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Day Ababu swore by ‘President Raila’ in Parliament

They say in politics, there are no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. The best person to illustrate this is Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba who eight years ago treated the country to an ugly spectacle in Parliament when he refused to take an oath in retired President Mwai Kibaki’s name.

The day was January 15, 2008 – the day tribal tensions hit crescendo in Kenya.

In Parliament, Emuhaya MP Kenneth Marende, backed by ODM, had just been elected Speaker of the National Assembly, beating Francis ole Kaparo (PNU) by just four votes.

Lagdera MP Farah Maalim, also of ODM, quickly sailed through after then Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara threw in the towel, having sensed defeat.


Mr Marende’s first task was to swear in the new MPs. But there was a hitch. ODM had claimed victory in the just concluded elections but incumbent President Kibaki (PNU) had been sworn in. Parliament was their last chance.

“We feared that Marende’s first task would be to declare a crisis in Parliament with two presidents (Kibaki and Raila),” recalls a former PNU MP.

The MPs were to be sworn in in alphabetical order after Kibaki and Raila.

Consequently, Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba was first to be called in. Although Mr Marende had made a determination that MPs would take oath as was prescribed – swearing allegiance to the President and country – Mr Nambwamba, then aged just 33, would hear none of it.


At this point, Meru Senator (then Imenti South MP) Kiraitu Murungi intervened: “On a point of order, Mr Speaker, sir. The oath is in a prescribed form. Is the oath being taken by Mr Namwamba in the prescribed form or a different oath?”

The Speaker ruled: “Just wait! I have to make a ruling. Indeed, Mr Murungi, you are right. If the Hon Member listened to the ruling I made…this oath is in a prescribed form in chapter 100 of the laws of Kenya. So, you will have to take the oath in the form in which it is prescribed.”

But an adamant Namwamba refused to swear allegiance to the president –he only mentioned the republic.



Then Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua alerted the Speaker of Mr Namwamba’s antics, forcing Mr Marende to make a firm ruling, which the Budalang’i MP obeyed.

This week, the man who calls himself Tawfiq and once self-declared ODM general cut all ties with Mr Odinga, even accusing him of abandoning his people in Budalangi.

Only time will tell which bosom political friends will part ways next.