NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 5 – Two CORD MPs have requested the Speaker of the National Assembly to strike out a Bill seeking to criminalise flying of the national flag by any person other than the President, his deputy, Chief Justice, Speakers and Governors.
Lawmakers Millie Odhiambo and Nicholas Gumbo disrupted debate on the National Flag, Emblems and Names (Amendment) Bill 2013 lodged by Eldas MP Aden Kenyan, to protest to Temporary Speaker Jessica Mbalu that the proposed law infringes on the constitutional right of Kenyans to display their patriotism.
Rarieda MP Gumbo was first to object, arguing that the Bill violates Article 10 of the Constitution which lists patriotism as among the national values and principles of governance. He said passing the Bill will have the effect of barring Kenyans from displaying the national flags on their vehicles, homes and property.
“Suppose Kenya won the football World Cup, what would be wrong in Kenyans putting the Kenyan flag on their cars and flying them all over, because according to this law that would be an offence?” he charged.
It’s common to see Public Service Vehicles in Nairobi flying the national flag especially when Harambee Stars are in action, but according to Gumbo ‘boda boda’ operators could find themselves in trouble because they usually decorate their motorcycles with miniature national flags which they fly all year round.
Temporary Speaker Mbalu however overlooked Gumbo’s objection and advised him to bring it in the form of an amendment.
Mbita MP Odhiambo then stood on a Point of Order and said the law violates Article 27 of the Constitution which rules out discrimination based on social origin.
“If you want to make a symbol of unity as a private members’ thing, then you are taking away our right as Kenyans to be proud and fly our flag.”
“When we abrogate to ourselves supremacy above any other Kenyan, Madame Speaker we want to say that there are certain people who are more equal than others on things that are symbols of national unity,” said the Mbita MP.
At this point, the Temporary Speaker pledged to forward the MPs’ concern to Speaker Justin Muturi so that the House can be guided accordingly.
Kieni MP Kanini Keega and Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire differed with the ODM lawmakers, saying the use of the national flag should be restricted to the President and his Cabinet.
“I have walked into some of these international hotels and I have seen them flying flags including the Kenyan ones, that it sometimes loses meaning. Even in the village you can’t tell the difference between a hotel and the chief’s offices because they are both flying the flag,” he said.
Keynan who sponsored the Bill however said he is trying to prevent abuse in the use of the national flag by limiting its use to President and his Deputy, the Chief Justice and his Deputy, the Speakers of the Senate and National Assembly, and Governors.
“The other day I attended a function in Mombasa, it was like 300 vehicles with flags which is an abuse of this national instrument. You know in the African context we have something called the status symbol, unfortunately in our own young democracy, this status symbol is one of the roots of abuse of office.”
“The flag is very important but then, is it a must that every State officer – and there are over 2,000 State officers – has the national flag?” he wondered.
He said the Bill seeks to provide for an extension of the usage of the national flag to include other Kenyans who will be expected to use it in a “dignified way.”
Attorney General Githu Muigai had in 2013 issued a warning to Governors not to have the flags on their official vehicles saying they risked a fine of Sh2,000 or two months imprisonment.
Majority Leader Aden Duale and Mbarire among other legislators supported the law that seeks to deny Governors the tittle of “His Excellency” following an ongoing supremacy battle.
“We are not fighting the county governments; we are not fighting Governors we’re saying that they should be accountable to the people, we don’t want the Governors to be semi-gods,” stated the Majority Leader.
Duale told the House of a memorandum prepared by the Governors for former President Mwai Kibaki last year where they asked to be assigned eight personal bodyguards each, three vehicles and diplomatic passports as part of their entitlements.
He continued that during an induction workshop for Governors, their deputies, Speakers of County Assemblies and their deputies, County Coordinators and County Clerks in April 2013, the 47 Governors had also asked for the expansion of special number plates starting with CG and then gazetted individual code for the counties.
The then President told off the Governors for bickering over ‘petty issues’ and instead urged them to take up their responsibility to spur economic growth in the counties in a bid to create more employment opportunities to the young people.