The structure of the national government in Kenya consists of three arms (of government) These arms of government are the National Executive, the Legislature (Parliament) and the Judiciary.
Each of these arms of government is independent of each other in respect to the principle of separation of powers. In addition, the Constitution of Kenya sets out their different roles, responsibilities and functions.
Article 1 of the Constitution says that all the sovereign power belongs to the people of Kenya, but it is delegated, at the national level, to the executive, the judiciary and parliament. These three arms of government also have the power to exercise this sovereign power at the national level.
These three arms of government should perform their responsibilities while upholding the national values and principles of governance stipulated in Article 10 of the Constitution.
The arms of the national government in Kenya
Chapters 8, 9 and 10 of the Constitution expound on the structure of the national government in Kenya through provisions on the legislature (parliament), the executive and the judiciary respectively.
1. The Legislature
The legislature (or parliament) in Kenya consists of the National Assembly and the Senate.
The Republic of Kenya derives its legislative authority from the people and, at the national level, is vested in and exercised by Parliament.
Parliament manifests the diversity of the nation, represents the will of the people, and exercises their sovereignty.
Parliament may consider and pass amendments to the Constitution, and alter county boundaries as provided for in the Constitution.
Parliament should protect the Constitution and promote the democratic governance of the Republic.
No person or body, other than Parliament, has the power to make provision having the force of law in Kenya except under authority conferred by the Constitution or by legislation.
The National Assembly
The National Assembly represents the people of the constituencies and special interests in the National Assembly.
The National Assembly in Kenya consists of—
- two hundred and ninety members, each elected by the registered voters of single member constituencies;
- forty-seven women, each elected by the registered voters of the counties, each county constituting a single-member constituency (Women County Representatives or Women Representatives);
- twelve members nominated by parliamentary political parties according to their proportion of members of the National Assembly in accordance with Article 90 (allocation of seats), to represent special interests including the youth, persons with disabilities and workers; and
- the Speaker, who is an ex officio member.
The positions for the nominated members as per Article 90 are allocated to political parties in proportion to the total number of seats won by candidates of the political party at the general election.
The Senate represents the counties and serves to protect the interests of the counties and their governments.
The Senate in Kenya consists of—
- forty-seven members, each elected by the registered voters of the counties, each county constituting a single member constituency;
- sixteen women members who should be nominated by political parties according to their proportion of members of the Senate elected under clause (a) in accordance with Article 90;
- two members, being one man and one woman, representing the youth;
- two members, being one man and one woman, representing persons with disabilities; and
- the Speaker, who is an ex officio member.
The representatives for the youth and persons with disabilities are elected in accordance with Article 90 of the Constitution.
See this article on the functions of the Senate in Kenya.
2. The Executive
The Executive authority derives from the people of Kenya and should be exercised according to the Constitution.
The Executive should exercise the executive authority in a manner compatible with the principle of service to the people of Kenya, and for their wellbeing and benefit.
The composition of the national executive should reflect the regional and ethnic diversity of the people of Kenya.
The Cabinet in Kenya comprises—
- the President;
- the Deputy President;
- the Attorney-General; and
- not fewer than fourteen and not more than twenty-two Cabinet Secretaries.
The President should nominate and, with the approval of the National Assembly, appoint Cabinet Secretaries.
3. The Judiciary
Judicial authority is derived from the people and vests in and should be exercised by, the courts and tribunals established by or under the Constitution.
In the exercise of judicial authority, the Judiciary is subject only to the Constitution and the law and should not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority.
The Judiciary consists of the judges of the superior courts, magistrates, other judicial officers and staff.
The judicial offices are the office of the––
- Chief Justice, who is the Head of the Judiciary;
- Deputy Chief Justice, who is the Deputy Head of the Judiciary; and
- Chief Registrar of the Judiciary, who is the chief administrator and accounting officer of the Judiciary.
The Judicial Service Commission may establish other offices of registrar as may be necessary.
The superior courts are the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court and the courts established by parliament below.
Parliament should establish, and determine the jurisdiction and functions of, the courts with the status of the High Court to hear and determine disputes relating to (Article 162 (2))—
- employment and labour relations; and
- the environment and the use and occupation of, and title to, land.
The subordinate courts are—
- the Magistrates courts;
- the Kadhis’ courts;
- the Courts-Martial; and
- any other court or local tribunal as may be established by an Act of Parliament, other than the courts established as required by Article 162 (2).
Parliament should enact legislation conferring jurisdiction, functions and powers on the subordinate courts.
Therefore, the three arms of government that form the structure of the national government in Kenya are the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.