By Allan Kisia and Moses Njagi

NAIROBI; KENYA: The two Houses of Parliament began their historic sittings by picking new Speakers to guide them in transacting business in the next five years.

In a precedent-setting move, the new Senate that makes its comeback after many years, having been abolished soon after Independence saw the election of former Turkana Central MP Ekwe Ethuro to head the new House.

Former Siakago MP Justin Bedan Muturi, popularly referred to as JB, took over the reins of power as the Speaker of the National Assembly, defeating incumbent Kenneth Marende who has served for five years in the Tenth Parliament.

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Ethuro and Muturi were sponsored by the Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto-led Jubilee coalition, which has a majority of members and therefore a firm grip on the business of the National Assembly.

Ethuro, who was beaten in the race for Turkana Senator in the March 4 elections by John Munyes, won the race for the Speaker’s seat with a narrow margin of nine votes after he garnered 38 votes against Maalim’s 29.

Former National Assembly Speaker Francis Kaparo had on Wednesday withdrawn from the race, leaving Ethuro as the only Jubilee candidate to face off with CORD’s Farah Maalim, the immediate former Deputy Speaker in the Tenth Parliament and Erick Omondi.

Also withdrawing from the contest before on Thursday’s vote was lawyer Philip Murgor, Margaret Kamar, and Samuel Poghisio.

When the first vote was taken, indication that Jubilee was on line to clinch the position was apparent after Ethuro won, with 35 votes to Maalim’s 31 and Omondi’s one. But a second round was needed because Ethuro failed to garner a two-thirds majority. He won the next round with a simple majority.

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Despite canvassing, especially among members of the Amani Coalition and a section of nominated senators, CORD team lost the second round with Maalim getting 29 votes against Ethuro’s 38.

Kembi Gitura, a former MP for Kiharu and now Muranga senator, was elected the new Senate Deputy Speaker after beating fellow Senator George Khaniri of Vihiga.

In his acceptance speech, Ethuro lauded his competitors, saying it was their democratic right to contest the seat.

“I would like to salute my opponents for their high degree of democracy in the process,” said Ethuro, promising to ensure fairness in the leadership of the Senate.

Ethuro said the House, under his leadership, would address the high expectations that Kenyan’s have on its constitutional mandate.

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“Given the high expectations that the people of Kenya have in the devolved system of governance, there is little or no option but for us to succeed,” he stressed.

Simple majority

Muturi showed signs of capturing the Deputy Speaker’s seat in the National Assembly after beating Marende in the first round, with 203 votes against 144, but members went into a second round after JB failed to garner the requisite two-thirds majority.

He won the seat with a simple majority of 219 votes against Marende’s 129 according to the Clerk of the National Assembly Justin Bundi.

Dujis MP Aden Duale and his Gem counterpart Jakoyo Midiwo escorted Muturi into the chamber before he took oath of office that Bundi administered.

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In his acceptance speech, Muturi said his victory was not his alone, but also for all members and thanked them for believing in him.

“From this moment and moving forward, the Institution of National Assembly and Parliament becomes my constituency. This is the greatest privilege of my professional life to occupy. I am deeply humbled,” he added.

He said the onus was on him now to keep the promise of discharging his duties with fairness and impartiality and promised the members that he would not disappoint.

“It is my deepest aspiration to selflessly serve in my capacity as your Speaker. It is on this very premise and conviction that I unreservedly submit to the will of this House. I am well aware of the heightened expectations of the membership of the House,” he added.

Muturi said the complexities of managing processes in a bicameral legislature presented new but exciting challenges, adding that he saw it as a unique opportunity for all members to do things in a different yet efficient manner.

“On my side, I also undertake to work closely with the Senate Speaker to facilitate smooth running of the affairs of Parliament and the Executive. This is a crucial requirement in bicameralism, more so in the initial steps of a nascent presidential system of government,” he added.

He promised to fervently preserve the powers, privileges and immunities of the House, without which, he said, their performance would be compromised.

“I will also purposely defend and uphold the dignity of this House and to enforce, uncompromised adherence to the Constitution, our laws and the Standing Orders in managing the business of the House,” he added.

After being sworn-in, Muturi then went on to preside over the election of his deputy, which was contested by Joyce Laboso, Daniel Maanzo, and Aden.

However, before the elections began, Bundi announced that he had received a letter from Maanzo saying that he had quit the race, leaving Laboso and Mbalambala MP Abdikadir Aden in the contest.  Dr Laboso garnered 254 votes to win the contest in the first round against 90 votes bagged by her competitor Mbalambala MP Aden Abdikadir.    

Dr Laboso of the United Republican Party is serving her second term as Sotik MP and was among legislators who sat in the Speaker’s Panel in the tenth parliament.

Members

Earlier on, all the 349 MPs were sworn-in in a record four hours contrary to perception it could take longer.

The ceremony started shortly after 9.30am and ended at 1.30pm, when Bundi asked members to take a one-hour break before they returned to elect the Speaker and his deputy.

The new members began to arrive at Parliament Buildings, as early as 7.30am amid tight security. Close family members and supporters accompanied most of them, but only a few were allowed into the premises.

Those left out braved the morning drizzle and waited as the swearing-in kicked off, but there was a momentary hitch after members disagreed on how to conduct the exercise.

And as is normal with first sitting where new members are involved, there was a lighthearted moment when some members clapped after Westlands MP Timothy Wanyonyi took office, which is against the Standing Orders of the House as opposed to thumping of feet.

Parliament Ekwe Ethuro National Assembly Jubilee coalition Constitution