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We need the Senate, KHRC insists

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 16 – The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) has expressed concern over plans by a section of MPs to push for the abolition of the Senate.

KHRC Executive Director Atsango Chesoni told journalists on Friday that the attempt undermined the principles of equality and accountability that were envisaged by the Constitution.

Atsango, who previously served in the Committee of Experts on Constitution Review (CoE), argued that devolution was meant to facilitate equal distribution of resources and also rid the country of the historical marginalisation that had been witnessed.

The move is spearheaded by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, who argues that the Senate will be duplicating the roles of the National Assembly and will also be expensive for the Kenyan taxpayer. He wants the 68 seats in the Senate abolished.

“If there is no Senate, who will negotiate with the National Assembly on how much of national revenue should be allocated to counties? Kenya will have literally killed devolution of power because the fate of counties will rest solely with the national assembly,” said Chesoni.

“Without the Senate, Kenya will plunge back into the past they aspired to move away from,” she added.

She further argued that a bicameral system would help promote accountability as it introduces effective checks and balances into the governance system. She noted that it would be difficult to check the powers of the President in a unicameral system as it violated the laws of natural justice.

“You cannot have a presidential system that respects good governance and not have a bicameral House. In the current Constitution, the Head of State can be impeached but this cannot happen in a system that has a unicameral House,” she explained.

She also rubbished statements that the Senate duplicated roles saying there was a clear separation of powers between the National Assembly and the Senate.

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Chesoni further expressed concern over the costs of pushing through the amendment as it required a referendum.

“We must expose the attempts to derail the Constitution and we must remain alert,” she challenged.

Senior Programme Officer Tom Kagwe was also confident that the Motion would flop as it did not have the support of key players among politicians.

He further observed that a centralised system was more costly than a decentralised one, in the long run, as it would ensure effective distribution of resources.

“And this for me is a distraction from the real issues. In politics they say mix them and gather them so I think the real issue is being clouded,” he argued.

Chesoni further observed that the CoE reintroduced the Senate into the Constitution after an attempt by MPs to have it removed in Naivasha, during the Constitution making process.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and several other stakeholders have already expressed their opposition to the Motion.

KHRC Deputy Executive Director Davis Mulandi added that devolution would help in the utilisation of local resources.

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