Parliament On Fire; Weekly Roundup Of Reject Finance Bill Protests

Parliament On Fire; Weekly Roundup Of Reject Finance Bill Protests
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Before Tuesday, had you ever seen Kenya’s Parliament on fire?

#RutoMustGo #RejectFinanceBill2024 …we #SpillTheTea on an entire week full of protests…plus one of our reporter’s accounts of it through his own eyes.

Hello and welcome to Episode 17 of Spill The Tea where our editor-in-chief gives his account of the week-long anti-Finance Bill protests, which witnessed a historic event.

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Plus Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua took on the National Intelligence Service (NIS) head-on over intelligence regarding the protests. Meanwhile, his senior, President William Ruto, finally said NO to the Finance Bill 2024.

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On Episode 17:

  1. Protests: Good, Bad & Ugly [IN MY OWN EYES]
  2. The Internet Shutdown?
  3. Ruto Rejects Finance Bill…Finally!
  4. Gachagua Picks Fight With NIS

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Protests: Good, Bad & Ugly [IN MY OWN EYES]

An account of this writer’s experience of the anti-Finance Bill protests on Tuesday, June 27:

Out of the times that my career as a digital journalist has been put on litmus tests, this will probably rank in the top 2. But let’s begin from last week:

The anti-Finance Bill protests gained significant momentum on Thursday (June 20), but I was still nursing my tonsilitis which led to a few crazy fever episodes, but with medication, I managed to make it out of the ordeal and promised that I would catch the Tuesday (June 25) one…the biggest of them all.

Having read a series of tips to follow during the protests, and knowing that nearly all of Nairobi’s youth would be there, I called a friend of mine because I needed company for the protests. She agreed to attend, and the days leading up to Tuesday were spent answering the big question; where are we going to meet?

D-day. I was nervous as hell. First of all, I’ve never been to a protest (before that day). The numerous ones I’ve covered digitally have all been riddled with chaos and police battles, with gunshot wounds, injuries and deaths. However, the feminist march earlier this year showed us that peaceful protests were very possible.

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Protesters near Nation Centre on June 25, 2024. /MARVIN CHEGE.VIRAL TEA KE



June 25 felt like a public holiday. From where I stayed, a lot of kids had remained home, despite the mid-term break for most schools set for the following day. It was a total shutdown and many of my young peers (not much in the media) had the companies they were working for grant them leaves just to attend the protests.

This meant that traffic along major roads leading to the Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) was non-existent. In my case, Thika Road leading to town was deserted by cars, meaning the Gen Z protesters would have to walk from their destinations to town…that also meant those in Roysambu.

A daunting task that wouldn’t matter to the Gen Zs…but a few matatus operating the route opted to pick up passengers just to cash in…as long as the final stop would be Ngara, from which it is a 5-10 minute walk to the city. I ran into such matatus.

Getting there, I called my friend…she hadn’t reached the city yet, and so as I waited for her arrival, I proceeded with hundreds of protesters into the city.

Hundreds of peaceful, joyous protesters, generating an atmosphere I only see in popular music concerts. I buy a whistle to join the hype, cost me just Ksh50. On my way through the Globe Roundabout fly over to the CBD…with my phone intact.

As I wait to print a flyer in one of the cyber cafes near Khoja Matatu terminus, breaking news flashes: Members of the National Assembly passed the Finance Bill 2024 after the Third Reading, paving the way for President Ruto to assent.

In a record TWO HOURS! Despite the uproar from Kenyans, the controversial Finance Bill sailed through again, with 195 Members of Parliament voting to pass it while 106 others rejected it. Three votes were spoiled.

As I was done printing, I thought to myself; what’s the push to have it rejected at the August House?

While still searching for my friend, my eyes were slightly stinging. The effects of teargas that dissipated in the air from the morning protesters vs police were evident. The search nonetheless took me past Nation Centre, I&M building, GPO and back to I&M…where I found her, with another friend.

As we moved to the vicinity of City Hall, I went right past my former business partner who’s an editorial lead for a local media house. Kweli, Nairobi ni ndogo. I stopped to greet her, ignoring the bad blood we unfortunately had two years ago.

In her soft-spoken voice “Don’t go to Parliament, it’s bad…”. I thought she was saying it to keep me away from the action, but from the year I’ve worked together with her, she doesn’t lie.

Following the little scare of police advancing to our location, we paused outside the 680 Hotel. I checked my X and saw the following major headlines:

The Government Threatens To Shut Down KTN News

Standard Group’s KTN reported that the government threatened to shut them down. Through an announcement during their live coverage at 4:09 pm, it was announced that there were threats to shut down the media house based along Mombasa Road.

