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A chat with Thuo the Whip

NAIROBI, August 15 – The 10th Parliament commenced its work late due to the political crisis that befell the country after the disputed 2007 presidential poll.

The country was divided along ethnic, political and regional differences which was also evidenced during the election for the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Four months after the implementation of the power sharing deal, has Parliament reconciled?

Capital News spoke to the 1st Government Chief Whip in a coalition regime, George Thuo, a first time Member of Parliament (MP) for Juja.

Q. What are your roles as the Government Chief Whip?
A. I certainly don’t whip anyone in terms of using a kiboko (cane) but whipping means ensuring that the government agenda passes through the House as necessary. That is my prime worry because I represent the government. I am the link between the ministers as they bring bills to the House and the back bench to ensure we have the numbers to carry through the government agenda.

Q. How would you rate the performance of the 10th Parliament thus far?
A. Parliament has done well if you consider the fact that MPs passed the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill as well as the Constitution Amendment Bill that were recommended by the mediation team. It has also began discussing related bills such as the Constitution of Kenya Review Bill. Parliament also went through the budgetary process despite starting late.

Q. Do you think MPs deserve the two month break?
A. Parliament has had a busy session. The traditional date for recess would have been earlier but it was extended so that we could continue doing what we have to do to play our role in guaranteeing various things which we promised to do from the Serena Talks and the pledges by the political parties.

Q. How were you able to reconcile MPs considering that the country was divided along tribal and political lines?
A. I don’t know if it was really reconciling them as such; members are mature to know what is in the national interest. They conduct themselves in a responsible manner because they are exactly that, they are leaders. Despite the fact that every member comes under tremendous pressure from their people who feel unhappy with the current situation, MPs have demonstrated leadership by leading their people towards peace and reconciliation.

Q. How has it been for you to push the government agenda especially during the beginning when parliament was divided almost halfway between the Party of National Unity (PNU) and the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM)?
A. What about it, what do you mean?

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Q. I am not trying to divide the House, but when you began that was the situation. It was PNU and ODM side, and actually during the election of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker there were serious divisions, how were you able to handle that?
A. We had a whip from the ODM side too and once we came together we have worked jointly since we have a common agenda and coming as one government, that really changed everything. Clearly as you can imagine from those high emotions of those days, I am not comfortable with every member of ODM as I am with those of PNU. But that is not to say that I don’t work directly with all the members, I certainly have a lot of friends from ODM.

Q. What is your worst fear as the Whip of a Grand Coalition Government?
A. I hope it doesn’t happen but for instance, in future if we were to have serious disagreements on Policy and the split is such that we don’t see each other eye to eye. That will be a real test. We have gone far without having that situation I would pray and hope that we never get there. But it is pragmatic to assume that sooner or later one or two such occasions will crop up and we will cross the bridge when we get there.

Q. Finally, what do you hope to achieve in your five-year term as the Whip?
A. In consultation with the speaker and other players within Parliament we have made a lot of progress in terms of live broadcast. We have also been ensuring and we will continue to ensure that we have no quorum hitches, ensure many bills are passed and build consensus among MPs so that we don’t embarrass ourselves. What I would like to ensure at the end of the five years, is that the Grand Coalition has achieved substantially what it set out to achieve and that it has remained intact and that we have not brought on the floor of the House bills that would completely tear the country asunder.

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