First Senate at Independence
Weak. Rudderless. Shallow
The First Senate of the Republic of Kenya and the House of Representatives collectively formed the top legislative body known as the National Assembly.
Its key mandate was for the protection of the rights of smaller tribes against the potential domination of national interests by the larger tribes in KANU.
The Senate consisted of 41 members who were elected to represent 40 (largely homogenous) Districts and Nairobi, to which the country was divided.
The First Senate in independent Kenya was provided for in the 1963 Independence Constitution (officially referred to as Kenya Subsidiary Legislation, 1963). This First Senate was established through strong lobbying by the political party KADU, mainly to ensure a safeguard for rights of the minority groups in Kenya. "The idea of a second chamber for Kenya was originally proposed by the Kenya African Democratic Union (hereafter called KADU) as part of its plan to provide protection for the smaller tribes, which that party represented, against the danger of domination by the larger and more advanced Kikuyu and Luo groups, which supported the Kenya African National Union (hereafter called KANU).
KADU desired a federal system in which considerable power would be allocated to regional governments. An upper house was considered necessary to safeguard the autonomy of the regions and to assure sufficient representation of minority interests at the center, for it was recognized that a unicameral legislature elected on the basis of "oneman, one-vote" might very well be completely controlled by KANU which favored a greater centralization of power. Mr. Ronald Ngala, leader of KADU, said upon his arrival in London for the 1962 constitutional conference, "We believe that a two-Chamber Parliament with a Senate especially charged with preserving the rights of the regions is the only way to ensure the continuing liberty of the individual." (Proctor, 1965).
Of note, a slightly different version of these events attributes the push for regionalism rather as a creation of the colonial settlers and other groups, and not KADU. For example, Reginald Oduor in quoting Odinga (1967) writes that, "....... majimboism was originally not KADU’s idea. Rather, it was hatched by the European settlers, keen to preserve their autonomy in the inevitable eventuality of an independent Kenya. KADU only adopted the idea of majimboism in 1961, when it became clear that together with its allies, Michael Blundel’s New Kenya Party (NKP) and the Kenya Indian Congress (KIC), which then controlled the transition government, they were unlikely to win the 1963 election and assume control of an independent unitary state. The settlers convinced the KADU leaders that majimboism would ensure that Kenyatta would never be Prime Minister, for there would be no need for a head of state or prime minister, but a loose system of regional councils with rotating chairmen" (Odinga 1967, 226-227).
To Ngala and others in KADU, this senate was set up to give a voice to districts that perhaps were not active participants in the independence movement. Being a creation of the Lancaster House conferences, the senate was a part-result of the political negotiations and compromises that were tabled by these minority interests. Colonial settlers in particular, had to be assuaged that their land would not be retaken by government upon independence. Proctor adds that, "Bicameralism was also supported by Asian merchants and European settlers in Kenya as a means of providing some checks against hasty, ill-advised, or discriminatory action." (Proctor, 1965).
The various Regional Assemblies at the time also believed that a Senate would serve to ensure they remained autonomous in law and practise. "Secondly, the Senate was established to safeguard the autonomy of the regions and protect the interests of the peoples of the various regions. The Senate as understood by KADU as the proponents of dual chambers was not only to represent the interests of the various districts into which the country was divided, but also to protect the regional regional governments popularly known as 'Majimbo'." (Kirui and Murkomen, 2010).