Bills & Legislation 

 

The First Senate served for 4 years during which it operated with limited powers and was severely overshadowed by the lower house. For instance, it could neither veto bills from the lower house nor originate 'financial' bills. A financial bill was one that touched on taxation, the Consolidated Fund, or government debt, etc. Excerpts from the 1963 Constitution:

59. (2) A Bill other than a money Bill may originate in either House of the National Assembly but a money Bill may originate only in the House of Representative.

60. The Senate shall not: (a) proceed upon any Bill, other than a Bill sent from the House of Representatives, that in the opinion of the person presiding, makes provision of the following purposes: i). for the imposition, repeal or alteration of taxation; ii). for the imposition of any change upon the Consolidated Fund or any other fund of the Government of Kenya; iii). for the payment, issue or withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund or any other fund of the Government of Kenya of any moneys not charged thereon or any alteration in the amount of such a payment, issue or withdrawal; or iv). for the composition or remission of any debt-due to the Government of Kenya; (b) proceed upon any amendment to any Bill that, in the opinion of the person presiding, makes provision for any of those purposes; or (c) proceed upon any motion (including any amendments to a motion) the effect of which, in the opinion of the person presiding, would be to make provision for any of the those purposes.

This First Senate could not dilly-dally on a money Bill sent to it from the House of Representatives. It had to act on it and return it within 30 days: Excerpts:

61. (1) When a Bill that is passed by the House of Representatives is certified by the Speaker of that House.....as a money Bill and having been sent to the Senate at least one month before the end of the session, is not passed by the Senate without amendment within one month after it is so sent, the Bill shall, ........ be presented to the Governor-General for assent.

Often times, a feeling of impotence engulfed the First Senate whenever Bills (and especially money Bills) were sent to it for debate. It was looked down upon by the lower house, so much so, that there was a debate to abolish it hardly a year into its existence. The Senators resisted such moves and continued to frustrate efforts of the ruling party KANU, to change the constitution, as such changes required majority assents from the Senate. The President hardly appointed any members from the Senate as Ministers. Thus debates in the senate did not receive the requisite attention from the Cabinet. 

The Senate for its part, failed to do itself any favours given the lack of quality in debate that often accompanied its deliberations. It received scant media coverage and faced undue delays in the printing of its Hansard reports.

"The educational effect of the Senate was also limited by the fact that the standard of its debates was not of a very high order. It was a rather boisterous and unruly house. Those speaking were frequently interrupted by shouts and fraudulent points of order which made it quite difficult for them to develop their arguments thoughtfully and for the debate to proceed systematically. The presiding officer cautioned Senators repeatedly to comply with the rules of order and warned them against undignified behaviour which would bring the House into disrepute. On one occasion he expelled an intoxicated member for fourteen sitting days. There were many irrelevancies and much repetition in Senators' speeches, and their language was often quite emotional and intemperate. It was also often evident that members had not done their "homework." The quality of the Senate's deliberations was such, indeed, that the Leader of Government Business was prompted to warn its members that their conduct was weakening the case for retaining bicameralism. He said: '........ I take this opportunity to appeal to hon. Members to try and behave with the dignity that is required of this House as the Senate. This is the Senior House, and it is supposed to consist of the elder statesmen. But at the moment there is a tendency for many people—and I have had this from other Members of the House of Representatives, who have made derogatory remarks on our procedure—to realize that a higher standard of debate and more serious contributions to the Government of the country, will make this House a considered one, and the more right we will have to remain if we are going to remain.'" (Proctor, 1965).

Despite the low-key value of the role of the Senate in the eyes of the public and even less in those of the lower house, it did distinguish itself as the Chamber that was consistent in highlighting issues of minority rights as well as local (regional) interests. At least at the Senate there was adequate room for the small tribes to be heard and to be represented as a block. However, being made up almost entirely of KANU and KADU members, the Senate regularly shot itself in the foot whenever it called a vote on a motion, because often-times Senators voted along party lines. 

The Constitution of Kenya Act Amendment Act No 19 of 1966 abolished the Senate and provided for the Senators to move into the House of Representatives as MPs. Writing in the Kenya Parliament Magazine of April 2011, Jackline W. Kamathi and Linda Kiriinya describe the process of the abolition of the First Senate: 

"The amendment to abolish the Upper House was quite unique. This amendment  was first discussed in the Senate then brought to the House of Representatives. The Bill was introduced to the House by the then Attorney General, Charles Njonjo. In presenting the  Bill, he argued that one House would work better as opposed to two. Those in favour of the abolition of the Senate argued that the idea of a bicameral system was foreign and imposed by the colonialist. This view was propagated by the Late Tom Mboya. Also, the role of the Senate had already been watered down and the merging could save on time in the passing of Bills. However, the strongest argument was that merging both Houses would unite Kenya.
Since Parliament was a representative assembly, by having one chamber the  legislature would serve as an example to all Kenyans. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta argued that traditional Kenyan society rejected the notion of dual executive authority. He claimed that Kenyans were more apt to support strong centralized leadership, which emulated tribal structure. There were also claims that it was too expensive to maintain two legislatures. On the other hand, those who did not appreciate the idea of a merged House claimed that it would easily lead to dictatorship as too much power would be concentrated on one person. This argument was largely championed by the Late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. The amendment was passed by Parliament establishing the presidency and abolishing the Senate. Kenyatta became the President, and Parliament the sole legislative body." (Kenya Parliament Magazine of April 2011). 

Even after it was abolished and its outgoing members were being amalgamated into the National Assembly, there was a feeling (fueled no less, by KANU which was all along opposed to a Senate), that the new MPs were being imposed on the electorate. However despite overwhelming odds, this First Senate did make noteworthy contributions in the successful passing of various legislations:

 

*Notable Achievements of the First Senate

 

  Act/Amendment Details of the Act/Amendment of the Constitution
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 * reliable data on the first senate is not readily available......but we are doing our level best to get it......

The First Senate was eventually abolished after 1966 and Kenya reverted to a unicameral system of parliament. At that time additional constituencies were created and all the Senators were amalgamated to the lower house as Members of Parliament.  

 

 

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