Many of those who watched the event wondered why a speech whose contents were largely known had to be protected to such lengths. However, the tradition goes back twenty four years ago – at a time when the contents of a budget speech were known only to a few individuals.
An incident that took place during the budget reading in 1997 under then Finance Minister Musalia Mudavadi created a culture where the briefcase would be guarded in following years.
At the time, the opposition was advocating for a change in the constitution and believed that it would guarantee a free and fair election.
To get the attention of late President Daniel arap Moi, the legislators from the opposition led by Michael Kijana Wamwalwa, vowed to disrupt the budget reading by any means possible.
“When I got to parliament, I could feel that there was a problem and you walk in and as you move around, people are looking at you as if they know something about you. As if something is about to happen to you but no one is telling you.
“When I walked in, there was applause from the government side but jeers from the opposing side,” Mudavadi told KTN News in a previous interview.
The key opposition leaders, Michale Kijana Wamalwa, Martin Shikuku and Mwai Kibaki, were, however, not ready to lead the disruption.
The current Siaya County Senator James Orengo was tasked to start the disruption which he did.
Opposition legislatures who had placards in their pockets rolled them out and started chanting ‘no reforms, no budget.’
“I would read a line or two and they would start creating chaos. Some members were even thrown out. I was reading extremely fast and the members continued chanting,” Mudavadi added.
All that time, the late Moi was in the house and witnessed the commotion. At one point, the sergeant at arms had to call for reinforcement in a bid to protect the mace.
The Opposition MPs attempted to grab the mace which would have stopped the parliamentary session which they were desperate for.
Mudavadi indicated that he learnt some lessons as the Finance Minister, one being that there had to be several copies of the speech in the event something happened.
“It is that year that we learnt that if they can stop you in the house, they can also stop you from outside. That is when the tradition of escorting the Minister for Finance started because before, one did not need to have a motorcade or even the police escorting you.”
The protests, however, were effective in forcing Moi to bulge and allow minimum reforms under the Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG).
Part of the reforms changed how electoral commissioners would be picked and are largely attributed to the success of the 2002 general election.