NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 30 – Members of County Assemblies could soon enjoy similar privileges to Members of Parliament after the County Assemblies Powers and Privileges Bill went through the second reading in the Senate Tuesday afternoon.,
The Bill seeks to give Members of the County Assemblies leverage with fellow legislators by giving them immunity from various issues among them shielded the MCAs from civil or criminal responsibilities that emanate from their utterances on the floor of the Assembly or in a committee sitting.
The Bill states that, “No civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted in any court or tribunal against a member of a County Assembly by reason of any matter said in a debate, petition, motion or other proceedings of a county assembly”.
While moving the motion to have the Bill read for a second time, Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki said it should not be misconstrued to think that the Bill will allow MCAs to break the law, that it was meant to enhance the work of MCAs so that they could conduct their mandate without fear or favor.
“These privileges and immunities are functional; they are not to exclude the recipients or the beneficiaries from being treated like any other person would be treated—it is also giving freedom from arrest in civil matters and I think these needs to be emphasized, meaning that criminal responsibility is not excluded all together,” the Majority Leader affirmed.
The Bill incidentally received overwhelming support from various Senators who said it was timely as it would enhance the role of MCAs in service delivery.
“When I stand here and speak about any issue, I have no fear of reprisals and indeed no other legislator should have, because MCAs are legislators like we are, they oversight like we do,” stated Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula.
On her part, Nominated Senator Agnes Zani said the Bill would bring order to county assemblies which have in the recent past been dogged with scenes of violence the latest being the shooting of five people in Makueni County including the governors’ Chief of Staff, his bodyguard and County Sergeant at Arms after the Governor and his supporters stormed a meeting in the County Assembly convened by the Speaker, Majority Leader, area MP and MCAs.
“The whole idea at the end of the day is to have an Assembly where there is decorum, and indeed Mr. Speaker had this had been put in place already we wouldn’t be having the scenes that we are seeing in various counties today—the moment you have rules for procedure, rules for operation and penalties for the same, people tend to have and exercise the decorum that is there,” Zani said.
Majority Chief Whip Beatrice Elachi supported the Bill but proposed that Speakers also be protected as most were facing opposition from the County assemblies and were at the risk of being removed from office.
And as expected the politics of the proposed referendum had to find its way into the debate since lately both sides (‘OKOA’ Kenya and ‘Pesa Mashinani’) have been wooing MCAs to support their cause.
Nandi Senator Stephen Sang’ made comments implying that those pushing for the referendum were hoodwinking MCAs with goodies yet the promises could not be achieved through an amendment to the constitution.
“We hope that this Bill will suffice in terms of giving our county assemblies the autonomy our county assemblies the powers and privileges that they need—and therefore our brothers who would want to attempt to persuade MCAs that they should be able to support the referendum just because their issues are being catered for through an amendment to the constitution is a lie.” Sang’ said.
This angered Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale who initiated an onslaught on the Nandi Senator accusing him of organizing an attack on a meeting convened by pro-referendum activists three weeks ago in Kapsabet which saw four people injured including Nandi Chief of staff, Timon Kosgei.
The bill now awaits scrutiny and debate by the committee of the whole house where amendment will be proposed before the bill is eventually passed and forwarded to the president for assent.