Kenya: MPs Skip National Assembly Sessions Forcing It to Adjourn

6 November 2019

The National Assembly was forced to adjourn its morning sittings on Wednesday after a quorum hitch as MPs chose to stay away allegedly in protest of the repeal of the interest rates capping law.

The repeal of the law Tuesday afternoon happened after the legislators failed to marshal the numbers to veto President Uhuru Kenyatta's reservations on the Finance Bill, 2019, which effectively amended Section 33B of the Banking Act, signalling the return of expensive loans.

The adjournment came barely an hour into the parliamentary business for the day's morning sitting. Usually, the National Assembly has reserved two sittings on Wednesdays- morning and afternoon.

At the time the sitting was called off, the House was considering a motion on the registration of farmers and the formation of agri-business entities for improved benefits and sustainable food and nutritional security.

TAKING TEA

However, debate on the motion by Tigania West MP John Mutunga could not proceed after Tharaka Nithi County Woman Representative Beatrice Nkatha alerted temporary Speaker Chris Omulele of the fewer members in the House.

Not even a quorum bell that went on for 15 minutes to alert the members would raise the required numbers.

Interestingly, the few who were in the debating chamber would be seen leaving as they retreated to the parliament lounge to take tea.

The Constitution and the standing orders provide that at least 50 members must be present in the chamber for any parliamentary business to proceed.

But by the time Mr Omulele was adjourning the House, only about 10 MPs were in the chamber, meaning they could not transact any business.

As if this is not enough, the MPs also threatened to boycott the afternoon sitting over the interest rates law.

But even as the MPs grumble, they themselves failed to get the numbers that would have vetoed the president's memorandum.

Only 161 out of the 349 legislators were in the chamber at the time of the debate of the law, meaning the issue could not even proceed to voting stage.

The Constitution provides that at least two-thirds, or 233 of the MPs, must be physically present in the House before for it to veto the President's memorandum.

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