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Councils of Elders to be vested with more powers

Elders in the country may soon start offering advisory opinion to parliament before enacting legislations besides giving regular advice to the executive on governance issues.

This is according to Sports and Heritage principal secretary Ms Josephta Mukobe.

Ms Mukobe said that Kenya was looking at adopting some aspects of Botswana’s Council of Elders model which have no more power than their Kenyan counterparts.

“These elders’ forums, if given a firmer legal footing, should desirably sway the socio-political life of our country. But as currently established they remain largely ceremonial, hardly outgrowing their token sense of pride in their ethnic circles,” Ms Mukobe said on Thursday.

Ms Mukobe was speaking in her office on Thursday during a meeting with the 35-member ‘council of chiefs’ (senate) from the republic of Botswana who are in Kenya for a one-week bench-marking sojourn led by Mr Ngosi Puso Gaboran, chairman of his country’s house of chiefs.

The Botswana’s Constitution bestows a triangle of duties to the chiefs’ council (senate), including offering advisory opinion, which are not binding, to parliament before it enacts any legislation, giving regular advice to executive on governance and advising on issues of culture.

The principal secretary said that council of elders in the country lack well-defined roles making the elders to manouver for relevance and also remain ‘seasonal’, often popping up around general elections to offer their communities ‘direction’.

In lieu of that, Ms Mukobe said that the first step in re-organising Kenya’s various councils of elders would be through a round table to breathe unity into them.

ARBITRATORS

“Currently most of them are divided houses, with rival stakes to leadership thus rendering difficult, any structured discussion with government,” she said.

Some of the better known such Councils include Kalenjin Council of Elders, Kaya elders (for the Mijikenda), Luo Council of Elders, Abagusii Council of Elders, the Njuri Ncheke (for the Ameru people) and Kikuyu Council of Elders.

Mr Gaboran said that the institution of chiefs is entrenched in Botswana’s Constitution section 88(2), making the body equivalent to Kenya’s Senate and meets every four months and age is not a factor to be an elder there unlike in kenya ‘advanced age’ is not a key factor to be in the council of chiefs (elders).

He added that the elders have a quasi-judicial role as arbitrators in civil cases, mostly regarding land ownership and other family issues where its decisions or judgments (though appealable) are recognised by the Botswana government.

“The 35 chiefs (elders) comprise 22 hereditary chiefs drawn from all tribes, eight are ex-officio members while five are appointed by the president. They also get a monthly remuneration, and their term in office is tied to the five-year life of parliament,” Mr Gaboran said.

The Botswana delegation was later conducted on a tour of the Kenya National Archives and Documentation Centre by the deputy director Mr John Nyabuto. They also visited the National Museums of Kenya.