“In the wake of our detailed coverage of the ongoing protests that has been organised by Gen Z protesters, we would like to inform our viewers that we have received threats from authorities of intention to shut us down. We would like to inform the public of our commitment to defend the public interest and we shall not be cowed by any threats,” the broadcaster announced.

The media house did not detail the specific office or the individual who had threatened to shut them. However, it was noted that the threats emerged as a result of the live coverage of the Tuesday protests.

Parliament On Fire & Invasion

Those were two eventualities that no one in Kenya would ever think they’d happen.

The anti-Finance Bill protests which, at the break of dawn, seemed peaceful turned chaotic in the hours succeeding mid-day on Tuesday as a section of the protesters attempted to break into Parliament buildings.

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Parliament buildings on fire as of June 25, 2024. /BBC



Members of the National Assembly, who were preparing for the third reading of the Finance Bill, were forced to scamper for safety as the situation worsened.

Video clips shared online and broadcast live on TV showed ruins within a section of Parliamentary precincts. The ruins showed broken window panes, damaged furniture and broken office fittings.

Lawmakers, some of whom were inside Parliament, sought refuge inside the building’s upper floors and secure basements. In the afternoon, some of the protesters aggressively made their way to Parliament and broke into the buildings.

Deaths: The police officers guarding the buildings opened live fire on the protesters instantly killing an unidentified number of them. Reporters counted up to three bodies lying outside Parliament.

One of the clips shared by Citizen TV‘s Seth Olale on X showed just how the break-in took place, with police firing automatic guns to scare away the protesters who defied the danger. Like a scene…of walking dead!

According to the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), police officers manning the parliament buildings reportedly shot five protestors.

“Police have shot four protesters, as witnessed by KHRC, killing one. We strongly condemn the police killing. Such actions are unacceptable and constitute a grave violation of human rights. “Justice and accountability are imperative. We will vigorously push for police accountability,” the Kenya Human Rights Commission noted in a statement.

Shortly after, a section of the Parliament buildings, broadcasted live, was on fire with smoke seen billowing. This was after some protestors managed to gain access to the buildings after overpowering the police who had barricaded the barriers.

Earlier, a police truck was set on fire outside Parliament.

Aftermath

“Occupying Parliament…that has never happened in our nation’s history,” another friend who joined us for the protests, revealed.

Not only was Parliament occupied, but it was on fire! From photos and videos going around, one protester was captured wearing a jacket belonging to the Speaker of the Senate (the office that is). Other photos showed protesters feasting on what was probably beforehand lunch for the MPs.

We could see smoke coming from Parliament buildings, but more of it came from the direction of the Nairobi Expressway. That’s when we learnt that the dummy plane at Uhuru Park which was meant to be some kind of restaurant was also torched.

In the midst of taking memorable pictures and watching the Gen Zs smoke bangi (weed in our lingo), we got intel that the military was going to be deployed thanks to that eye-popping fiasco at Parliament…a famous government institution which isn’t a protected area because it gets visitors who sit at the House regularly.

Three words; deployment of military (Kenya Defence Forces [KDF] these days)…the last time we had military on Kenyan civilian streets was during the 1982 coup. You know it’s possibly bad news when the military has to be deployed to contain otherwise peaceful protests.

More intel was coming in that police would start cracking down on protesters as the timeline for the protests was fast approaching. Rumours had it that they would trap everyone still in the city and round them up…thus the message was clear…get out now!

My best bet out of the city was the same way I came in…via Thika Road. As other Kenyans marched towards their homes, I luckily caught a matatu.

Rocks strewn along Uhuru Highway as of June 25, 2024. /MARVIN CHEGE.VIRAL TEA KE




The Internet Shutdown?

The other issue I was forced to deal with was the internet disruption. On one Saturday, a friend I met in Roysambu shared with me the possibility of the internet being shut down, despite an assurance by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) that this would not happen.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the Authority has no intention whatsoever to shut down internet traffic or interfere with the quality of connectivity,” the statement read in part, adding “Such actions would be a betrayal of the Constitution as a whole, the freedom of expression in particular and our own ethos.”

Getting a story through back at home was impossible. Posting on social media was difficult…felt like my powers as a digital journalist were cut to size.

What was even worse was that the most affected platform by this outage was X…the very same platform that mobilised Gen Z to protest in the street.

Global internet observatory NetBlocks confirmed the internet outage at around 5 pm, on the same platform.

NetBlocks reported, “Confirmed: Live network data show a major disruption to internet connectivity in Kenya,” sparking widespread concern and frustration among Kenyans.

The blackout coincided with escalating anti-finance bill protests, which relied heavily on online mobilisation and live streaming by media and influencers.

