The matter of regional balance in President William Ruto's Cabinet found its way on the floor of Senate with some member saying Mt Kenya had been allocated more than its rightful share.
Nyamira Senator Okong'o Mogeni faulted the President for failing to walk the unity talk in unveiling the Cabinet, arguing that he saw little representation from the many marginalised ethnic communities in the country.
In his address to Parliament, President Ruto stated that the country has dislodged the history of politically mobilising along ethnic lines together with the culture and practices of ethnic exclusion, discrimination and patronage.
Citing the Kuria, Senator Omogeni argued that despite the region supporting President Ruto since 2013 and electing two UDA Members of Parliament, the community was not considered in the Cabinet. The senator also attacked the president’s decision to have seven out of the 21 CSs coming from Mt Kenya.
“If his excellency the president is telling us that we should not place a lot of premium on one ethnic group, why should we have one ethnic group produce a Deputy President and seven Cabinet Secretaries to the exclusion of these other minorities,” said Omogeni.
But Murang’a Senator Joe Ngugi argued that former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government took into account marginalised communities such as the Turkana and that the decision to have seven CSs from Mt Kenya indicates that the region represents “30 per cent of Kenya’s population.”
However, according to the 2019 Kenya Population and Housing Census, the region accounts for 17.1 per cent of the country’s population.
“Mr Speaker, he is out of order to try and profile Kenyans and if he has an issue, he has to bring a substantive motion to discuss those individuals as per the standing orders,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.
The Nyamira Senator suggested that the president should go back to the drawing board and put in place a Cabinet that “values all ethnic groups”.
The House was also split on the issue of Genetically Modified crops (GMO) with those allied to President Ruto pushing for the speedy adoption of GMOs.
“I would like to appeal to colleagues also to encourage the firm introduction of genetically modified food stuff so that we can have food security in this country. Let’s not be in a hurry and in the process, we kill Kenyans,” said Kakamega Senator Bonny Khalwale.
However, this too was rejected by Omogeni who argued that there is not enough evidence to prove the safety of GMOs. The Nyamira senator said it would be better for the government to slow down and conduct proper research before commencing importation and open cultivation of genetically modified crops.
Similarly, the House stood split over President Ruto’s decision to retain the office of the Cabinet Administrative Secretaries (CAS)- a position created by former President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2018.
Omogeni contended that the head of state’s decision to maintain positions that were declared unconstitutional by the High Court is a turnaround from his Parliament address where he promised to intentionally respect the Judiciary.
Currently, The Public Service Commission (PSC) has invited the public to submit their views on the proposed establishment of the position of CAS.
“I read the advert placed in Newspapers by the PSC. The position being created are offices within the public service. Not officers who can serve within the Cabinet. You cannot create the position of CAS as per the law. Mr speaker, this idea of going out the way trying to rewrite our constitution to reward political failures is a very bad culture,” argued Omogeni.
Despite the protracted disagreements on the different issues, the House managed to agree on the power of the Senate to summon and grill Cabinet Secretaries.
In the 12th Parliament, several CSs snubbed Senate summons owing to poor implementation of the law to have CSs on mandatory obligation to appear before the House when beckoned.
Kisumu Senator Moses Kajwang argued that changes need to be made to strengthen the Senate and make it the upper house to end impunity perpetuated by CS during President uhuru’s tenure.
“The impunity that was there in the executive meant you could never get the Cabinet Secretaries to appear before the committee and that impunity was further entrenched by the leadership of the house that shield the cabinet secretaries,” said Kajwang.
The Senate will continue debating President Ruto’s speech for two days as a procedural motion required by law.
The Hustler fund and Credit Reference Bureau’s blacklisting of millions of Kenya’s who have defaulted on their loans also featured as senators debated President Ruto's speech.