DISADVANTAGED?

When you are a nominated legislator, you have limited options

These seats have limitations since they don’t derive direct mandate from the people.

In Summary

•There are certain facilitations and privileges that they don’t get on an equal basis with their elected counterparts. 

• It’s therefore not surprising that Jubilee has decided to go for the weakest link in the ongoing tussles within its ranks and file.

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura with Senate Minority Leader James Orengo during the burial of Hon Cyrus Odhiambo Omondi at Humwend Primary School grounds, Siaya County on March 7, 2020.
Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura with Senate Minority Leader James Orengo during the burial of Hon Cyrus Odhiambo Omondi at Humwend Primary School grounds, Siaya County on March 7, 2020.
Image: COURTESY

Jubilee has cracked the whip on nominated senators for failing to attend its parliamentary group meeting called by the party leader at State House.

This is quite telling because literary, the party is the actual owner of the parliamentary seats.

This is because when you are nominated, you owe your seat to the strength of the number of seats that a party garners during elections.

 

The 32 special seats in both Houses are meant to ensure the representation of groups of people who would otherwise find it hard to make it to Parliament due to existing societal barriers.

These include women, persons with disabilities, youth, ethnic and marginalized communities, as provided for in Article 100 of the Constitution and well elaborated in articles 90, 97, and 98.

The same is provided for in Article 177 on county assemblies as legislatures for the 47 counties.

 

It’s good to know why these seats were established in the first place. In his memoir,  Sowing The Mustard Seed, Jeremiah Nyagah opines that to ensure the White settlers were well represented in the then Legislative Council (Legco), the colonial administration came up with 12 seats to ensure their numbers would always remain high, as the country became more representative of the majority Africans.

After Independence, the seats were used by the party in power to reward loyalists or to ensure women were represented.

Later on after the 1997 IPPG political reforms, it was agreed that these 12 seats be shared amongst parties based on their strength in Parliament.

It is through this platform that great women leaders such as Dr Eddah Gachukia, Rose Waruhiu, Catherine Nyamato, Millie Odhiambo, Rachael Shebesh, Zipporah Kittony, Naisula Lesuuda, Safia Abdi, Maison Leshomo, Janet Teyiaa, Sarah Korere and Cecily Mbarire, amongst others got a chance to serve in Parliament.

 

A good number of them went ahead to be elected in their home constituencies as a result.

It is also true that persons who have since gone ahead to serve in senior capacities in the country first came to parliament or were once nominated members.

These include President Uhuru Kenyatta, Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, Uasin Gishu Senator Margaret Kamar, the late Vice President George Saitoti, Makueni Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau and the late GG Kariuki, amongst others

It’s, therefore, true that these seats have served to promote gender, disability, age and ethnic parity within the country’s leadership.

For example, I happen to be the first person with albinism to serve in the National Assembly and the Senate in the history of this republic, having been nominated twice by two rival parties consecutively.

However, these seats have limitations in that since they don’t derive direct mandate from the people.

They lack the clout that comes with being directly elected into office. In addition, the party always has a say when it comes to positions to be taken on the floor of the House or on general political standing.

Further, these seats cover a nationwide constituency and it’s very hard to serve a whole country from a disadvantaged point of view due to limited resources, yet your constituents have a legitimate expectation to be well represented.

Moreover, since it has been demonstrated that nominated legislators have a higher chance of replacing their elected counterparts in places where they come from, there is always an effort to under-privileged them systemically to avoid competition, despite their often stellar performance.

This means there are certain facilitations and privileges that they don’t get on an equal basis with their elected counterparts. I have been involved in trying to resolve this systemic discrimination, albeit unsuccessfully so far.

It’s therefore not surprising that Jubilee has decided to go for the weakest link in the ongoing tussles within its ranks and file.

With more than two years to the next general election, it will be a hard task for senators Millicent Omanga, Falhada Dekow, Naomi Jillo Waqo, Mary Seneta and Prengei Victor to defend themselves in court.

 

I went through a similar process with ODM and was expelled from the party, even after having had the courtesy to inform the party leader Raila Odinga of my intentions to cross over to Jubilee.

In fact, he convened a session with persons with disabilities and demanded that I return their seat. Due to the lack of strong political parties and structures, loyalty to a party is almost if not equal to loyalty to the party leader.

While the proceedings may last for more than a year, it’s emotionally draining for one to be distracted with court cases, and at the same time missing out on parliamentary committees, allowances, travel, over and above personal political development.

It a lonely affair and even though one gets momentary public sympathy, you are always on your own, and if you happen to lose your seat or look like you are just about to lose one, few people will pick your calls.

If you doubt, ask Ferdinard Waititu, Mwangi Kiunjuri or Bitange Ndemo.

Mwaura is the Senator for persons with disabilities and chairman of the Albinism Society of Kenya


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