That Tense Ruto Speech

Meanwhile, as June 25 inched to a close, I and other journalists received an alert that President Ruto was set to address the nation following the ‘chaotic’ events of Tuesday.

Before that, Defence Cabinet Secretary (CS) Aden Duale gazetted the deployment of KDF in different parts of the country to help police quell the anti-Finance Bill protests…your official confirmation of KDF being deployed on Instagram baddies with iPhones and looks that could kill…who were protesting peacefully.

By the way, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) challenged this in court but lost in their bid to have their deployment declared unconstitutional.

Back to the speech…and in all my years in digital media, never have I heard a speech as insensitive as that of President Ruto, who stated that “legitimate” protests against his policies had been “hijacked by a group of organised criminals,” he warned his government would use all means at its disposal to prevent a repeat of the violence – “at whatever cost”.

“I hereby put on notice the planners, financiers, orchestrators, and abettors of violence and anarchy, that these security infrastructures established to protect our republic and its sovereignty, will be deployed to secure the country and restore normalcy.”

“The government will therefore uphold its constitutional mandate to secure our nation and its development and shall treat every threat to national security and the integrity of our state as an existential danger to our Republic. Accordingly, I assure Kenyans that we shall provide a full, effective and expeditious response to today’s treasonous events,” stated Ruto.

I sit stunned at the fact that the President of the Republic of Kenya might have referred to peaceful Gen Z protesters as ‘criminals’. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking “Is my university crush a criminal? Maybe a freaky one…”


Ruto Rejects Finance Bill…Finally!

After a week of protests and intense uproar from members of the public regarding the Finance Bill, President Ruto finally conceded.

The Head of State, while speaking during a press briefing at State House on Wednesday, June 26, announced that he has returned the bill to Parliament for further amendments.

“Having reflected on the conversation surrounding the bill and listening to the people of Kenyan who have said they want nothing to do with the bill. I concede and therefore I will not sign the bill. It will be subsequently withdrawn and that becomes our position,” he stated.

What Happens Next?

Moses Wetangula, the Speaker of the National Assembly, issued a Notification to the Members and the general public in relation to President Ruto’s Memorandum which saw the rejection of the Finance Bill.

In the Notification, Wetangula on Thursday, June 27 indicated that he had referred the Memorandum to the Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning.

The notice came after the National Assembly on Tuesday, June 25 passed the Finance Bill 2024 after the third reading, after 195 Members of Parliament voted to pass it while 106 others rejected it and three votes were spoiled, paving the way for Ruto to assent it into law before Ruto’s announcement that he rejected the Bill.

“Further whereas, in accordance with Article 115(1)(b) of the Constitution, H.E. the President, vide a Memorandum dated 26th June 2024, referred the Finance Bill, 2024 back to the National Assembly for reconsideration with reservations recommending deletion of all clauses of the Bill.

“Cognizant that, the President’s Memorandum constitutes a rejection of the bill in its entirety; and that the decision is informed by the need to reflect the voice of the people of Kenya who have rejected the Bill,” the statement read in part.

The notification however revealed that in accordance with Article 115(4)(a) of the Constitution, any Member desirous of negating the President’s reservations or reviving any of the 69 Clauses of the Bill is required to marshal the votes of at least two-thirds (2/3) of the Members of the National Assembly, being 233 MPs.

Furthermore, Standing Order 42(3) provides that a Message received from the President at a time when the House is not in session is to be transmitted to every Member and reported to the House on the day the House next sits. Currently, the House is on recess until July 23, 2024.

As a result, Wetangula referred President Ruto’s Memorandum of Referral in respect of the Finance Bill (National Assembly Bill No. 30 of 2024) to the Departmental Committee on Finance and National Planning.

“That the Committee is required to expeditiously commence consideration of the President’s Memorandum, its reservations and recommendation, and report to the House at the next regular sitting upon its resumption; and that the Clerk is directed to circulate this Notification to all Members of the National Assembly, and accordingly facilitate the Committee to undertake the exercise; and prepare the necessary Message for formal conveyance to the House upon its resumption,” the statement added.

Constitutional Procedure for Returning a Bill

According to Kenya’s constitution, the process of returning a bill to Parliament involves several critical steps:

After a bill is passed by Parliament, it is presented to the President for assent. The President has 14 days to either assent to the bill or refer it back to Parliament with a memorandum outlining specific concerns.

In this case, President Ruto has exercised his constitutional right to refer the Finance Bill 2024 back to Parliament. The memorandum should detail the particular clauses or provisions the President disagrees with and suggest necessary amendments.

