It is emerging that Parliament like any other State organ is a victim of power concentration in the hands of the Executive that also lacks inbuilt checks. While many Kenyans appreciate attempts to restore Parliament’s oversight and legislative role, there is one school of thought that believes in the past that the Legislature and its leadership are subordinates to the Executive.
The first-term House Speaker Kenneth Marende is painted as a rebel for ruling against procedure followed in re-appointing the director of the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC), retired Justice Aaron Ringera by President Mwai Kibaki. The House presiding official is, according to some lawmakers, a radical departure from hitherto compromised predecessors save for Humphrey Slade, the first Speaker in the post independent Kenya.
It is not in doubt that there are some political leaders who would not like to see an independent Legislature emerge from Executive autocracy and blackmail with an impartial person presiding over the debates.
For 35 years now, no Speaker except one, has ever ruled against the Executive desires because of intimidation and threats. Threats notwithstanding, it is unthinkable that a Speaker worth the title in a democracy can go by the dictates of the Executive for the sake of doing so.
A no-nonsense former deputy Speaker, the late Jean Marie Seroney was a casualty of a ruling on a matter under debate. In the full view of other parliamentarians, Seroney and two MPs were arrested within the precincts of the Legislature and detained without trial in a calculated move to intimidate Speakers and to muzzle parliamentary authority.
Speakers worldwide are guided by Standing Orders and the constitution, nothing else. Marende is no exception to succumb to threats and blackmail in the exercise of his powers. To allude that some members of parliament are special and cannot play by the House rules is an affront to democracy.
Unless the Constitution is changed to completely de-link the membership of the Executive from that of the Legislature, the president and his Cabinet Ministers are bound by the Standing Orders and Rules of the House. Only elected parliamentarians in a general election take up Cabinet positions or the presidency but not vice versa.
Sycophants of the yesteryears often argue that the Legislature is theoretically supreme and independent but in practice it is not because the president can dissolve and prorogue it any time. Successive presidents have prorogued parliaments in a crisis and even imprisoned critics. A Constitutional amendment that seeks to free the Legislature from Executive stranglehold has been frustrated by the Executive and its backbench cronies.
In as a much as we would like to believe that the president may be at fault in some of his decisions, members of parliament share the blame for impunity. Indeed, the lawmakers are aware that the alteration of administrative and electoral units is a constitutional issue often preceded by a population and household census conducted once in every ten years.
Because of political interests, no MP has challenged the decision to convert constituencies into districts. Even one MP who challenged former President Daniel arap Moi for the illegal creation of districts had to change tune soon after Moi retired and Kibaki took over. He dropped the court case because one of their own was now in power.
The belated Census in 2009 has just been concluded and the Boundaries Review Commission is yet to take off but President Kibaki has been creating districts until a court ruled against the decision.
Kenyans are anxious to see a better country free of manipulation and intrigues in the new political dispensation in which organs compliment roles of each other while they operate independently and also check each other. That is a heavy assignment entrusted to the Committee of Experts on the Constitutional Review that is already grappling with political party interests on the structures of state organs.
The experts would do us proud by ignoring political parties in their deliberations and restructure the organs in the best way possible. For instance, they should take cognizance of the fact that parliament will not be accountable without a second chamber, the executive will overstep its role without separation of government from state and the judiciary will not operate independently without the introduction of the Supreme Court.
(The writer is a former cabinet minister and secretary general of two major political parties, Kenya African National Union and Liberal Democratic Party. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org