Arms of Government

Arms of Government

A new structure under a new Consititution

Kenya’s central government is structured through the constitution with administrative and policy making powers being distributed to its three arms namely Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. However, the current structuring is being replaced by a revamped new governance system following the recent adoption of the new constitution.

Here is a comprehensive covering of the Kenya government structure under the new constitution.


Being by far one of the most crucial arms, it consists of the following primary members:

 President

 Deputy President

 Cabinet Secretaries

 Attorney General

 Director of public prosecutions

Headed by the president of the republic, the executive is guided by an underlying framework of laws. The laws require the president to appoint between 14 and 22 cabinet secretaries reflecting ethnic and regional diversity.

Appointments of cabinet secretaries and other key positions such as that of the attorney general, secretary to the cabinet, high commissioners, consular representatives and ambassadors are vested in the president subject to approval by parliament.

Did you know?

 In as much as the president must garner the majority votes, he or she needs to get support from more than 50 percent of the voters.

 With the adaption of the new constitution, the president alongside cabinet secretaries will no longer have a seat in the August house.

The Legislature

According to the new constitution, the Legislature is held responsible for advocating for the people’s interest in law making. In addition to that, it is vested in two houses - the national assembly and the senate. The adoption of the new constitution adds an interesting twist to law making. This is because

the old constitution exclusively placed the law making process in the hands of parliament. The specific roles of the national assembly are:

 Members of the national assembly are obligated to represent their constituents and all the special interests within their respective constituencies

 Enactment of legislation for both county and national government

 Approval or disapproval of revenue allocation presented by the senate, determining the national distribution across the counties.

 Check the conduct of the executive and other state officers and if necessary initiate the process of removal of president, deputy president and other state officers.

 Exercise oversight over state organs and approve the state of emergency and declaration of war.

The Senate

The roles of the Kenya Senate under the new constitution are:

 Debate and approve county bills

 Determine the allocation of national revenue to be distributed according to the counties

 Represent the interests of the counties at the national level

 Consider and determine the resolution of impeachment of the president or his/her deputy

The Judiciary

As the name system, this arm of government mainly centers on the Kenyan Judicial system. The Kenyan Judicial system adheres to a hierarchical system, with The Supreme Court being the highest organ, followed by the Court of Appeal, High Court, Magistrate's Courts and other Subordinate Courts.

The chief justice is the president of the judiciary and is appointed by the president subject to the approval of the National Assembly.

The Supreme Court, being the highest judicial organ, has the following key functions:

 Mandated to hear and determine presidential election disputes, if they occur.

 Attend to the appeals arising from the Court of Appeal.

The high Court, on the other hand, attends to criminal and civil cases as well as supervising the administration of justice in other lower ranking courts.

The Magistrate's courts as reconstituted under article 169 of the constitution of Kenya 2010 falls under Subordinate Courts and deals with criminal and civil matters within their ranks and jurisdictions. The pecking order of the Magistrates’ courts from top to bottom is as follows: Chief magistrates’ courts, Principal magistrates’ courts, Resident magistrates’ courts and District magistrate’s courts.

The Kadhis’ courts on the other hand as reconstituted under article 170 of the constitution of Kenya have their jurisdiction limited to determining matters arising in the Muslim law regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance and personal status. Kadhi courts solely center on citizens who willingly submit to Islam faith and the Kadhi court system.

Devolved Government

The devolved government, proposed during the making of the new constitution, is primarily geared towards achieving two main objectives.

 Involve the people in governance

 Allow better supervision and implementation of policies at the grassroot level

The county Government, which has since replaced the provincial administration, constitutes of a county assembly and county executive. The responsibilities of the county assembly include:

 Exercising the powers of enacting laws at the county level

 Acting as an oversight instrument on the county executive

 Approval of plans and policies for smooth operation and management of resources and county institutions

Even at county level, democratic principles are observed. The people elect the members of the county assembly at Ward level. All the same, additional slots are reserved for nominations. This ensures that membership is well distributed by gender, marginalized groups and persons with disability.

The county assembly is headed by a county Speaker who by law is not supposed to be a member of the assembly.

The county executive on the other hand is charged with the responsibility of exercising executive power at the county level, implementing laws for administration of the county as well as carrying out other executive functions of the county. The county executive gives the people an opportunity to be more actively involved in lawmaking. The county executive is led by a governor who is directly elected by the people at the county level. The appointment of the county executive members is placed under the mandate of the governor, and approval is subject to the county assembly.

Point of note: The executive members are answerable to the governor and shall not be members of the county assembly.

Currently the Kenya devolved government consists of 47 counties representing the initially recognized districts and each one of them forms a county government. Every county government shall further decentralize its services and coordinate its functions in order to efficiently serve the interests of the people of Kenya at the local level.

The counties of Kenya are geographical units envisioned by the 2010 Constitution of Kenya as the units of devolved government. The powers are provided in Articles 191 and 192, and in the fourth schedule of the Constitution of Kenya and the County Governments Act of 2012. The counties are also single member constituencies for the election of members of parliament to the Senate of Kenya and special women members of parliament to the National Assembly of Kenya. As of 2013 general elections, there are 47 counties whose size and boundaries are based on the 47 legally recognised Districts of Kenya. Following the re-organisation of Kenya's national administration, counties were integrated into a new national administration with the national government posting county commissioners to represent it at the counties