brining disrepute to the House” for leaking a letter involving investigations regarding a leaked sex tape of an MP.
Controversial Laikipia Woman Rep Cate Waruguru, when she was still a tough supporter of Ruto, was once captured hurling insuslts at Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru as well as trade unionist Francis Atwoli.
According to Ng’ethe, the performance of the current youthful MPs will determine if there will be more young people elected in the next elections and so far, “the trend is worrying”.
“However, all is not lost as we have seen a few of them prudently use the Constituency Development Fund thus impacting positively on society.
These cases are far between but they show us that it is possible for our young leaders to inspire their generation and help regain the trust of the voters in youth leadership,” he said.