I listened awhile back to Makueni County Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior talking about the Senate and its functions at our Rotary Muthaiga meeting. I asked him if I could interview him for my blog and he agreed.
1. Who is Mutula Kilonzo Junior?
A simple man, brought up by a hardworking mother, trained by a larger-than-life father figure, and thrown into the deep of politics to swim with sharks by fate.
2. Where did you get your charm or charisma from?
It is genetic! My grandfather was charismatic, and my grandmother was feisty.
3. What are your hobbies?
Travelling, adventure and reading, (not in any particular order).
4. What kind of books do you read?
Various- biographies, fiction and inspirational.
5. Everybody knows you entered into the political arena when your father died. Had you planned eventually to enter into politics?
I had not planned this part. The ambition was recessive.
6. Your father had a political career spanning decades. Is there any pressure to be like your father?
It was not decades. In 2002, he was nominated by KANU. In 2007, he joined the fray as Mbooni Constituency Member of Parliament. In 2013 he was elected the first Senator of Makueni County.
The pressure to be like him is part of my things to do every day. Everyone reminds me of his achievements, (even in livestock and wildlife). Some folks would be happy if I laughed as loud as he did!
7. What has been your biggest challenge as a politician?
Balancing between the theatrics of politicians, double speak, backbiting etc with my training to stick to the law and nothing else.
8. As a lawyer do you believe that reforms in the judiciary are going to make justice easier to access for Kenyans?
The Judiciary has come a long way. The reforms are a crucial step towards achieving access to justice for all and maintaining the rule of law.
9. You were a lawyer before becoming a senator. What is the biggest challenge facing lawyers today?
I am still a lawyer! The profession is still dominated by very senior lawyers who have been in the field for eons. Young lawyers have to work twice or thrice as hard, to get air! Earning legal fees is not a walk in the park for them!
10. It seems like Kenyan politics is an episode of De political de drama soap opera. The Senate fights with the Judiciary or the Governors and MCAs or MPs. Do you think we will soon reach a place where the Constitution works the way it is supposed to without numerous fights to implement the law?
We will get there. The jostling for space is not unusual; only that it is now choreographed by political intrigues and interference from the Executive.
11. There are many people who are not quite sure what the Senate is supposed to do. Can you in a simple manner explain the 3 roles of the Senate?
a) Protect interests of the Counties and their governments.
b) Determine Revenue Allocation between National and County Governments.
c) Oversight over the spending of that revenue (by Counties).
d) Legislate on matters concerning Counties.
I chose to give four primary roles.
12. There is something called the Revenue Sharing Formula. What is your take on it? Is it realistic? Where are the loopholes?
It is a tentative formula for sharing Revenue among counties drawn by the Commission on Revenue Allocation. It attempts to equalize and/or balance between population, size of land and peculiar needs of Counties. It is not perfect (nothing is), but it can be improved. I do not expect 100% satisfaction on it, but it is much better than the roadside allocations done in the past.
13. The senate has been asking for a bigger slice of the government budget to go to counties. Why do you believe that this is the way forward?
Article 187(2) requires that functions that are devolved should be funded.80% of the functions have been devolved with no funds. The ministries are receiving more funds this year yet the functions are devolved.
The Ministry of Devolution and Planning, and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation have a budget of 51 billion! (do the math)
14. There are many like myself who are sceptical about the counties handling more money yet they waste the money already on expensive trips abroad and other non-essential non-development items. Why should we support more money going to the counties?
Everyone is sceptical, but what would you prefer:- funding to be held by the National Government? The spending spree will soon die down when the culprits are prosecuted and surcharged as required by law. Ultimately, we need more funds for Counties and better Governors.
15. What is the senate doing to ensure that the county officials use their allocated funds well and do not misuse funds for personal gains?
We had requested 1 billion shillings to do oversight. (National Assembly and Executive had other ideas). The Public Accounts Committee is working overtime to summon Governors over the pilferage of funds in the 2013/2014 fiscal year.
16. The county governments have not been implementing the law that 30% of the money should go to women, the disabled and youth. How can the senate come in to ensure that this is done?
We have proposed a law that will ensure that counties publish the allocations and names of persons who have benefitted.
17. How can high political salaries be justified, especially considering the state of the Country’s economy?
It cannot be justified. We are the highest paid in the world (if not under the sun) yet the people we serve are living in squalor conditions. Only Singapore can afford our lifestyle.
18. The MPs are now pushing for more financial support once they leave parliament. What are your thoughts?
I disagree. Political office is not permanent and pensionable. It is Contractual. Those who want a pension should not seek elective office.
19. You are a Rotarian. Has Rotary prepared you for this current political role you are in?
Yes. The four-way test is the ultimate guide in my work and a summary of my oath under the constitution.
20. Would you urge young professionals to join Rotary? What are the benefits?
They should. I joined at 23! Networking, peer challenges and most importantly, there is a person in this world who needs Rotary. If all followed the motto “service above self”- this Country would be the place to be!
21. Any last words?
The future of this Country should not be left to an oligarchy of a few! Everyone has a role to say no to plunder, tribalism and discrimination. We must reclaim our Country back; a “Rainbow Revolution” of sorts.
Potentash Founder. A creative writer. The Managing Editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories and stories about the inclusion of minorities. Find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We're all stories, in the end.” ― Steven Moffat