Duale-Murkomen spat sign face of a bigger war

President Uhuru Kenyatta signs into law the Health Laws (Amendment) Bill of 2018 and the Assumption of the Office of County Governor Bill at State House, Nairobi on Tuesday.  [Photo: Standard]

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale and his Senate counterpart Kipchumba Murkomen are embroiled in a serious tussle. 

Never mind that both are outspoken leaders are drawn from Jubilee Party and Deputy President William Ruto’s supporters to boot.

However, their exchange of verbal jabs Tuesday points to the increasing rivalry between the Senate and the National Assembly.

The war started brewing when President Uhuru Kenyatta resurfaced after disappearing in public eye to sign Health Law (Amendment Bill 2018) on Tuesday, May 14.  During the signing of the bill, ironically, both Duale and Murkomen were present at President Uhuru's table and appeared undeterred.

The Elgeyo Marakwet Senator later went ballistic accusing Duale and his colleagues in the National Assembly of sidelining the Senate in the legislation prior to presidential assent.

Speaking to KTN News yesterday, Murkomen said that the action of the National Assembly was an attempt to 'muscle out the responsibility of the Senate as an institution.'

He even bashed Duale and the State for inviting him for the signing of a wrong bill. 

Murkomen posted on his twitter page: "I was invited to State House to witness the President sign into law" The Assumption of the office of County Governor Bill. This Bill originated from the Senate. I discovered at State House that Hon Aden Duale was also invited on behalf of NA having passed some Health laws (Amendment) Bill."

"Just before the signing ceremony I overheard that there were health laws to be signed. I protested to Hon Aden Duale, Solicitor Gen. &other State House staff for presenting Health laws for signature against the Constitution. I told them they had the duty to give proper counsel to the HE," he added.

The Eldeyo Marakwet Senator said that it couldn’t be considered an Act of Parliament since the National Assembly never engaged the Senate in its debate. And, that health bills must be legislated at the Senate given the commitment it has to check on the counties.

Mr Duale's rejoinder was rather a scathing attack. "Why go to State House to take a photo with the President while signing a bill and then come back crying like a small kid?" posed Duale, in a short clip shared by the local media house.

Murkomen dismissed Duale's utterances as childish personal attacks that those in leadership like him cannot engage in.

According to the Senator, apart from the need to engage the Senate in the debate, the health bill itself required public participation. And, by not going to the Senate meant it was irregular.

Duale, on the other hand, defended the bill. 

He posted: "The Bill was passed by the National Assembly last year in December and was returned with President's Reservations on few items of the Bill on 30th December 2018 for reconsideration by the National Assembly in terms of Article 115 of the Constitution."

The battle pitting the Senate against the National Assembly prompted Speakers Kenneth Lusaka and Justin Muturi to select mediation teams to resolve the stalemate.

They include Duale, Minority Leader John Mbadi, MPs Kimani Ichungwa (Kikuyu) and Cecily Mbarire (Nominated); and Senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Mohamed Mahamud (Mandera), Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Ledama Olekina (Narok).

The friction between the two legislative houses has played out for years since the current Constitution took effect in 2010.

Another war ensued in May 2018 over the legislation of laws with financial implications. This involved the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Amendment Bill 2018. 

The National Assembly accused the Senate of legislating a financial bill, which fell squarely within its jurisdiction.

Other bills, which the Senate considered at the behest of relations with the National Assembly, included the County Wards Development Equalisation Fund, the County Governments Amendment Bill, County Government Retirement Scheme Bill and The Office County Attorney Bill.

The friction prompted National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to write to Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka expressing displeasure at the Senator Ledama Ole Kina-sponsored bill.

Even as the reconciliation team sits to iron out issues, scepticism abounds as to whether a solution will be realised.

Senator Murkomen's statement even poked holes on the efficacy of the team.

 "We have done our best to find mediation and to negotiate with them but if they cannot do the right thing, it is now becoming impossible to continue surviving on the goodwill of our colleagues in National Assembly," he said.