Murkomen clears air on ‘clash’ with Orengo over academic credentials


Murkomen clears air on 'clash' with Orengo over academic credentials
File image of Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen in a past function. PHOTO| COURTESY

Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen has moved to clear the air over his perceived clash with Minority Leader and Siaya Senator James Orengo on the floor of the House on Friday during a debate on the motion to remove Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki as Deputy Speaker of the Senate.

In the afternoon session, Senator Orengo challenged Murkomen’s inquiry as to whether the beleaguered Deputy Speaker had been served with the charges for his removal, notified of the special sitting and given the opportunity to respond, saying it had no legal and Constitutional basis.

The matter then escalated into an academic and legal contest with Orengo stating: “He (Murkomen) is a very junior person in the matter of the law – very junior, and therefore he should not be preaching as if he knows the law and he cannot site a case which has been quoted, in the Law Report, of him ever having prosecuted even a case in the Supreme…if you want me to give you judicial decisions on what administrative action is, go and read Professor (William) Wade, if you have not read that book I would understand why you don’t appear in constitutional law and administrative division…”

In his rebuttal, Murkomen stated: “Senator Orengo is over and over again repeating and doubting my practice of law or my knowledge of law. Mr Speaker, Senator Orengo and I went to the same university even if the difference was 26 years, I got a Second (Class) Upper, Senator Orengo got a Second (Class) Lower, I have two Masters he has none, I have taught two students who are in this House. Who is he to lecture me?”

In a statement to media houses on Saturday, however, Murkomen moved to allay any ill-motive in his speech saying he has tremendous respect for Senator Orengo.

He clarified that his pronouncements were not meant to demean Orengo’s stature as a lawyer, legislator and politician but to correct the notion that young legal professionals have no bearing over veterans, owing to their years of practice and line of practice.

Below is Senator Murkomen’s full statement:

“I must begin by pledging my absolute respect and high esteem for my learned colleagues, senior and junior, my teachers and students, my collaborators as well as competitors. I consider this respect to be an essential dimension of professionalism.

My respect for Sen. James Orengo as a lawyer, a politician and a legislator is well documented within and outside Parliament. I have spared little opportunity to pay him the tribute he so richly deserves, and always scrupulously defer to his experience, knowledge and seniority.

As a young African, my respect for Orengo is a duty that I cannot escape, and which I gladly embrace because Sen. Orengo is three decades my senior, and has filled that time with valiant achievements.

My response to Sen. Orengo from the floor of the Senate during the travesty that Sen Kindiki was subjected to, has generated vibrant public discussion, especially on social media. For the avoidance of misunderstanding, I believe that a little context is in order, from my point of view.

In the heated debate in the Chamber as well as discourse on the political arena, it has become customary for my learned senior colleague to cite his long and successful litigation experience in order to advance his arguments whilst at the same time implying that younger colleagues are not qualified or competent to challenge his positions.

The persistence of this tactic suggests that Sen. Orengo not only puts a tremendous premium on his seniority in the legal profession, but also seeks to privilege it at the expense of all competing positions. As colleagues and elected representatives of the people, this attitude often appears condescending, and its effect is to reinforce a notorious perception that youth must be systematically marginalised as a matter of course. It is inescapable that such deportment, bordering as it were on toxic chauvinism, could rile otherwise admiring and cordial colleagues.

I just wish to point out that the legal profession is diverse, and lawyers can thrive and attain excellence in numerous areas outside of litigation and trial. Litigation lawyers are not the only legal eagles in town. A lot of legendary Counsel of great stature made their names outside courtroom practice: as scholars and academics, civil servants, states counsel and registrars, various ranks of the Judiciary, in-house counsel for various organisations in both the public and private sector, the international sector, civil society and lawyers who are also active in other professions.

Two towering icons of the profession, Professors H W Okoth-Ogendo and J B Ojwang are excellent cases in point. There is a whole universe of impactful professional opportunities outside litigation, which deserve recognition and respect.

I also want to state that professional respect for our seniors and our cultural deference to elders are cardinal values of a non-negotiable order. But this does not mean that younger colleagues are in any way impaired, deficient or unqualified to render top-notch services wherever they find themselves.

Indeed, many often perform with exemplary skill and dexterity against decorated veterans. It would therefore be unjust to institutionalise a culture that disenfranchises young people and privileges age as the only material professional criterion.

I graduated from the same university as Sen. Orengo 30 years after him and that is good for him. But it shouldn’t necessarily be bad for me.

This is the spirit in which I took up my intervention, and I hope that this debate will not in any way strain my friendship with Hon. Sen. Orengo.”

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