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Where were they? Empty talk as 149 MPs skip crucial vote for Housing Bill

A total of 149 MPs skipped a crucial vote on the contested Affordable Housing Bill, 2023, exposing their double-speak on the matter that has a direct economic impact on their constituents.

The Nation has established that some of the MPs — who skipped the vote — were within the precincts of Parliament but chose not to do the work they were elected for.

In the public — days before the debate and subsequent vote at the second reading on Tuesday — some of the MPs were the most vocal proponents and opponents of the Bill that has become a divisive subject pitting President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza and the opposition’s Azimio La Umoja One Kenya Coalition of Raila Odinga.

But when the division bell rang, out of the 348 MPs, only 199 members were present in the National Assembly. Of the present members, 141 — mostly from the ruling alliance — voted in support while 58 members, mostly from the opposition, voted against the 1.5 per cent housing levy.

Of the absent members, 83 are Kenya Kwanza lawmakers while 66 were from Azimio.

Total membership of the House should be 349 but it is currently less by a member after Banissa MP, Kullow Maalim Hassan, died early last year.

Most Kenya Kwanza lawmakers have been vocal in support of the Bill, arguing that it is designed to create jobs for millions of unemployed youths. President Ruto had also asked them to turn up for the crucial vote after the Naivasha retreat on Monday.

“I want to see which MP is going to oppose this Bill, I want to see which MP is going to deny his electorate an opportunity to get a job, because this Bill is about creation of jobs, it’s about jobs for our people,” said National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah moments before the vote.

Yesterday, National Assembly Majority Whip Sylvanus Osoro said they have no intention of punishing members who skipped the vote. He said the ruling alliance’s focus is on ensuring the Bill is passed by the two Houses of Parliament before it can be enacted into law.

“We will focus on its passage; punishment of members is very trivial to us. We are looking at the bigger picture,” said Mr Osoro.

Housing levy

Opposition legislators led by Busia Women Rep Catherine Omanyo addressing the media at Parliament Buildings Nairobi on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 over the controversy surrounding the housing levy.


President Ruto’s fierce critic, Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba, was also absent from the voting.

This despite the MP being opposed to several policies of the current administration, especially the housing levy, saying some of the policies are insensitive to the plight of their voters.

In the opposition camp, most of the lawmakers have publicly opposed the levy, terming it punitive and meant to overtax the struggling salaried Kenyans.

During the National Dialogue talks, the coalition even proposed scrapping the levy, a suggestion that was rejected by the ruling alliance. Some of their members, however, ended up skipping the vote, giving President Ruto a smooth sailing on the floor of the House.

“The provision under clause four is very dangerous and I would urge that this matter is relooked into. Because those farmers in the village who after producing their crops, sell their produce will be required to surrender 1.5 per cent of their gross produce to this housing levy. This is punitive, this is going to lead to unnecessary harassment of ordinary Kenyans by the KRA,” said Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo during the debate. He voted against the Bill.

But President Ruto’s numbers — during the vote — were boosted by opposition rebel lawmakers, some of whom voted with the Kenya Kwanza side.

Of the 28 Jubilee MPs, 14 voted with the government side with only Embakasi West MP Mark Mwenje, who is also the National Assembly Deputy Minority Whip, opposing the Bill. The remaining 13 Jubilee MPs were absent.

Wiper nominated MP Abubakar Ahmed voted with Kenya Kwanza, the same as ODM’s Caroli Omondi (Suba South), Emmanuel Wangwe (Navakholo) and Benard Shinali (Ikolomani).

Lang’ata MP Felix Oduor alias Jalang’o (ODM), however, skipped the vote despite being within the precincts of Parliament on Tuesday. He is among ODM rebels who have declared support for President Ruto.

Mr Omondi defended the levy, saying even Azimio had it in its manifesto.

“Financing of affordable housing by a levy of 1.5 per cent is in the ODM manifesto and has been in our proposed housing programmes from 2007. The other parties actually copied our manifesto. I would have preferred a voluntary scheme but the absence of that is not sufficient reason to reject the entire programme,” said Mr Omondi.

He said Homa Bay is one of the major…

Read More: Where were they? Empty talk as 149 MPs skip crucial vote for Housing Bill

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