Parliament resumes today after a two-month break. The legislators have a fairly busy schedule that calls for dedication and total commitment. This week alone, no less than seven bills are lined up for amendment in both the National Assembly and the Senate.
The new session comes against the backdrop of a changed political environment. The intense party rivalry experienced a while ago has thawed in the wake of the rapprochement between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga. Significant realignments have taken place on the political scene and that has an implication on parliamentary proceedings.
On the positive side, MPs can now examine issues based on merit and not political positioning as has been the case. There is always danger when MPs vote along political party lines or regional or ethnic persuasion as they fail to critically examine issues. Party loyalty is vital in a democracy, but must not be mistaken for blind support, such that propositions by a party are voted for even when they do not make sense, run contrary to the public good or are antithetical to personal beliefs.
The flip side, which should worry Kenyans, is that the opposition has systematically been decimated with the line between them and the government getting blurred. Opposition MPs have changed tack and seem to be more pliant and amenable, which renders them unable to stand up against the administration and ask the hard questions. Inasmuch as there is co-operation between the government and the opposition, the latter must stand firm and play its watchdog role with the authority and conviction expected of it. Opposition MPs are not part of the government.
Governments, irrespective of the goodwill of leaders, can be messy; hence, they must be checked consistently and persistently. Precisely, the role of the parliamentarians is to represent the interests of voters, not their parties or the national leadership. Their support should only be merited and serve the common good.
For the coming session, one of the critical agenda items is budget planning. In line with the Constitution, Parliament has taken a more central role in budgeting and this commits MPs to take a very keen interest in it.
Our concern is the laxity and lack of seriousness in transacting business in the House. Oftentimes, the legislators miss sessions, forcing adjournments and, consequently, unnecessary delays in passing laws. This must end.
MPs must take their work seriously, demonstrate commitment, keenly watch over government spending and legislate judiciously.