Kenya parliament will reopen
with busy agenda
Dennis Itumbi, AfricaNews reporter in Nairobi, Kenya
05. March 2008
Radical bills, innovative ideas, life changing laws and comic
relief amendments on the constitution will be the highlights of
the first session of the 10th Parliament that opens its gates to
business starting Thursday morning .
Interviews with newcomer legislators, Non-governmental
Organizations and the Speaker of the National Assembly point to a
Parliament that is determined to enact the highest number of laws
than ever before.
Top on the cards will be the enactment of the National Peace
accord and a constitutional bill that will entrench the peace deal
between President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga into the
For the first time, Parliament may shelf the traditional week long
debate into the Presidential speech and instead concentrate its
efforts in operationalizing the deal.
Other major plans is like the one led by government deputy chief
whip Johnston Muthama to sponsor an amendment through a
Miscellaneous Amendment bill that will see the current hefty
salaries and allowances paid to legislators significantly reduced.
The Muthama Amendment will also see the establishment of a
Parliamentary Salaries Council to run as an independent body under
the Parliamentary Public Commission.
The body according to the proposed amendment will govern the
remuneration of legislators; establish an independent body to
control and research on the pay to MPs and “to always ensure
equity and harmonization with the rest of the country.”
The amendment also seeks to strip MPs of the power to increase
their own salaries in future.
“If passed the bill will be a welcome break from past parliaments
whose first duty has always been to increase their salary package,”
Muthama, who is a billionaire gemstone dealer, says that he was
motivated to sponsor the amendment, “after reviewing the amount of
money paid to MPs compared to the meager earnings their
constituents were taking home.”
The bill also seeks to have two researchers – one from an economic
and the other from a political background attached to every
legislator for the purposes of “credible and purposeful bills in
the house and also to create employment.”
Significantly, the bill proposes that the allowances and pay of
legislators be taxed like incomes of all other Kenyans.
“We should not create a group of elite Kenyans who do not pay
taxes, people must contribute to the well being of the nation,”
said Muthama in our brief interview.
The amendment has a plan B in the event legislators conspire to
squeeze it out of the legislative agenda; Muthama says he was
willing to inject a clause that ties its operational date from the
start of the next Parliament.
Along the same lines a newcomer legislator from Western Kenya who
pleaded for anonymity in this report since he wants to “spring the
surprise at the right time” wants the State House act changed so
as to demystify the Presidency.
The MP, who comes into Parliament straight from activism, despite
being a lawyer by profession says that State House should be
treated as a public office, “and not a one man operational base.”
“Members of the public who want to access the President should be
able to get to him and have a chat, we need to make State House
the seat of the public after all they pay taxes to maintain it, it
is not a prison it is a public office,” explained the legislator.
Asked why the members of the public should not use the Harambee
House office, he insisted, “The President rarely uses that office,
we need to force a few changes.”
The form of the private member motion had not taken place so we
could not get into details of the proposed changes.
Though the current parliament is likely to start its agenda, by
endorsing legal changes proposed by the Kofi Annan led mediation
team, the government and individual parliamentarians have a long
list of reforms they want to institute.
The government plans to re-introduce the Local Authorities Bill,
which seeks to provide for the creation of a Metropolitan city of
Nairobi and to create necessary legal Framework that will
formalize the elevation of Kisumu and Mombasa to City Status.
The bill also seeks to create for the provision of direct election
of mayors and their deputies. Further a new clause in the bill
also seeks to separate Civic elections from the Parliamentary and
If passed, more autonomy on the local government will be granted.
The government also seeks Bill for establishment financial
management and control boards for councils experiencing financial
The Government team led by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka who is
the official Leader of Government business and deputized by
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Martha Karua also plans to
present a sessional Paper on the ever elusive Kenya Foreign policy,
which will provide crucial impetus on the advancement of Kenya’s
economic and social interests.
The rest of the State agenda include; revival of the proceeds of
crime and money laundering Bill, that has always received support
from western countries and equal opposition from individuals
within the NGO sector and parliamentarians.
The government is also preparing to introduce a sessional paper to
increase land under irrigation from 110,000 hectares to 530,000.
The National Policy Guidelines on ICT that were approved by
cabinet three years ago but have never been discussed by
Parliament will be the other crucial legislation by the State
together with passing the Kenya Information and Communication
The youth and women agenda will be handled through Sessional
Papers on Gender Equality and development and the National Youth
The National Social Health Insurance Fund bill 2004 may see a
comeback in parliament. The highly controversial bill was a
subject of heated debate during the 2007 campaigns with the
opposition saying they would table it as to priority and the
government arguing it was already before parliament in the amended
version and they would vote it into law once re-elected.
A revised Statistics Bill that will provide for the establishment
of the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) as a body
corporate and Principal agency for collecting, analyzing,
publishing and disseminating official statistics in Kenya is also
expected before the house.
The Kenya Law Reform Commission bill – seeks to give Kenya law
Reform operational autonomy, to make it more effective and to
redefine its objectives, functions and composition.
The Companies Bill – the bill will provide a modern framework for
Review of the following labour laws - regulation of wages (Cap
22a), factories and other places of work (cap 514), Workmen’s
compesation act (Cap 236), Employment Act (Cap 226), Trade
Disputes act (Cap 234), Trade Unions Act (Cap 233).
The Industrial Act (Cap 237 Amendment bill is still at the AG’s
chamber will be finalized in order to empower the Directorate of
Industrial Training (DIT), with the legal framework to provide
cutting edge training to both school leavers as well as workers
employed in Industry.
Kenya Maritime Authority 2005 and Kenya Merchant Shipping bill
that will lead to establishment of open ships registry in Kenya
and thereby increase the mandate of the Kenya Ports Authority will
also be introduced for discussion in the house.
Whereas past parliaments have had time to swim and long holidays,
the current house will have little time for sleep and with a
revision of standing orders on the card, they may be forced to sit
for longer hours and more days if the ambition of new legislators
and the government is anything to go by.