, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 25 – The National Assembly has began to debate a motion seeking to have all Acts of Parliament progressively translated into Kiswahili to make them more accessible to ordinary Kenyans and enable suspects comprehend their contents.
Taita Taveta County Woman Representative Joyce Lay who has sponsored the motion hopes it will address some of the ills suffered by Kenyans due to failure to grasp the impact of laws that directly affect them.
She argued that most Kenyans will continue to be unaware of the laws if the status quo remains.
Lay noted that it is only through translating the laws into Kiswahili that public participation in enacting the same will be effective.
MPs who contributed to the debate noted there are rampant cases of bewildered suspects appearing in court with no clue of the gravity of charges facing them due to existing language barriers.
“Most Kenyans undergo serious injustice when they are presented before a court of law there chargers are usually read in English of which they may not be conversant with. But the tragedy is that the court appointed interrupters often mislead the accused into taking the wrong plea,” Minority Chief Whip Thomas Mwadeghu opined.
Others challenged their colleagues to initiate the process by drafting bills in Kiswahili before they are brought to the House for debate and enactment.
Suba MP John Mbadi later moved an amendment to the motion placing the responsibility on the National Council for Law Reporting which is the official publisher of the Kenya Law reports and Laws of Kenya.
Deputy Majority Leader Naomi Shaban noted although the Constitution has a Swahili translation, Acts of Parliament have largely remained in English and therefore open to misinterpretations and peddling of half-truths.
“I don’t think the drafters of the Constitution meant for this provision to be taken for cosmetic effect, in my opinion I think we should compel the government to do the translation of laws into Kiswahili,” Shaban said.
The debate generated a light moment in the House as a section of MPs struggled to make their support in Kiswahili.
The debate was adjourned due to a time limit but will continue next Wednesday morning which is set aside for private members motions.