Senators come under scrutiny for role as devolution guardians

Monday June 19 2017

Senate road committee chairman Abu Chiaba

Senate Roads and Transportation committee chairman Abu Chiaba speaks when the infrastructure Principal Secretary John Mosonik appeared before the committee on June 5, 2014 at County hall. Chiaba's five stints as a legislator have gone unnoticed in the Senate. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The primary mandate of senators is to represent their respective counties.

Many Kenyans view the Senate, also described as the Upper House, as the voice of reason or the guardian of devolution.

It has the constitutional mandate to ensure successful implementation of devolution.

The first Senate existed in the immediate post-independence period between 1963 and 1966.

Founding President Jomo Kenyatta then scrapped the Provincial Assemblies and the Senate itself got dissolved.

The senators were lumped together with Members of the House of Representatives to form a unicameral National Assembly.

This, despite the fact that the independence Senate had been conceived as a model of governance that would ensure balanced development across the country.

The second Senate, which is the product of the 2010 Constitution, was created along the same model of its predecessor.

It was set up to devolve development in the periphery and get legislative functions of Parliament out of Nairobi and into the countryside.

The Senate is expected to reach the people and guard devolution by watching over the counties and their administrations.

However, the Senate’s true status has remained a subject of furious debate, especially in the wars that characterised its existence alongside the National Assembly.

The initial assumption in the country was that Senators would be listened to because they had larger representation - an entire county.

They would oversee the governors’ work and bring together the members of the National Assembly to keep the interest of the whole county in mind, and harmonise their work with the County Assemblies.

Although this has been achieved partly, the Senate work has been undermined by some members who have been less aggressive, choosing to be silent and inactive in the face of the myriad challenges in counties which required their undivided attention.

Ms Daisy Nyongesa
(Nominated, ODM)

She started off as youth leader for the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) while a student at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.

This later earned her nomination to the Senate. While she has spoken slightly over 200 times on the floor, she has not been active off it.

She had indicated her intention to contest for the Likuyani Parliamentary seat in the August poll, but quietly pulled out. She is not contesting for any seat.


Mr Abdi Bule,
(Tana River, FPK)

The Federal Party of Kenya elected senator will be remembered as the MP who was in 2014 arrested by police during the crackdown that saw members of the Somali community held up at Kasarani stadium in Nairobi for screening.

Though he was released, the incident spokes volumes about the presence or lack of it that the Senator had cultivated in the mind of the public.


Ms Halima Mohammed,
(Nominated, ODM)
She is the vice chair of the Senate Committee on Education but little is known of the senator.

She defected to Jubilee Party early this year and she will be contesting for the Wajir Woman representative seat.


Mr Hosea Onchwangi

(Nominated, Jubilee)
He remains the most mysterious member of the Senate having been nominated by The National Alliance Party to represent the youth. 

He has spoken just about five times in the House. He is rare in the House.

Just how he landed this lucrative job is probably the most mysterious thing about the 11th Parliament.


Ms Janet Ong’era
(Nominated, ODM)
Probably one of the most experienced women senators in the House, at least politically.

She had served as the ODM executive director before her nomination.

Besides she had a high flying career in government, corporate and the civil society before she finally joined politics.

ODM leader Raila Odinga presents a nomination ticket for the Kisii Woman Representative seat t

ODM leader Raila Odinga presents a nomination ticket for the Kisii Woman Representative seat to Janet Ong'era at Bomas of Kenya on April 3, 2017. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NATION MEDIA GROUP

But little has been seen in her stint as senator in the last five years.

She is seeking to become the next Kisii County woman representative on ODM ticket.


Ms Mshenga Matata Kisasa

(Nominated, Jubilee)
She studied sales and marketing but later served as a midwife at the Coast General and Aga Khan Hospitals in Mombasa.

She was nominated by William Ruto’s URP in March 2013 and has served quietly ever since.

Ms Catherine Mukiite Nabwala

(Nominated, Ford-Kenya)

The Ford Kenya nominated senator once served as a banker before she drifted into politics when she joined the party politics in Trans Nzoia County.

This loyalty paid off and she was eventually nominated for Senate in 2013.


Ms Joy Gwendo,
(Nominated, TNA)

Just like Mr Melly, she also made news when she was arrested for drunk driving in 2015.

She is in the race to become the next Kisumu East MP on Jubilee ticket.


