National Assembly split over MP Jaguar’s controversial remarks on foreigners


File image of legislators in the National Assembly. PHOTO| COURTESY
File image of legislators in the National Assembly. PHOTO| COURTESY

In Summary

  • While most of the legislators condemned the manner in which MP Jaguar put across his remarks, a section of them however agreed that there was a legitimate issue concerning foreigners in the country that needed to be addressed.
  • The issue was raised by Chairperson of the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee Katoo Ole Metito in a statement reaffirming foreigners, especially from the East African community, of freedom to engage in business in the country.

Controversial remarks recently uttered by Starehe Member of Parliament Charles ‘Jaguar’ Kanyi regarding foreigners working in the country were on Wednesday tabled before the National Assembly for debate.

While most of the legislators condemned the manner in which MP Jaguar put across his remarks, a section of them however agreed that there was a legitimate issue concerning foreigners in the country that needed to be addressed.

The issue was raised by Chairperson of the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee Katoo Ole Metito in a statement reaffirming foreigners, especially from the East African community, of freedom to engage in business in the country.

“We strongly condemn any reckless utterances that deviates from this firm position that defines us as a nation and additionally reaffirm the country’s open-door policy to all foreign nationals,” said the Kajiado South MP.

“Our longstanding and absolute endeavor to the international community is summarized in three words: ‘Karibu Kenya, anytime.’”

The committee Chair’s remarks were echoed by Suba North MP John Mbadi who urged fellow members to avoid making public statements just for popularity and publicity but to exercise caution first.

“As a continent we need to promote cross-border interactions seeking for employment; Kenyans should go to Tanzania at will to do business there so long as it’s legal,” said Mbadi.

“It is not Kenya’s policy to chase away Ugandans or Tanzanians or Somalis so long as they are here legally and are doing business legally.”

Majority Leader Aden Duale, who also condemned the Starehe legislator’s remarks, however stated that “Kenya is not a dumping ground” for foreigners and their goods.

According to the Garissa Township MP, the National Assembly as well as the government must protect the ordinary Kenyan losing jobs daily due to the influx of foreigners in the country.

The MP further cited instances where Kenyan professionals – such as Safaricom’s Sylvia Mulinge – were denied working opportunities in neighbouring countries such as Tanzania, adding that Kenya should also put its foot down.

“We must call a spade a spade; when you see hawking business being taken by somebody from another country, we are under obligation to protect our people. These members must not forget that our chicken was banned in Tanzania, our cows were auctioned in Tanzania,” said Duale.

“Today, under the current Government in Tanzania, Kenyans cannot do business. Why are our goods not going to Tanzania? Today Farmers Choice cannot sell sausages in Tanzania because there are high tariffs imposed by the Tanzanian government; today Brookside cannot sell milk in Tanzania.”

Duale further urged fellow MPs not “act in emotions” over the issue, but to be wary of their primary duty to protect ‘Wanjiku’ (ordinary citizen).

“As a House, we must decide and bring legislation to protect our businesses. You might condemn Jaguar, but today he is the most popular MP in his constituency,” added the agitated Duale.

Ugenya MP David Ochieng, on his part, blamed the influx of foreigners doing business in the country on failure of the government to implement policy.

In today’s economy, according to Ochieng, it is cheaper to purchase and acquire goods from neighbouring countries like Tanzania and Uganda that in Kenya.

“It is not about lack of laws, it is about enforcement; it is about corruption. We are allowing people to come here to sell things on the streets… you cannot blamke Tanzaniians for doing that, it is because of our weak enforcement system,” said Ochieng.

“We are not vetting people who are coming into this country. The Tanzanians are doing their job, that’s why probably they’re able to know that (Sylvia) Mulinge does not qualify (to work in Tanzania) because of one or two reasons.”

The MP however condemned Jaguar’s remarks, further urging the House to institute disciplinary action against MPs who bring the country’s name to disrepute internationally.

MP Jaguar was on Wednesday arrested outside Parliament Buildings by plain clothed police officers and loaded into a waiting car around 12:30 PM over the perceived ‘inciteful’ remarks.

“If you assess our markets, Ugandans and Tanzanians have taken over our businesses… Now we are saying enough is enough. If a 24-hour ultimatum is not enough for them to be deported, we will remove them and we’ll beat them up and we will not fear anyone,” he had said in the viral audio clip.

The musician-turned-politician has however since taken to Twitter to say his remarks which have since caused a diplomatic tiff with Tanzania saying:

“My sentiments echoed yesterday with a directive to C.S Matiang’i was meant for the Chinese who have invaded our markets making businesses almost unbearable bearing for our citizens. I am not against any regional unions that are meant to promote both local and regional trade,” he tweeted.

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Story By Ian Omondi
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