The Kenyan National Assembly since 2002

From a dictatorship of one, to a dictatorship of 349. I say this is progress. Admittedly, change has been slow. But the dispersal of power is almost always a good thing.

kenyaMoi

H/T Boniface Mwangi.

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Fighting Legislators

As if legislative studies wasn’t exciting enough, there is an entire website dedicated to curating clips of legislators exchanging blows while at work.

This is from Turkey (not yet on the website):

This is from India:

And this is from the Alabama Senate (in the United States):

H/T Kimuli Kasara.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s State of the National Address to Parliament

On Thursday President Uhuru Kenyatta presented his annual report to the joint session of Parliament. You can find the text of the speech here and the youtube clip here.

Key achievements of his administration over the last three years include (i) rural electrification (nearly all primary schools have been connected to the grid — THIS IS PRETTY BIG DEAL); (ii) the construction of a new railway line (the project is a corruption boondoggle, but the speed with which it is being carried out is stunning); and (iii) power generation.

Below is a word cloud showing some of the issues the president focused on. Corruption, health (hospital), security, and general service provision were the main policy areas that the president chose to focus on.

I was surprised by the failure of “agriculture”, “land”, “education”, and “infrastructure” to make the top twenty. “Road” had a respectable show. There was also a lot of politics — mainly directed at the opposition and civil society.

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Perhaps in reaction to David Ndii’s provocative article on the failure of the Kenya Project, the president’s speech was particularly nationalist. The words “Covenant” and “Nationalist” appeared 27 and 22 times, respectively, well ahead of key policy-related terms.

I am personally worried that the word “development” outperformed “economic/economy.” I hope this is not a signal that the government views the running of the economy as a massive “development project.” We all know how those usually turn out.

 

Graph of the week

Over the last two decades there has been a remarkable shift in the composition of domestic government debt in Kenya, with long-term debt instruments (bonds) increasingly preferred to short-term debt (T-Bills).

The financial market in Nairobi is telling us a thing or two about creditors’ perceived time horizon of the Kenyan government; and Treasury’s capacity for credible commitment.

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Source: The World Bank

For curious readers, I would argue that the explanation for this structural change (especially after 2003) is more Stasavage than North and Weingast.

mps pull kenya from the icc treaty

The Kenyan parliament passed a motion urging the country’s executive to pull out of the ICC treaty. It was left to Gichugu MP Martha Karua to be the sole defender of the ICC process with regard to Kenyan victims of the post-election violence that rocked the country in 2007-08.

The cases against the six named suspects will continue since the procedure to unsign from the treaty takes up to a year and even then signaling the intent to withdraw does not extricate a member country from its obligations while it is still a member. President Kibaki and Premier Odinga have yet to respond to the new developments.

My lukewarm support for the ICC process comes for the fore again: Recognizing the rights of sovereign states to solve their own problems (the Kenyans will not. No illusions about that. They will trade stability for injustice) and while registering my doubt of the ICC’s effectiveness at delivering justice (no apolitical body can do what it purports to do), I am still of the considered opinion that the Chads and CAR’s of this world need an international policeman to keep their tyrannical leaders in check.

legislators’ salaries

Annual compensation of members of parliament in US dollars:

Nigeria 224,000

United States 174,000

Kenya 157,000

South Africa 66,080

Uganda 39,960

Ghana 33,120

The disparities are mind-boggling. It is a shame really that Nigerian parliamentarians should be making the kind of money they make, given the level of their per capita GDP. Ditto the Kenyans. Although there is a strong case to be made for such high pays to make MPs less dependent on the executive for handouts (as has been argued by Barkan and co.), such measures should be tempered by the respect for the lived experience of a country’s citizenry.

kenya’s 10th parliament officially opens

The official opening of Kenya’s tenth parliament took place on Thursday afternoon amid high expectations of national reconciliation and healing. The president’s speech laid emphasis on the need to urgently amend the constitution in order to create the constitutional framework for the implementation of the deal that he signed a week ago with arch-rival Raila Odinga (It is important to note that since last Thursday these two have become bosom buddies, they are always smiling at each other in public. I hope this love-fest persists and extends to their lieutenants as well).

The ball is now in parliament’s court. The MPs need to expedite the enactment of the relevant laws to ensure that Kenyans have a speedy return to normalcy – the most needy now being the hundreds of thousands of IDPs who have been moved away from where they used to call home. I still think that it was a big mistake for the government to move people to their “ancestral homelands.” The government should have provided security for the people wherever they were even as the land problems are being addressed.

After the land issue is cleared (yeah, I am gonna be delusional for a moment), those that legitimately owned land should be guaranteed a right to return even though they may be returning to areas inhabited by people that speak a different language. I am also looking forward to reading the ethnic equality bill that is being rumored to be in the works. I hope they’ve designed so that we can finally do away with all the tribes and just have one nation of rational, law abiding citizens.

And as parliament looks at these issues we hope that they won’t be tempted to award themselves hefty pay increases primarily because Kenya already has too big of a government – and one that will increase with the creation of the post of a premier and two deputies.