KEG president Churchill Otieno was invited to the 4th Senate Induction Retreat to speak on the State of health in the relationship between the Senate and the media. The September 21 retreat at a Naivasha resort, was organised around the theme, Understanding the mandate of the Senate: Strengthening devolution through legislative agenda.
Setting the stage for the session, Senator Enock Wambua challenged his colleagues to
consider “how best at a very personal we can engage with the media for personal growth, for the purpose of profiling the Senate and for the purpose of making a contribution to the growth of our country”. Legislators, he said had a duty and responsibility to engage with the media at every twist and turn.
Senate Speaker Amason Kingi (left) and KEG President Churchill Otieno when they made presentations at the Senate retreat
Mr Otieno, who shared the podium with social media expert Mark Kaigwa, noted that the Senate and editors had established a tradition of engaging regularly on their social roles and was hopeful that that would continue. He spoke about KEG’s public interest agenda and its collaboration with other entities to ensure Kenyans’ interests were properly served.
He urged the Senate to defend media independence, noting that the fourth estate was “critical for the health of our democracy”.
On the issue of perceptions and pecking order between the Senate and National Assembly, Churchill looked to the August 9 General Election for a response. “The role of the Senate,” he said, “was delivered in the recent election.” Of the elected leaders, he noted, 55 per cent of Senators, 57 pc of governors,70 pc of MCAs and 39 pc of MPS were all fresh faces. For him, this was instructive, that Kenyans had spoken loud and clear and that their attitude to and participation in voting had changed.
“My hypothesis is that devolution is no longer a child; it has grown up and Kenyans are paying a keen interest on leaders’ performance. And if the MCA’s case is anything to go by, Kenya’s are unforgiving,” he said.
On the relationships, he said Senators seemed to be in competition with Governors and that the media themselves were being seen in some quarters as being held captive by some institutions, the Senate included.
Senate Speaker Amason Kingi expounded on the roles of both the Senate and National Assembly, stating that there should be no rivalry between the two. Referring to the Constitution, he said the role of the Senate was to monitor, supervise and legislate all aspects of devolution in the 47 counties. It also had a role to debate all matters of national importance.
On training, he explained its objective as that of equipping Senators with knowledge that is important to carry out their duties effectively. That duty, he said, was to positively shape and build on the gains already made by its predecessors over the past 10 years.