REVENUE SHARING FORMULA

Senate impasse: Diplomacy trumps brute force

The only power that should be exercised to unlock this stalemate is soft power.

In Summary
  • Cajoling and persuading them to adopt government’s preferred formula is not rocket science. It is simply a game of wits and tact.
  • Violence, blackmail and intimidation only deliver a reverse effect in that they will harden the resolve of those being targeted.

Being politicians, they will milk to the last drop the free publicity being accorded to them. The dramatic arrests have catapulted them to political martyrdom, which is a big boost to their political careers.

The Senate is fast losing its credibility in the eyes of ordinary Kenyans. A creation of the 2010 Constitution, many, myself included, had placed their hopes on this ‘Upper House’ for sober debates and good laws in the interest of the counties and the country at large.

However, going by the recent chain of events, it is now a poorly kept secret that the Senate is remotely controlled by external actors. The speaker appears, with all due respect to him, clueless and rudderless when it comes to critical legal issues, which are mostly interwoven with politics as is expected in Parliament. 

The failure to pass the revenue formula, a key function of the Senate as stipulated in articles 96 (3) and 217 of the Constitution for a record ninth time is also a big indictment on the Senate leadership and, indeed, the entire House.

The Senate has mutated into two factions: One calling for the adoption of the formula advanced by the Finance committee, which puts  premium on population as the key parameter in the distribution of revenue to counties. Its mantra is one man one vote one shilling. It is backed by the Executive.

The other faction, whose members are conspicuous due to their matching ties emblazoned with the Kenyan flag, is advocating what they are calling a ‘win-win’ formula which in their argument will ensure no county loses cash in the allocation. Both sides have valid arguments.

My main focus however is the manner in which the Executive has adopted strong-arm tactics to push through its desired formula. The arrest of three senators on the eve of the vote was not only in bad taste but also a confirmation that the Executive is increasingly becoming intolerant and dictatorial.

In a previous opinion article, I have argued that Kenya is slowly hurtling towards dictatorship. The amount of resources that were expended towards the arrest of the three senators depicts a frustrated government that has got it priorities upside down and is running out of options. If the arrests were a political strategy meant to push through the preferred formula in the Senate, then it was nonsensical and ill thought out.

My point is that the Senate should stop suffering from inferiority complex. If the senators do not flex their constitutional muscles, they will continue being treated with contempt. In politics you fight for your space. Let them rise to the occasion and justify to Kenyans the Senate’s raison d’être.

Violence, blackmail and intimidation only deliver a reverse effect in that they will harden the resolve of those being targeted. Being politicians, they will milk to the last drop the free publicity being accorded to them. The dramatic arrests have catapulted them to political martyrdom, which is a big boost to their political careers.

My free advice to the Executive is that diplomacy always wins. The only power that should be exercised to unlock this stalemate is soft power. These are elected leaders, not organised criminals. Cajoling and persuading them to adopt the government’s preferred formula is not rocket science. It is simply a game of wits and tact.

A famous statesman once defined diplomacy as, “Telling someone to go to hell but in such a way that they will still look forward to the journey.” Where there is a difference of opinion, the government need not bring out tanks, mortars and all manner of arsenal at its disposal. The Senate majority whip must discard his modus operandi, which entails threats and intimidation. These are temporary positions and he should strive to showcase his leadership skills being a young leader.

Finally, senators owe this country a well-thought-out revenue formula. In their quest to find one, this impasse ought to also be an epiphany. A ‘Damascus moment’ that should unite and make them stamp their authority in defending their independence and supremacy of Parliament. Watching them reminds me of thousands of wildebeests in the Mara causing a stampede at the sight of one lion. By their sheer numbers and body size, they can easily trample on and tear the lion apart with their hooves and horns.

My point is that the Senate should stop suffering from inferiority complex. If the senators do not flex their constitutional muscles, they will continue being treated with contempt. In politics you fight for your space. Let them rise to the occasion and justify to Kenyans the Senate’s raison d’être.