The 11th Parliament may not be Kenya’s favorite House despite its inclusivity. Since its inception in 2013, the National Assembly has been defined by gaffes that range from physical fights to passing pathetic laws. The Senate on the other hand has spent most its time crying wolf and does not have much output to show.
As Parliament resumes business, the National Assembly has on its plate Constitutional laws that must be passed before the August deadline. Some of the pending bills are so monumental that the final legislation may change how Kenyans will perceive the 11th Parliament in the long term. The significant laws include those on Land and the implementation of the “gender rule”.
There are quite a number of laws on land, a subject that divides Kenyans more than any other. Parliament as a house of national dialogue is expected to constitute a legal structure that will answer Kenya’s land question that has persisted since independence, once and for all.
The other window of opportunity for the 11th to restore their honor, is in legislating a law on the implementation of “two thirds gender rule”. Beyond the various preferences by competing groups, the Constitution gave Kenyan women a promissory note of inclusivity. The spirit of Kenya’s Constitution is so uncompromising on matters of equity and equality such that the laws made to implement it must include women sufficiently. In light of this, Parliament has a choice to bury their head in the sand or face the issues head on.
Other bills of interest address the following matters; forests, energy management, petroleum exploration and production, seeds and plants varieties, protection of traditional knowledge and traditional cultural expression among others. Will Parliament continue enacting weak legislation or finally rise up to the task and publish rich laws?
In 2016, the notoriety of giving very short notices on public participation ought to end. If Parliament is really willing to include people in governance they must give sufficient time to Kenyans in order to participate in legislation. You will note that some of the legislations which invoke high public interest, Kenyans are given an abrupt notice to submit memoranda. How about Parliament making 2016 an year of adventure, and set up a multi-media approach in dispersing Parliamentary information. If Parliament was effective in communication then the public would flock there whenever there is a sitting on public participation.
In 2015, we heard enough of corruption and mischief stories on Parliament. MPs have the burden of re-earning Kenyans trust. In 2016, they have deadlines to meet and for those who want to be re- elected they have a constituency to gratify.
Finally, in the words of the Bible, Luke 12:48b, Parliamentarians better put at the back of their minds, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”