Embrace dialogue to resolve laws row

Friday, July 14th, 2023 07:30 | By
National Assembly of Kenya. PHOTO/Parliament website.
National Assembly of Kenya. PHOTO/Parliament website.

Kenyans who gathered for months at the Bomas of Kenya to deliberate on the current Constitution had reached a consensus that the country’s governance structure had to be reformed.

They decentralised power by creating county governments with assigned responsibilities as well as expanded the legislature.

They specifically created the Senate, a new legislative body tasked with oversight and protection of the devolved units.

The drafters of the Constitution originally envisaged a powerful Senate that had supervisory role over the Nation al Assembly as well as the trial chamber for impeachment of the President. The thinking was formation of a solid Upper House with powers to veto decisions of the Lower House.

This is what was contained in the “The Harmonised Draft” by the committee of experts, the document which captured the spirit of the Bomas, Kilifi and the Wako drafts. The experts had designed a Senate that ought to have been the ultimate stamp of the peoples’ authority.

However, the powerful Senate was weakened by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution which stripped its powers by denying the body a supervisory authority over the National Assembly.

Though legal experts attempted to repair the damage by creating mediation committees to prevent confrontation between the two Houses, the situation doesn’t seem to have been remedied.

The National Assembly and the Senate have been caught up in sibling turf wars and conflicts that are now the subject of litigation at the Supreme Court. The Senate has sued the National Assembly for passing 23 laws touching on counties without involving it.

The High Court had quashed the 23 laws on the basis of the Senate’s argument but the decision was overturned on appeal. The Senate then sought redress in the apex court. The conflict revolves around the powers of the Speakers endorsing of Bills.

By nature, our justice system is adversarial. If the matter is determined, it will render one of the Houses as a loser and the other as a winner.

This will be counterproductive for legislative bodies that should work in an environment of mutual respect and cooperation to serve public good.

That is why we support the advice by the Chief Justice for the two Houses to sort the matter out of court probably through mediation or arbitration. We also encourage the parties to review the relevant laws and Standing Orders to foster a smooth working relationship in execution of their mandates.

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