Upon receiving the President’s memorandum, Parliament must reconsider the bill. According to Article 115 of the Constitution, if the President refers a bill back, Parliament can either accept the proposed amendments or reject them.

If Parliament agrees with the President’s recommendations, the bill is amended accordingly and sent back to the President for assent. However, if Parliament disagrees with the President’s amendments, it can override the President’s veto.

To do this, the National Assembly must pass the bill again with a two-thirds majority. If successful, the bill becomes law even without the President’s assent.

Since the bill cannot be withdrawn at this stage, in his memorandum, President Ruto directed the National Assembly to delete all clauses in the bill.


Gachagua Picks Fight With NIS

As President Ruto gave his speech regarding the rejection of the Finance Bill, something else was brewing in the Office of the Deputy President.

DP Rigathi Gachagua emerged with a bombshell press conference where he demanded that National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director General Noordin Haji should resign over what he termed as laxity in disseminating intelligence to President William Ruto.

Speaking during a live press conference in Mombasa, Gachagua on Thursday, June 26 claimed that the country’s intelligence system was faulty, blaming the NIS for failing to gather enough intelligence that could have been used to avert the fatal demonstrations on Tuesday.

Gachagua pinned the blame on Haji, the former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for failing to gather accurate intelligence which led to Ruto receiving unactionable information.

Collage of NIS Director-General, Noordin Haji and Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. /NMG.DPPS



“Noordin Haji must take responsibility for the deaths, mayhem, failing President Ruto and Kenya for not doing his job. He must do the honourable thing, not just taking responsibility but resign,” Gachagua stated.

“We have a dysfunctional NIS that has exposed the government and the people of Kenya. Had the NIS briefed the president two months ago about how the people of Kenya feel about the Finance Bill 2024, so many Kenyans would not have died. There would have been no mayhem, but they slept on the job.”

Gachagua further claimed that the brewing rage that led to Kenyans storming Parliament was the most evident sign of failure since such actions had never been witnessed before in Kenya’s history.

He also claimed that a day before his press conference, Noordin Haji was trying to put up a team together to drive propaganda and attribute the chaos to a section of targeted leaders including him and former President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“Yesterday, Noordin Haji was trying to put up a team together and propaganda and attribute the chaos to leaders including myself and former President Uhuru Kenyatta. It is very clear and the President has admitted that the protests were caused by the anger of Kenyans on the Finance Bill,” Gachagua added.

He also blamed the NIS for what he termed as incompetence in the briefing of security officers leading to the breach in Parliament, an event never seen before in the country’s history.

“Senior officers have told me in confidence they did not have an advance intelligence brief so that they prepare in advance,” stated Gachagua.

The Response

Mombasa Governor Abdulswamad Nassir: These unbecoming utterances go against the solemn oath that Mr. Gachagua took. It exposes our nation, the institution of the Presidency, and our security agencies to ridicule, ethnic division, and potential exploitation by our country’s enemies. At a time when the young generation has lost faith in the direction the country is moving, such remarks only serve to fuel confusion and public anger. It is regrettable that the Deputy President would casually discuss sensitive security matters in public instead of in the constitutional body – the National Security Council of which he is a member.

Northern Kenya MPs: The unfortunate utterances of the Deputy president demean and undermine the sanctity and honour of the presidency and the government he serves. Following his attacks on the Director General, Noordin Haji, and his open sabotage of President Ruto, it is untenable for Hon. Rigathi Gachagua, to continue serving as Deputy President. We therefore call on him to resign immediately. Failure to do so will compel us as members of the parliament to pursue impeachment proceedings against him.

Moses Kuria: He is in the National Security Council yet complains about the Director of the National Intelligence Service. It was enough to have a President who is a teetotaller.


Other stories we’ve been following for you this week:

  1. Pamella Makotsi Sittoni announced earlier this week that she will leave the Nation Media Group (NMG) at the end of this month of June, after 12 years at the regional media house.
  2. On Monday, June 24, NTV announced the return of the popular Churchill Show after two years of being away from the station. The station did not however reveal the exact date the show would start airing again.
  3. The Global Peace Leadership Conference (GPLC) earlier announced the cancellation of its opening ceremony which President William Ruto was meant to attend. It thereafter issued a statement revealing that it had offered prayers for Kenya following the anti-Finance Bill protests.
  4. DP Rigathi Gachagua is in mourning after announcing the death of Leah Wangari Muriuki, who was the elder sister of his family. He mourned the late Wangari, hailing her as a family matriarch who took good care of the Gachagua family.

News Graphic Of The Week

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News graphic of over 120,000 users joining a space on X on June 26, 2024. /VIRAL TEA KE




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