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Bill seeks to rank State officers in seniority order

By Alphonce Shiundu | March 24th 2014

By Alphonce Shiundu

Nairobi, Kenya: President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto, the speakers of the two Houses and Chief Justice Willy Mutunga are the only people who will be allowed to fly miniature versions of the national flag on their vehicles.

They will also solely have vehicles with sirens on their respective motorcades, if a Bill by Eldas MP becomes law.

In yet another legal prescription that is headed for the National Assembly, Eldas MP Adan Keynan wants governors to stop flying the national flag on their cars. He also wants the title ‘His Excellency’ to be reserved for only the President, the Deputy President and their spouses. And governors, even within their counties, will not be allowed to have vehicles with sirens.

Anyone who insists on referring to the governors as ‘His Excellency’ or to a Member of the County Assembly as ‘Honourable’ will be fined a minimum of Sh1 million or a maximum of Sh2 million, or be taken to jail for at least one year.

The Order of Precedence Bill, 2014, now available at the Government Printer has a list of titles for all the State Officers and arranges the State Officers in “their order of seniority or hierarchy in the Republic of Kenya”.

According to the draft law, the title of governor is ‘governor’, that of the Chief Justice or a judge of the Supreme Court is ‘your lordship’, an MP is ‘honourable’ and a Speaker of Parliament is ‘The Right Honourable’.

When asked by The Standard to explain the importance of the Bill, Keynan said it was meant to “bring order” in public functions.

A slip of the tongue in your speech over such titles “through either disobedience, disregard, abuse, neglect or negligence” will land you in trouble. “If any State or public officer acts in contravention of this Act, the State or public officer commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine of not less than one million shillings and not more than two million, or to imprisonment for a term not less than twelve months, or both,” reads the penalty clause in the Bill published last Friday.

End confusion

The new Bill comes at a time when the Senate and the National Assembly are also legislating on issues of protocol. Two similar amendment Bills to the National Flag, Emblems and Names Act are pending in the National Assembly.

“We want to end the confusion. If you go to other developed democracies, issues of protocol are well defined. But when you come here, everyone wants to use the biggest title,” Keynan told The Standard.

A close reading of the Bill shows that Keynan and the rest of the lawmakers want to use the Bill to lean on the Salaries and Remuneration Commission when it comes to their pay and perks.

He expects the Bill to “act as a guide for the SRC in determining the remunerations, salaries and allowances of State Officers”.

The Bill lumps senators together with MPs and ignores the fact that senators are elected with more votes and represent larger geographical regions. The rationale is that the Constitution recognises the bicameral Parliament and puts senators and their colleagues in the National Assembly on the same level.

Seating plan

It also makes MPs much more senior than the Attorney General, the cabinet secretaries, the principal secretaries, the Chief of Defence Forces, former presidents, vice presidents, Prime Minister, the Inspector General of Police and even the Director of National Intelligence.

“The Bill shall be used to determine and rank State Officers and public officers,” reads a clause in the Bill.

Keynan’s draft law is also quiet about the place of the MCAs, deputy governors and  county ministers, even though the Constitution at article 260 designates these county leaders as State Officers.

The Bill proposes that the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ms Amina Mohammed, be charged with ensuring strict adherence to the protocol as set out in the Bill. Ms Mohammed will also have a freehand when it comes to deciding the seating arrangement at national functions.

“The Bill shall be used to develop seating charts, programmes and the order in which government officials deliver addresses at all State functions,” reads another clause.

It is not clear why Keynan wants the mandate of handling protocol issues at national functions moved from the Government Receptionist, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In terms of seniority of State officers, the Eldas MP proposes the following order: President, Deputy President, speakers of Parliament, Chief Justice, Leader of Majority or Minority in Parliament, MPs, Governors, judges of Supreme Court, Court of Appeal judges, former presidents, former VPs, DPs, and PM, ambassadors and high commissioners of foreign missions in Kenya, Cabinet Secretaries and Attorney General, Principal Secretaries, Chief of Defence Forces, Inspector General of Police, Director General of the National Intelligence Service,  and chairpersons of Constitutional Commissions.

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