Mr John Munyes,

(Turkana County, Ford-Kenya)

Even though he previously served as Minister for Special Programmes and Labour in President Mwai Kibaki’s two regimes, few people remember that Mr John Munyes is the Senator for Turkana.

Turkana Senator John Munyes

Turkana Senator John Munyes addresses journalists at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi on April 2, 2015, concerning insecurity in Turkana County. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NATION MEDIA GROUP

He has been quiet throughout the 11th Parliament. He rarely attends house business, and in the few times he has, such attendance has been restricted to technical appearances.

He was elected on Ford Kenya ticket, but has declared interest to dethrone Governor Josphat Nanok on a Jubilee Party ticket.


Danson Mwazo,
(Senator of Taita Taveta County)
He served in the grand coalition government as the Minister for Tourism after then Prime Minister Raila Odinga had sacked Mr Najib Balala.

He defected to Jubilee Party and is seeking to become the next governor of Taita Taveta County.

However, his stint in the Senate has been low.


Ms Judy Sijeny,
(Nominated, Wiper)
Her highest point was the initiation of the Reproductive Health Bill, which she argued was meant to provide moral guidance to the youths.

But the good intentions of the Bill was perverted by critics who accused her of promoting immorality among the youth.

The Wiper Democratic Party Nominated senator will be contesting for Lang’ata parliamentary seat


Mr James Kiarie Mungai,

(Jubilee,  Nakuru County)

Those old enough have always confused this name with that of James Erastus Mungai, the former police chief who in the 1970s established the modern-day Kenya Anti-Stock Theft Unit as a killer “Ngoroko” squad.

The fact that both men hail from Nakuru County has made all the comparison more real.

Mr Mungai has nothing to do with the former top cop, even though his performance as senator has been wanting.

He wants to be the next governor of the county.


Mr Hargura Godana,

(Senator, Marsabit County)
A civil engineer by profession and an active senator on the floor of the House. The ODM legislator defected to Jubilee Party recently.


Mr Mohammed Abu Chiaba,

(Lamu County, Jubilee)

Probably the longest serving MP having been first elected as Lamu East MP in 1992.

However his five stints as a legislator have gone unnoticed in the Senate.


Professor Wilfred Lesan
(Senator, Bomet County)

He is a medical doctor and though he has been an active member on the floor of the House, very little is known about him.

He lost in his attempt to defend the seat during the recent jubilee Party primaries.


Ms Lisa Chelule,
(Nominated, Jubilee)
Before she ventured into politics, Ms Chelule worked variously at Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) and the Pyrethrum Board as a laboratory technician before she was nominated to the Senate by William Ruto’s URP.

She has declared interest in the Nakuru County woman rep’s seat.


Mr Mohammed Kuti,
(Senator, Isiolo County)

Under the Kibaki government, Mr Kuti served as Minister for Livestock, but his time in the Senate has been quiet uneventful; rarely seen in the Chamber even though he was the chairman of the Committee on Health.

He wants to be the next governor of Isiolo County.


Ms Fatuma Dullo,
(Nominated Senator, Jubilee Party)
Before she joined politics, the University of Nairobi trained lawyer had served as commissioner at the Kenya National Human Rights Commission between 2007 and 2012.

She has also served as the vice chair of the National Security Committee of the Senate.


Mr Isaac Melly,
(Uasin Gishu, Jubilee)
He shot into the limelight when he led staff of University of Eldoret into picketing in the streets of Eldoret town, demanding the sacking of the vice chancellor Professor Teresia Akenga in 2015.

Little has been heard of the Senator since.

He lost in the recent Jubilee Party nominations to former cabinet Minister, Prof Margaret Kamar.


Mr Stephen Ntutu,
(Narok, Jubilee)
He once served as MP for Narok South and Minister under retired President Moi Kanu government.

The country was only reminded that he is a senator after he was arrested in 2016 for leading huge demonstration against Governor Samuel Tunai.


Ms Godliver Nanjira Omondi

(Nominated, Senate)
She only got her place in the Senate through the intervention of the High Court.

IEBC had picked Mr Harold Kipchumba as the ODM nominated senator in the category of people living with disabilities.

Piqued, Ms Omondi sought the intervention of the High Court, which upheld her application.

Mr Kipchumba’s nomination was nullified and she was nominated to the House in September 2013.

Ms Omondi now wants to be a member of the county assembly in Kakamega.