From a bicameral legislative arm of government at independence and back to a two-chamber House — the National Assembly and the Senate — Parliament has gone full circle in 50 years.
Return of the Bicameral Legislature
The independence Constitution, negotiated between nationalists and the British government, was repealed and a new one enacted in a referendum on August 4, 2010.
The new Supreme Law took full effect after the General Election of March 4, 2013. It, among other things, created a two-chamber Parliament; the National Assembly (Lower House) and the Senate (Upper House).
The Executive and the Legislature are separated where members of the Cabinet (i.e. Cabinet Secretaries) are not Members of Parliament.
The National Assembly (Article 97) has 290 members elected from constituencies, 47 women each elected from counties, and 12 members nominated by parliamentary parties according to their strength in the National Assembly (Article 90) to represent special interests: the youth, people with disabilities and workers.
The other member of the National Assembly, in ex-officio capacity, is the Speaker.
The Senate has 47 members each elected from a county, 16 women members nominated by political parties according to their strength in the Senate (Article 90), two members ( a man and a woman) representing the youth, two members ( a man and a woman) representing people with disabilities, and the Speaker who will be an ex-officio member.
The Senate is the backbone of the counties, and its actions will determine the effectiveness of the devolved units in delivering services to the public.
The second function of the bicameral Parliament is to create an appellate hierarchy in the enactment of laws, i.e. giving an opportunity to one chamber to review laws and decisions made by the other chamber.
The Senate is supposed to be both reactive and proactive. Article 109 allows a Bill concerning a county to originate from the Senate (but it must be considered by the National Assembly from which it did not originate (Articles 111 and 112).
If a Bill relates to election of members of county assemblies or a county executive (also called a ‘Special Bill’ under Article 111), it may be vetoed by the National Assembly through a resolution supported by two-thirds of its members.
The role of the National Assembly is to enact legislation, determine the allocation of revenue between the levels of Government, oversee national revenue, expenditure and State organs and approve declaration of war and extensions of states of emergency.
The Senate represents the counties and protects their interests. It participates in law-making, debates and approves Bills concerning counties (Articles 109-113). It determines the allocation of national revenue among counties (Article 217), and exercises oversight role over national revenue allocated to the county governments. The Senate participates in the oversight of State officers by determining resolutions to remove the President and/or Deputy President from office (Article 145).
National Assembly (11th Parliament)
The 349 members of the National Assembly of the 11th Parliament were sworn-in on March 28, 2013. Almost three quarters (i.e. 252) of them joined the House for the first time, while 73 were returning to serve their second term. Eighteen will be serving their third term while only four will be serving their fourth term.
The longest serving members will be Nooru Adan Mohammed and Oburu Odinga both whom will be serving their fifth terms.
This being the first time that the position of county women representative has been introduced, majority of the county women representatives are first time members, with 43 out of 47 women representatives being first time Members. Nyiva Mwendwa is the longest serving among the county women representatives, this being her fourth term. Rachael Shebesh, Maison Leshoomo and Shakila Abdalla who are now serving their second terms as parliamentarians were both nominated Members of Parliament in the 10th Parliament.
There are 16 elected women members of the National Assembly with 10 of them being first-timers. Cecily Mbarire and Naomi Shaaban are serving their third terms as elected members, while Dr Joyce Laboso is serving her second term as an elected member.
There are four nominated women MPs; three of them being first-timers. Amina Abdalla is a third-time nominated member of the National Assembly. There are seven male nominated Members of National Assembly, six of whom are first-timers members.