At least half of sitting Senators are not interested in returning to the House after the August 8 General Election.
Most Senators have declared interest in all other positions up election, right from the ward representative to the presidency.
This is in sharp contrast to the 2013 elections when experienced politicians battled against each other to represent their counties at the Senate. Then, the Senate was believed to be the Upper House of Parliament, superior to the National Assembly and more lucrative than the governor’s position.
But, with about six months to the August polls, more than half of sitting Senators want out. Most senators will be seeking to be their counties’ next governor, while two, Bungoma’s Moses Wetang’ula and Nyamira’s Mongare Okong’o have declared interest in Kenya’s top most seat, the presidency.
“I made a deliberate decision not to defend my Senate seat and instead go for the national seat because I have a lot to offer this country,” said Okong’o. Fourteen senators, including Mutula Kilonzo Junior (Makueni), Mike Sonko (Nairobi), John Munyes (Turkana), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru), Lenny Kivuti (Embu), Stephen Sang (Nandi), Hassan Omar (Mombasa) and Dan Mwazo (Taita Taveta) will vie for governor.
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Others are David Musila (Kitui), John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot), Boni Khalwale (Kakamega), James Orengo (Siaya), Chris Obure (Kisii), and Kisumu’s Anyang’ Nyong’o.
Nominated Senator Godliver Odhiambo is the only leader from the 67-member Senate to set her eyes on a hitherto lower seat. She will be seeking the Kholera Ward seat in Matungu, Kakamega County.
“People asked me to go for the seat and I heeded their call. I want to use the opportunity to serve my people,” said Ms Odhiambo.
Other Senators have declared interest in constituency seats.
Nominated Senator Martha Wangari is eyeing the Gilgil parliamentary seat as her colleague Joy Gwendo sets her sights Kisumu Town West. Beatrice Elachi will battle it out for Roysambu seat.
“Residents of Gilgil are yearning for development and I am determined to offer them if elected,” said Wangari. Nominated Senator Daisy Kanainza said she will be running in Likuyani constituency, Halima Abdille for Wajir Woman Representative while Judith Sijeny is eyeing the Lang’ata seat. Naisula Lesuuda will run for the Samburu West seat.
The key role of the Senate, according to Chapter 8 article 96 of the Constitution, is to protect the interests of the counties and their governments.
It is also mandated to determine the sharing of national revenue among counties, and exercises oversight over national revenue allocated to the county governments.
Governors control massive resources — in the 2016-17 Financial Year alone, the 47 counties bosses split Sh307 billion, not to mention the cash they collect as levies in their areas of jurisdiction.
Senators have on several occasions raised the issue of their functionality, questioning their diminished clout.
In 2015, a group of Senators begun a process that would have culminated in a referendum to give the Senate more power. But the process failed to kick off after the Senators got divided across the along political lines.
Senator Mutula summed up the frustration of most of his colleagues, saying their House has deliberately been made dysfunctional by both the Executive and National Assembly.
“Senators are going out to seek seats that they believe wield the clout and relevance, unlike in 2013 elections where the roles of the offices had not become distinct. Those in the Senate can now see which position has the power,” he said.
But others, like Senate Majority Leader Kindiki Kithure, will be defending their seats.
“Personally, I understood what the work of the Senator was before I offered my candidature for the post. That is why I will be defending my seat. I have no ambitions of ever becoming a county boss, maybe the presidency in future,” he said.
Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro does not believe the House has been shunned: “There are many Kenyans who have set their eyes on the Senate seat. When one leaves, tens of people are interested in representing their counties in the House,” said Ethuro.