By Gitungo Wamere
As Kenyans, we all agree that The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is one of the best thing to have ever happened to Kenya. It is only last month that we celebrated the 8th Anniversary of the document. So far, we at least have experienced the best and the worst of the document. The Constitution was part of the ceasefire agreement after the 2007/8 Post-Election Violence (PEV).We hurriedly made and enacted it and promised ourselves that in the fullness of time we shall amend it.
As we approach a decade under the 2010 Constitutional epoch, it is fundamental for us to have a discussion on what has worked for us and what has not. Maturity now demands that we stop pampering every section of the Constitution, be honest with each part and resolve to modify or even scrap some provisions if need be.
The former Senator of Nyandarua Muriuki Karue, once registered his frustrations with the Senate. He was particularly disappointed by Its powerlessness that makes it unable to function. The term ‘Upper House’ referring to Senate we’ve come to realize is just an empty legal glorification. To be honest, since its inception in 2013, the Senate has never flexed its muscles – if it has any – apart from the once in a while mature debates and ventilation on national issues like in the 2014 security laws amendment debate and the controversial 2017 amendment on election laws. Sincerely nothing much can be said of the Senate.
Due to this powerlessness that lies within our Constitution, Senators seem to have surrendered to this fate. It is reported that their committees do not function because of a consistent lack of quorum. Meaning the Senators give little or no importance to their legislative duties. Nevertheless, their lack of interest is “understandable” because there isn’t a single thing they can do without usurping the powers of the National Assembly or the County Assemblies.
Whenever there is superiority battle between the National Assembly and the Senate, the obvious casualty is always the Senate because of its limited powers. For instance, just before the end of the 11th Parliament the Leader of Majority in the National Assembly, Aden Duale introduced the Parliamentary Service Bill, 2017 which in many ways isolated the Senate in the administration of Parliament. The Bill which was re-introduced in the 12th Parliament had initially torpedoed a Senate bill by former Meru Senator Kiraitu Murungi. The bill crystallized Senators’ thoughts on how they wished to see the running of the Parliamentary Service Commission.
For a country like Kenya which is still struggling to meet the basic needs of her citizens, it is foolhardy to have a bloated and expensive political bureaucracy. To make matters worse, some offices are openly ceremonial. If we were to restructure our legislature, the question we ought to ask ourselves is, can the few responsibilities of the Senate be performed by the County Assemblies in collaboration with the National Assembly? The answer here will be a resounding yes.
Assuming we form a committee on devolution issues in the national assembly. Then, let the county assemblies carry out detailed oversight of their respective counties hand-in-hand with the National Assembly. This will strengthen devolution, reduce confusion and save us a lot of money.
Moving forward, we have to be open minded and do what is best for our country. The debate should not be about who will lose a position but what the country will gain. Apart from the senate, there are so many other positions that are not necessary and we need to talk about them soon. Good people, let’s take the bull by the horns.