Kenya: Tea Mutes Gender Activists' Bark

13 October 2020

Civil society groups yesterday failed to barricade Parliament to force its dissolution but instead served the House leadership with a notice for MPs to vacate the building by yesterday.

Members of the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) council, the United Green Movement and a women rights group staged a protest march to force the dissolution, arguing that the term of the 12th Parliament lapsed in line with the advisory issued by the Chief Justice calling for its dissolution over failure to enact the two-thirds gender rule.

Promising a bite but delivering an empty bark, the group appears to have mellowed when they finally met National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai. They readily agreed to Mr Sialai's proposal for a group photograph and accepted his invite for a cup of tea. He allowed in only four of the 19 representatives.

They were LSK President Nelson Havi, UGM leader Jonathan Mweke, Esther Angáwa (LSK council member) and Merlyn Kamuru, who represented the feminist movement #Weare52pc. At least five cases have been filed in court challenging the advisory but the LSK, UGM and the #Weare52pc have rejected the court petitions arguing the action by the Chief Justice under Article 261 (7) is sovereign and cannot be challenged in any court. After about two hours, a parliamentary orderly went for the remaining 15 members of the group who had been blocked at the gate.

They were allowed in, not to barricade, but for the cup of tea and photo session. They giggled and engaged in a excited banter as photojournalists clicked away after the meeting held in the Speaker's boardroom.

"If I am elected here, I would want to be the majority leader," one of them said as the group swapped positions during the photo session. "I would prefer to chair the legal committee," yet another responded. The group later walked out a happy lot.

During a media briefing outside Parliament, they thanked Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai for providing officers for their security. Mr Havi thanked Mr Sialai for the warm welcome he accorded the team: "Mr Sialai extended his open arm to shake ours. He did not put forth a fist to push us away."

It did not matter that, during the meeting, Mr Sialai had curtly dismissed the petition for the dissolution of Parliament and accused LSK of preaching water and drinking wine over the gender issue.

Citing the case filed by the Parliamentary Service Commission, the clerk reminded the group that the matter is active in court and urged them to hold their horses until the case is heard and determined.,

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