, Your Excellency, The President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Kenya, Honourable Members, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure and honour that on behalf of the entire membership of the House, I welcome Your Excellency and all Distinguished Guests to the State Opening of the Fourth Session of the Tenth Parliament today.
This day is specially by practice, tradition and custom at your disposal to pronounce to the Nation the Government’s legislative agenda during the Session. I wish, however, advisedly to make use of this unique and important opportunity to say a few things about the Legislature and the Parliamentary Service Commission.
To begin with, let me thank Your Excellency for the generous and unflinching support you have personally given to the Parliamentary Service Commission over the years including officially launching the Commission’s Strategic Plan for the period 2008-2018 on 13th February last year at the Safari Park Hotel.
The Strategic Plan summarises the reforms the Commission intends to carry out in the Legislative arm of Government so that our people can have a Parliament that is empowered to make that will anchor and promote good governance and assist the country attain Vision 2030.
We live in a fast changing world such that parliament is obligated to enact laws that enable it keep abreast with adequate capacity to discharge its constitutional mandate effectively and remain relevant in step with the citizenry responsive to the latter’s concerns and tribulations.
The Parliamentary Service Commission is committed to ensuring that Parliament remains a public watchdog with teeth to bite any public servant unwilling to conduct public affairs in accordance with the law.
In particular, Agenda Four of the National Accord has specific targets which the National Assembly is expected to actualize. These include electronic voting, live television and radio broadcasts of the proceedings of the House and its Committees, etc.
I am happy to report that we have had the necessary financial and technical support from the Government to carry out extensive renovation of the Chamber to facilitate the smooth installation of the requisite equipment to make this happen. The renovation works will soon commence and the sittings of the House will shift to the old Chamber which is much smaller than where we are.
The renovation is expected to last roughly one year and I plead that Honourable Members gracefully bear some inconveniences that are unavoidable in a project of this nature.
It is worthy of mention and significant for the House and, indeed, the whole country, to note that when the Commission was first established in the year 2000, Your Excellency was among the first ten Commissioners.
Your pioneering role in the Commission was instructive in laying the firm foundation I and my colleagues 10 Commissioners found when I became the Chairman two years ago and we are proud of your indeligible role in pioneering execution of the Commission’s mandate.
This, to me, explains why the Parliamentary Service Commission and the Executive arm of Government have largely read from the same script with respect to implementation of projects since you ascended to the leadership of this country.
We commend you, Your Excellency, for the warm understanding and close co-operation that we have enjoyed with your Government.
Although prima facie the House would seem to have passed fewer Bills during the 3rd Session than it did in the 2nd Session, the House was instrumental in consolidating our nationhood and cohesion by jump-starting the operations of the various Commissions to commence and carry out their specific mandates either contained in the Agenda Four of the National Accord or under the general reform measures the Government has undertaken to institute.
The House, inter alia, approved membership of the following Commissions on the dates indicated:-
Commission/Committee/Tribunal Date of Adoption
(1) Committee of Experts 4/2/2009
(2) Interim Independent Electoral Commission 30/4/2009
(3) Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission 7/5/2009
(4) National Cohesion and Integration Commission 12/5/2009
(5) Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission 28/5/2009
(6) Political Parties Disputes Tribunal 01/9/2009
(7) Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court 24/11/2009
Beyond the foregoing, Parliament commendably, through its bipartisan Parliamentary Select Committee rose to the occasion and the national challenge of the time when the Committee of Experts on the Constitutional reform handed over its report to it.
Pursuant to the provisions of the Constitution of Kenya Review Act the Committee went into a retreat in Naivasha and against all possible cynicisms put Kenya first and came up with an agreed position, produced an agreed, if not improved, harmonized Draft Constitution.
The Jury is still out on whether or not they did well but as to where we are felicitation is in order.
Kenyans yearn for reforms because they love their country. They want peace in the hope and expectation that their aspirations for development, good governance and better life would be realized in their lifetime and that they will in turn bequeath these to their children and children’s children and on to prosperity.
Kenyans have for many years hosted refugees at immense sacrifice and we are therefore disenchanted with the continued presence of IDPs in their midst. We must do all that it takes to reverse this enigma with us Hon. Members in the forefront to bring about the necessary if not essential reforms to reverse this. This country is ready to move forward.
What our people expect of us, especially as their elected representatives sitting in this House, is leadership. Our people would like to see the leadership of this country stand firm in defending our national values as enshrined in our national anthem.
The people of Kenya have accorded us the privilege to be their elected representatives so that subscribe to and uphold their dignity.
At this juncture, I would like to appeal to Members to approach the debate on the new Constitution with full soberliness.
We have no reason nor business, to call each other names merely because of a difference in opinion or stand on a given article or clause in the harmonized draft Constitution, we shall stand accused of confusing the public or worse still, of sowing seeds of discord, disharmony and animosity among our people.
In Constitution making, Parliament is comparable to the Court of Appeal because the final draft that will go to the public for adoption through a referendum will be approved by this House. A Court of Appeal does not begin to consider a case until its seized of it.
It is in this House that it matters. We must stop all those antics, shadow boxing at all manner of fora including pre-wedding parties. Men and women of substance must and will be heard here where it counts. The changes all of us would like to see in the harmonized draft should be subjected to mature debate.
Members would do a great job for this country if they spent most of their time listening to what the people are saying instead of advocating to the public what they want removed from the draft, etc. My parting shot on this subject I quote from an eminent 18th Century American lawyer.
The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.
Every politician – and all Hon Members are politicians – have ambition to capture state power through the electoral process and form or be part of the Government.
The people of Kenya expect you to give them a Constitution which will restrain the Government from unnecessarily interfering in their affairs and NOT to restrain them from prying into Government affairs. The new Constitution we must have will be measured against this primary bench mark.
Your Excellency, this far I may sound idealistic but I must confess that I am a dreamer awake to the reality that Government is the greatest reflection of human nature and that men and women of whom politicians are part, are not Angels for if they were no Government would be necessary.
Our focus therefore has to be, to give it our all so that Kenyans have premier leadership.
You are the longest serving Member of this House and with that unique unparalleled tenure, you have direct personal knowledge, skills and experience on parliamentary procedures and diplomacy.
In the year 2006, the National Assembly successfully hosted the 114th Inter-Parliamentary Union meeting in Nairobi.
The Government played an indispensable role in ensuring that the meeting was a resounding success. During my tour at international parliamentary meetings, I have met several delegates who came to Nairobi for the I.P.U. meeting in 2006.
They still cherish fond and fresh memories of Kenya and its people who they say are warm, friendly and kind.
Once again in the month of September this year, we are going to host the 56th Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Plenary meeting here in Nairobi.
The Government has already assisted the National Assembly in several ways to ensure the successful hosting of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meeting.
We shall Your Excellency, keep you posted as we progress towards the meeting since your personal experience and advice on all this is peerless. And we value it.
As a country we must live up to our reputation to always going for the best. If not emerging the best.
It is now my pleasure and privilege to invite you to address the Nation from the August House.
23rd February, 2010