KENYA: PARLIAMENT WEBSITE SHUT AFTER MEDIA REPORTS

Digital Content

The Kenyan Parliament has shut down its website amid reports that the The Standard’s exclusive report of well-guarded secrets embarrassed some MPs.

Last weekend, http://www.parliament.go.ke was blank after the two-day serialisation of what reads like an A-Z of some of Kenya's MPs’ hitherto unknown — and perhaps best kept — career and educational details.

Instead of the profiles that have captivated readers and triggered animated discussions in public and private, was a terse notice: "Thank you for visiting the Parliament website. We are currently updating the site. Please bookmark the site and visit us shortly." There were no further details.

A source at Parliament’s Information Technology department confirmed that the site had been shut down. "Its true the site has been closed," said the source, who said a lot of work was still being done on it, including updating the profiles already posted.

The closure elicited surprise, even anger among dozens of Internet surfers in Nairobi, who were keen to access the site and sample the secret lives of the MPs for themselves. The MPs said they had no idea the information was available on the web but admitted it was mandatory to submit the information once one was elected MP.

The website contains brief profiles of MPs, including President Kibaki. It gives the age, marital status, religion, career history, education and MPs’ hobbies.

Reports said the website’s official launch by House Speaker Francis Kaparo set for later this month could be delayed until early next year.

It also emerged that the expose "ambushed and embarrassed" some high-profile parliamentarians, according to a source. It was not immediately clear who was embarrassed by the publication of the material posted on the web or serialised by The Standard.

But MPs, including Trade and Industry minister Mukhisa Kituyi, Kanu nominated MP Ruth Oniang’o, Karachuonyo MP, former Planning minister Adhu Awiti and Assistant Transport minister Andrew Ligale praised the site. They said Kenyans had the right to have first-hand information about their leaders.

Kituyi, who is also the MP for Kimilili, said it was a legitimate right for Kenyans to know about their representatives. He was surprised that the website was shut, saying people need not be ashamed of who they are and what they had or had not achieved.

"My experience both in and out of Parliament is enormous and cannot be summarised in a few paragraphs. If anybody wanted more information then my ministry’s website has all the details," said Kituyi, who holds a PhD and stands out as one of the best educated in President Kibaki’s Cabinet.

Awiti, who is also the Rachuonyo MP, said public figures should not hide personal details relating to their academic background, career, religion or marital status. He said the website was "a huge step" towards Government’s dream of achieving accountability and transparency in its ranks.

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