The Senates of the Republic of Kenya
Fair. Assertive. Wise
Why a Senate?
A Senate is a legislative body of elected law-makers concerned with the safeguarding of regional interests. Its Senators represent geographical boundaries and must lead from the front in national legislative campaigns on behalf of the region (or County) to ensure that its national interests are protected and promoted.
This Senate that was fronted by KADU, was setup to lookout for the interests of smaller tribes in Kenya who feared they may be dominated by the larger Kikuyu and Luo tribes that were together in KANU. It so happened that the 40 Districts in Kenya then, were largely homogenous ethnic-wise, and had an elected Senator to represent its political and to a lesser extent, its legislative interests.
The Second Senate, which came into existence after the first general elections under the New Constitution in March 2013, is a consequent creation from the idea of executive and legislative devolution to the 47 Counties of Kenya - to promote their national interests.
The modern word senate is derived from the Latin word senātus (senate), which comes from senex, "old man". Its meaning is derived from a very ancient form of simple social organization in which decision-making powers are reserved for the eldest men. Neighbouring Somaliland does indeed have a Senate known as the 'House of Elders'.
Most historical accounts of man record that he has always had a form of a senate to govern his affairs in parallel with other forms of political authority that were in place. As early as hundreds of years BC, the Romans had a form of senate. The first known use of the word 'senate' however, is believed to have been in the 13th century. Kenyan communities had perhaps both formal and informal senate systems of elders to whom the community looked at for wisdom, prayer, prophesy, etc. Regional leadership systems based on clanism were representative and can be said to have been part of senate systems of the day.
Despite undergoing many changes and taking various forms over the centuries, the senate remains a respected arm of legislative authority and example; a sort of nobility. Its 'old men' were expected to provide a stabilizing influence on state and political affairs by tempering the fickleness or sometimes overzealous pursuits of elected legislators in the national assembly. Thus, in a majority of republics today, only a senate body can vote to allow the Head of State to declare war on a foreign enemy. Most modern senates exert great influence on foreign relations and policies of their countries. Although the senators in most modern nations are elected or appointed officials, as recently as the last century many senate positions were inherited or held for life.
On the 27th of August 2010, the people of Kenya adopted a New Constitution which provides for a Senate as one half of Parliament. The other half is the National Assembly. It can be argued in the case of Kenya, that the constitutional provision for a senate (and county governments) is, broadly speaking, a people's clamour for more equitable representation (devolution) as well as the comfort that "checks and balances" provided by a bicameral (2 houses of parliament) model, will help prevent the passage into law of ill-considered or sometime skewed legislation. A good balance of power and representation is hence another reason to have a Senate in Kenya; in order that smaller counties (read tribes) do not get overshadowed by larger ones which have greater representation in the lower house (National Assembly). However, in cases where the two chambers of parliament have had similar powers, meaningful political reform has on occasions been difficult to achieve because of frequent time-wasting legislative stalemates that tend to occur.
The Senate is often referred to as an 'Upper House', while the National Assembly is referred to as the 'Lower House'. Greater authority and function is often assigned to the lower house in modern democracies.
Rwanda is the only other country in East Africa that has a Senate. The Senate was or is known by many different names in other jurisdictions: House of Elders - Republic of Somaliland; National Council of Provinces - South Africa; House of Lords - UK; House of Peers or House of Councillors- Japan; Senate - US and others; Rajya Sabha (Council of States) - India; First Chamber - Netherlands; Federation Council - Russian Federation.
Legislative Assembly (Legco)
Click on the links in the introduction table or the Welcome Menu near the top-left of this page for more on the First Senate under the Old Constitution and the Second Senate under the New Constitution in the history of the great Republic of Kenya.
1. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin. Retrieved September 2011.
2. arap Kirui K and Murkomen K, (2011). The Legislature: Bi-cameralism under the new Constitution. Constitution Working Paper Series No. 8; Society for International Development (SID).
3. Constitution of Kenya, 2010. National Council for Law Reporting. The Attorney General.
4. Kamathi, Jackline W. and Kiriinya, Linda (2011). Kenya Parliament Magazine, April 2011. Kenya National Assembly.
5. Rwanda Parliament. http://www.rwandaparliament.gov.rw. Retrieved September 2011.