Understanding the Kenyan Parliament

MaoniYangu wants you to participate in the legislative process. This begins by appreciating the structure of the Kenyan Parliament and the role of the Houses under it.

The Kenyan Parliament is made up of two Houses- the National Assembly and the Senate. Often, people erroneously say ‘National Parliament’ when they mean National Assembly. ‘Member of Parliament’ therefore refers to either a member of the National Assembly or a Senator.  

The National Assembly is made up of 290 members elected from the constituencies, 47 women elected from each county, 12 members nominated by parliamentary political parties to represent special interests like the youth, persons with disabilities and workers, and a Speaker. This brings the total number of members to 349 excluding the Speaker.

The Senate consists of 47 members elected from each county, 16 women nominated by parliamentary political parties, 2 members representing the youth, 2 members representing persons with disabilities and the Speaker. In total, 67 senators, excluding the Speaker.

Understanding the Kenyan Parliament requires an appreciation of the devolution of government introduced by the Constitution of Kenya 2010.  Under our devolved system of government, there is a national government and 47 county governments. These levels of government are distinct and inter-dependent. The functions of each level of government are outlined in the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution.

When it comes to deliberating and passing Bills, the role of the National Assembly differs from that of the Senate. The National Assembly enacts all legislation. Even Bills that originate from the Senate must be considered by the National Assembly. Any Bill may originate from the National Assembly including money bills.

On the other hand, Senate’s role is to protect the interest of the 47 counties and their governments. Bills affecting the functions and powers of the county governments, those on election of members of county assemblies or county executive, and those affecting the finances of county governments are referred to as ‘Bills concerning counties’. Whenever a Bill is deemed to be a ‘Bill concerning counties’ it must be considered by the Senate.  They may originate from either House. It is important to note that money bills may only be introduced in the National Assembly.

What this means is that there are Bills which may only be considered by the National Assembly and forwarded to the President for assent. However, a Bill concerning counties must be considered by both Houses. As well, whereas the National Assembly may pass some Bills without forwarding them to the Senate, all of Senate’s Bills must be considered by the National Assembly.

That is the basic structure of the Kenyan Parliament. Next time we will look at the steps a Bill goes through before it becomes law.

Mercy Mutemi

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