NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 14 – The intrigues, drama and conspiracy surrounding the Kenyan Parliament cannot escape anyone, stranger or otherwise.
The corruption allegations and lack of seriousness in matters of national importance is evident in this House also known as the August House.
So why is Parliament referred to as the August House? Is it named after the month or is there another reason? These are the questions I sought answers for.
“I am not so sure,” says Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ as he laughs sheepishly.
“Called what? I don’t know,” another Cabinet Minister Beth Mugo responds as she also laughs awkwardly.
Is it that our honourable Members of Parliament do not know why the Parliament they sit in is also referred to as the August House?
“The August House is the alternative description of the Kenyan National Assembly. It is an assembly of the honourable members of the society who sit there and deliberate on behalf of the republic for the benefit of all the citizens,” Dalmas Otieno, Public Service Minister attempts.
Really, is there no MP who can accurately respond to the question? We caught up with Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo and put the question to him. Does he know why Parliament is referred to as August House?
“Yes I do,” he responds emphatically.
“But it is now a misnomer,” he says. “August means distinguished. But unfortunately in the recent past, that has been eroded by the perception which is out there. We have refused to pay taxes. We are always increasing our benefits,” he explains.
From these responses, maybe I would be right to say that only a quarter of our honourable members know why Parliament is referred to as the August House.
Professor Kithaka wa Mberia, of the Department of Linguistic and Languages at the University of Nairobi says this is no surprise.
“I guess that there are many things our parliamentarians do not know. I don’t know how much reading they do. We have seen some Bills taken to Parliament and passed with some of the most ridiculous mistakes. So my view is that if they don’t read Bills before they pass them, I wouldn’t expect them to be doing much reading,” he says.
“If they are people who have a reading culture, they would probably have come across the word August and understood the meaning,” he adds.
August, the eighth month of the year is a noun while August is an adjective and therefore is a word that is used before nouns.
“The adjective describes the nouns so when you use august before a noun it is intended to mean that the noun we refer to is very impressive, it is esteemed and is something that requires respect,” Professor wa Mberia expounds.
But does our Parliament qualify to be termed as such?
“Calling our Parliament August amounts to inappropriate use of the term,” he says.
The renowned Professor says the Kenyan Parliament is not very respected by the people to be termed as August because their performance is not as expected.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the earliest usages of the word August was in 1720.
The Kenyan press borrowed the word and now uses it to refer to the Parliament.