Full in-tray as Moses Wetang’ula takes over as 8th Speaker

Moses Wetang'ula

Newly elected  National Assembly speaker Moses Wetang’ula presides over the first sitting on Thursday.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

New National Assembly speaker Moses Wetang’ula has his work cut out in the 13th Parliament as he settles down as the eighth speaker since Independence

Sir Humphrey Slade was the first speaker, serving until February 1970. Frederick Mbiti took over and served in the second, third, fourth and fifth parliaments from February 6, 1970, to April 12, 1988.

Moses Kiprono took the up mantle as the third speaker and served in the sixth parliament from April 12, 1988, to May 1991.

Prof. Kimetet arap Ng’eno took over part of sixth parliament and served in the seventh parliament.

The famous Francis ole Kaparo then served as the speaker in the seventh, eighth and ninth parliaments from January 26, 1993, to January 2008.He was followed by Kenneth Marende who served in the 10th parliament. Mr Muturi then took charge of the 11th and 12th parliaments.

Honeymoon ending

As he settles down after cruising to victory on Thursday, Mr Wetang’ula will preside over a House where the ruling party does not have a supermajority.

His first major and political task will be to determine the majority and minority coalitions between Kenya Kwanza that propelled him to victory and Azimio.

Each camp insists that it is the majority, with immediate former Speaker Justin Muturi saying the matter will be determined by his successor. “If there is any dispute, which to me there isn’t, then the next speaker will determine the majority and minority party,” Mr Muturi said.

While Azimio is holding to a pre-election agreement signed by constituent parties that form the coalition and deposited at the Registrar of Political Parties as the basis for being declared the majority, Kenya Kwanza says some of those parties have now shifted their political allegiance, hence Azimio has lost numbers, thereby making it minority party.

ODM chairman John Mbadi says Azimio is the majority coalition, adding one does not move out of a coalition by visiting Karen (President-elect William Ruto’s current residence) but through legal instruments deposited at the Registrar of Political Parties. He says the agreement binds parties such as Pamoja African Alliance, Movement for Democracy and Growth, Maendeleo Chap Chap and United Democratic Movement and their MPs will be counted on Azimio side when majority and minority sides will be decided. Mr Mbadi says once the decision is made, it does not change midway through the life of Parliament.

 “The tradition has always been that once the majority or minority is determined at the beginning of Parliament, it does not change midway. We have always maintained that. That is why even in case of a by-election when a party loses seats, it does not affect those that were already nominated.

“They can misuse the speaker, but we have a tradition in the House which has always been followed and we don’t think he should depart from it. The speaker can only make a different ruling or provide direction in a matter that is not clear from our Standing Orders,” he said.

However, Garissa Township MP Aden Duale dismissed the argument, saying political marriage cannot be forced through the registrar. “The Constitution is superior to the registrar, we are the majority,” Mr Duale said.

Another daunting task awaiting Mr Wetang’ula is the issue of the country’s debt ceiling, which the 12th parliament increased to Sh10 trillion, a move that was then opposed by allies of Dr Ruto. Lawmakers amended Section 50(2) of the Public Finance Management Regulations 2015 to require that “the public debt shall not exceed Sh10 trillion.”

Although the House passed it amid protest from Dr Ruto’s allies, they agreed that the 13th Parliament, which was sworn in on Thursday, would be at liberty to either retain it or reduce it. The review will require approval of both Houses where Dr Ruto has his allies as speakers.

Another task awaiting Mr Wetang’ula is the change of Standing Orders to allow Cabinet Secretaries to appear in Parliament chambers for grilling as part of enhancing public accountability.

This position has been supported by the President-elect when he recently said that under his administration, Cabinet Secretaries will appear in person in the plenaries to answer questions from MPs. Mr Muturi said he is happy that the discussion has been brought up again, saying when he mooted the idea in the 11th Parliament, it was rejected.

“It is possible to have Cabinet Secretaries appear for grilling in Parliament. All that needs to be done is to tinker with the Standing Order 253 to ensure that when they are summoned by Parliament, they are not considered strangers,” Mr Muturi said.


Mr Wetangula’s headache is, however, how to change the Standing Orders as they are not supposed to be changed midway the life of Parliament unless under special circumstances. Standing Orders are only reviewed every five years at the end of the life of Parliament. Currently, CSs answer questions through committees and cannot go into the chambers where they are deemed ‘strangers’—a parliamentary term used to describe non-MPs.

In his acceptance speech, Mr Wetang’ula said he will ensure CSs appearing before the House.

“I shall strictly enforce the requirement enshrined under Article 153(3) and (4) of the Constitution, which requires Cabinet Secretaries to attend before the committees of the House to exhaustively answer questions and give full and regular reports on matters under their control,” he said.

Mr Wetang’ula will also be a key figure in ensuring a number of policies and mega projects by Dr Ruto that require legislative amendments. During his campaigns, the President-elect promised to reverse several policies implemented by the Jubilee administration and this will require law amendments.

Dr Ruto promised to support the establishment of agro-processing industries for farm input in the first 100 days and to implement food security policies under the Big Four Agenda. He has promised to provide Sh50 billion per year to fund small businesses and start-ups. He has also pledged to invest Sh500 billion over the next five years in lower-level agriculture and informal sectors to create job opportunities for women and youth.

A further Sh250 billion will be invested in the agricultural sector over the next five years. All these will require the input of Parliament where key legislation and budget adjustments are done.

Mr Wetang’ula will be required to steer this process by ensuring committees work efficiently to bring proposals to the floor of the House. He has promised to make activities of Parliament more transparent through live broadcast of committee proceedings and full operationalisation of Bunge TV channels. “To my mind, ensuring meaningful access to the House will, like a transparent glass, make Parliament more visible, disrobed of the mystery that people might perceive of its processes,” he said, pledging to be impartial in his duties and to be guided by the Constitution.