NAIROBI, Kenya Aug 7 – There was drama in the National Assembly on Wednesday morning when Kwale County Woman Representative Zulekha Hassan walked into the debating chamber with her five-month-old baby.
Business was temporarily disrupted as House Majority Leader Aden Duale had to pause a motion he was moving on the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute.
Temporary House Deputy Speaker Christopher Omulele had a hectic time controlling MPs in the House as some engaging in shouting marches while others could be seen shoving each other.
She was later ordered out, with Omulele advising MPs to use facilities the Parliamentary Service Commission had provided for lactating mothers.
Samuel Atandi, MP for Alego Usonga was ejected from the proceedings for being disorderly when he tried to defend and protect her.
Duale has demanded an explanation on how Hassan was allowed into the Chamber with the baby.
He said the action by the Kwale Woman Rep had never happened since independence and termed it an abuse of the House proceedings.
“That member must be cited for gross misconduct. We must protect the dignity of the House,” Duale said.
Women MPs who had walked out of the Chamber as a sign of solidarity with Hassan condemned the Speaker and their male colleagues on how the matter was handled.
“It is unfortunate now because this is happening to Parliament, what happens to the innocent people who are working, what happens to our staff, what happens to back the staff,” Lamu County Woman Representative Sophia Noor stated.
She later issued a statement with other female legislators, saying “It is important for them to know that if they don’t do it, we are going to ask all women with children in the house to bring here to this House so that the House Leadership can get the message.”
The incident comes a week after the world marked the Breastfeeding Day, with calls to have mothers allowed to breastfeed anywhere.
Hassan protested that Parliament had failed to create a special room for women to breastfeed their babies years after it was proposed.
“This is my third child. I have never done this but it is only because today is was an emergency and I had no other way and I thought why should I miss work, because it’s like I have been punished for having a child and it’s a very natural process,” said the MP.
Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma defended Hassan’s action, saying that she should not be separated with her new born baby.
“If you are a Member of Parliament who is breastfeeding, in the best interest of that child, the child cannot be separated from you when you are in the course of your duty in the Assembly,” Kaluma said.