Monday, August 26, 2013

Scrap the Senate. It has outstayed its welcome.

We also need amendments that give life and meaning to the Senate. The irony here is that those Senators crying that they have been neutered are the selfsame MPs in past life who during the constitution-making process conspired to water down the powers and functions of the Senate. - Macharia Gaitho, Daily Nation (26/08/13)
When the Harmonised Draft Constitution was finally presented to Kenyans to comment upon, an overwhelming majority of voters focused their minds on the structure of the National Executive. They debated, and fought, over whether the National Executive should be presidential or parliamentary. The structure of Parliament did not even feature in the top ten concerns of the electorate. It did not receive the attention that was received by the Abortion Question, the Two-thirds Rule, the Land Question or Devolution. There were flaws, for sure, in the Harmonised Draft; we chose to ignore them in pursuit of narrow points-scoring.

This blogger does not believe that the Senate needs to be "strengthened" or its role in the government of Kenya "clarified." The Senate is not the Upper House that Senators believe it is. It was not conceived as such. It is the institution whose principle duty is to protect devolution. They have done a piss-poor job of protecting devolution because the Majority and Minority Leaders in the Senate are very, very busy playing handmaiden to political colossi in the form of Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga, respectively.

Kithure Kindiki may be a respected and accomplished lawyer; he is completely useless in the political arena. Indeed, Moses Wetangula is a not only an accomplished lawyer, he is also an accomplished politician but in the Senate, he is completely wasted. What the two have managed to do over the past six months is to demonstrate as starkly as possible that the Senate is a chamber of no use and should be scrapped.

Rather than plan for the inevitable, they have gone looking for new powers to exercise and new functions to perform. they have done everything they could other than what they should. They have given scant attention to the devolution process and allowed it to be hijacked by the National Executive, the public service, sundry irrelevant commissions and authorities, and political players out in the cold with idle hands ready for the Devil's work. And instead of refocusing their attention on their jobs, they have picked fights with the National Assembly and the National Executive, receiving the hiding they richly deserve at every turn. Very soon the Supreme Court will disappoint them too.

Why they believed they could style themselves as American Senators without the power to do so beggars belief. A cursory comparison of the US Constitution and the Kenya Constitution would have clearly shown that the two chambers are as similar as chalk and cheese. The US senate enjoys great power; the Kenyan one does not. The Kenyan one is the equivalent of a glorified debating society which will only be roused when it is time to take part in the budget-making process. It does not enjoy one single veto power over anything. If there are amendments to be considered regarding the Senate, the only sensible one is how to scrap it and transfer its functions to the National Assembly. At the very least, it will bring down the massive wage bill for those characters. Kenyans would definitely approve that.

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