Speech to MPs will set tone of Uhuru agenda


The first significant official event President Uhuru Kenyatta will preside over after he takes the oath of office today will be his address to the new Parliament.

The historic opening of the bicameral Parliament takes place on Tuesday April 16.

It will also be the first time since taking office that President Kenyatta will set his legislative agenda for the nation. Parliamentary rules provide that the speech that the President will give to both Houses be debated for a maximum of four days.

The new-look Parliament comprises of the 67-member Senate which will sit at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and the 349-member National Assembly, which will conduct business from Parliament Buildings in Nairobi.

Parliamentary rules state that the President shall address a special sitting of the House once a year, although he is free to do so at any time, should he so wish.

The 11th Parliament is significant.

Apart from the re-introduction of the Senate, it will comprise an unprecedented number of women, marginalised groups including people with disabilities and the youth in both Houses, all courtesy of the Constitution.

Although both Houses are shy of the constitutional one third gender rule, the National Assembly has an unprecedented 69 women -47 were elected to represent counties as part of affirmative action while 16 were elected from constituencies. The other six were nominated by political parties.

In the Senate, where no woman was elected, there are 18 women Senators nominated by political parties also as part of affirmative action, including one each representing people with disabilities and the youth.
In the new dispensation, Parliament will control its own calendar while the President and Cabinet secretaries will no longer be MPs. The popular “Question Time“ when MPs would get to ask questions affecting their constituents and constituencies from Cabinet ministers has also been scrapped. Now, such issues and questions will be addressed through committees where most of parliamentary work will be done from. Cabinet secretaries will be summoned to respond to issues under their respective dockets before the various House committees.

Committees will be powerful tools of work in both the Houses. The Senate has 11-committees. Although the Jubilee Coalition of President-elect Kenyatta and his deputy Ruto command a majority in both the National Assembly and the Senate and as such take up majority seats in committees, the alliance has indicated it would allow the Opposition to chair the watch-dog committees to play oversight roles over the government. The new Standing Orders are silent on the leadership of the watchdog committees. They are the Public Investment Committee, Public Accounts Committee, Local Authorities and Funds Committee

and the Budget and Appropriations Committee.

The National Assembly’s Standing Orders has created two new key committees, the Committee on Appointments and the Committee on Selection.

The Committee on Appointments created which will comprise the Speaker Justin Muturi as chairman,

his Deputy Joyce Laboso, Leader of the Majority and the deputy as well as the Leader of the Minority and the deputy and a maximum of 20 MPs, will be responsible for vetting Cabinet secretaries to be appointed by the President.

The committee will be in place for three years.

The Committee on Selection, to be chaired by the House Majority Leader and comprise a maximum 19 MPs, will nominate members to sit in all other committees, save for the House Business Committee.

The number of MPs each party will contribute to the committees will depend on their strength in the House.

During the special of the joint Houses on April 16, Mr Muturi, the National Assembly Speaker will preside over the ceremony while his Senate counterpart Ekwee Ethuro will assist him in an apparent power sharing move.




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