NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 20 – “I am a survivor of the Nyayo torture chambers,” he declared recently, invoking his courage and what some may describe as arrogance.
Gitobu Imanyara, lawyer, journalist and MP for Imenti Central, rarely hesitates when pointing to the country’s powerful leaders when they go wrong.
Best known to his friends as G.I, this is the man who spearheaded frustration of a government motion seeking to constitutionalise a local tribunal for perpetrators of the 2007 election violence, and the clashes that followed.
Rising on a Point of Order in Parliament, Mr Imanyara unexpectedly stopped the debate on the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill, despite a deadline set by the Waki Commission of Inquiry for the formation of a Special Tribunal.
“In order for this House to proceed to the Second Reading, leave of the House is required; to signify this I am supported by members behind me,” he said.
He then marshalled lawmakers to oppose the Bill forcing the government to seek other solutions after losing its Bill.
The 10th Parliament has been famed not for failing to pay tax, but on a positive note, in its quest to make a little effort in fighting corruption through censure motions.
Mr Imanyara says; “Parliament is asserting its authority, for a long time it has been seen as a rubber stamp of the Executive. Now we are holding the government accountable.”
“It is not that we like to censure Ministers, it is our own reaction to the government’s failures,” he says.
The MP also says Justice Minister Martha Karua should relinquish her position following her flopped Bill seeking to establish a local tribunal.
“The failure by the Minister to bring in the legislation on the tribunal is sufficient ground for her to resign, not because she is corrupt, but because in parliamentary democracies when a serious motion fails, the person responsible steps aside,” he says.
The daring member says he is not afraid of those with whom he differs, saying he is guided by principles.
His activism was honed during university days when he was a student leader.
But serving two years at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in 1987 made him even more resistant forcing him to found the ‘Nairobi Law Monthly’, a journal that discussed issues of human rights in Kenya.
The MP was again arrested and detained in 1990 only to be released after the international community exerted pressure on the Moi regime.
For his consistent publications, he was named the 1990 International Editor of the Year, while constant arrests and detentions by the Moi regime earned Mr Imanyara both local and international recognition.
“I was once discussed in the United States of America House of Representative when John M. Spratt JR asked President George Bush Snr, that the government of USA consider economic sanctions against Moi’s government,” he proudly recalls.
He joined Parliament in 1997 only to loose his seat in 2002. In 2007 he made a comeback through little-known Chama Cha Uzalendo party.
His political driving force, he says, is to advocate for reforms which he believes are the only hope that will change Kenya.
“All is not lost, we have a group of about 30 MPs whom I believe we can work with to fight corruption and reform this country, I will not rest but champion the rights of Kenyans,” he concludes.