New Kenya Parliament chamber, its features and government commitment to BVR
President Kibaki Tuesday presided over the opening of the newest ultramodern parliament building in the region that will serve members of Kenya’s 10th parliament for the remaining 7 months left in their tenure and their successive parliamentary colleagues.
The newly refurbished chamber will accommodate 418 members who will also be able to access state of the art technology at their seats and get the speaker’s attention using the system by logging in with a special card.
MPs have officially relocated to the spacious new chamber after years spent in the cramped old Chamber, which could hardly accommodate 150 MPs. The new chamber is located to the south of the old chamber.
“The completion of this chamber upgrading project marks an important milestone for the people of Kenya. Facilities in this refurbished chamber will aid members to fulfill their responsibilities to the people of Kenya more effectively.
“Of more significance than the physical facilities however is the character and conduct of the members of this house. We must remember that we have a responsibility not only to our constituents but to the entire nation. We should set examples of hard work, integrity and national building to our fellow citizens,” said Kibaki.
As if to reiterate the government’s resolve to embrace technology, the president also used the occasion to reassure the public that the government will assist the IEBC to acquire Biometric Voter Registration kits for the March 2013 elections.
“I wish to assure all Kenyans that we are putting in place measures to ensure a free fare and peaceful elections. The government will support the IEBC to acquire the biometric voter registration system and contribute to the credibility of the electoral process. We will also fast track the issuance of national identification cards to cater for the youth,” said Kibaki.
Speaker Kenneth Marende joined the president in thanking the Kenyan people for contributing funds towards the completion of the construction which took about three years.
The renovation of the chamber has been in the plans of parliament since the year 2004 and has reportedly cost Ksh.920 Million.
“This spectacular infrastructure joins the list of many landmarks that have been made to happen in the recent past. The ambiance is pleasantly amicable if not enabling. It is obviously a very conducive environment to motivate the people’s representatives to discharge their role in governance,” said Marende in his speech.
He added: “The completion of this chamber comes with a great technological leap and presents a unique opportunity for this parliament to reach out to the electorate faster and efficiently. The chamber has inbuilt radio and Tv broadcasting studios transmitting live feeds straight from here,” said Marende.
The chamber has been designed in the shape of a horse- shoe with a sitting arrangement that rises up away from the centre to enable members to have a better visual ability by being at a higher vantage point with every rise towards the peripheral areas and the converging application the shape allows.
“It not only looks to create a friendly environment for debate but is also conducive for people with disabilities. The previous arrangement was adversarial in the rectangular shape it was constructed in,” said Public works minister Chris Obure.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga concurred in a statement that was presented on his behalf by lands minister James Orengo.
“I hope it will usher in a new era in which we will be able to debate issues with a unity of purpose. I urge that as leaders, we should roll up our sleeves to embrace the best that technology has to offer in the new house,” said Raila in the statement.
Key Installations in the new Parliamentary chambers
Some of the features that come with the ultramodern design include a central control room in which robotic cameras and other equipment will be controlled from.
There will be 11 cameras in the chambers that will capture the proceedings of the house in real time and broadcast to the national audience. However, the technicians will operate them from this specialized space away from the view of the rest of the house.
The technicians consist of a producer to preview the shots in order to select the preferred live feed at a time and oversee other artistic work.
A graphics expert will also be on hand to generate the necessary graphics using such facilities as the character generator. A different station within the same setting will be responsible for audio control.
“We are on high speed internet connection within the precincts of parliament and honorable members can access high speed connections on their laptops, ipads or any other device with suitable capacity consideration,” said Marende.
The house is fitted with red reclining seats complete with arm rests and a decorative symbol depicting the court of arms at the head of the back rest. Each member has a microphone which is situated at the front of their space and can be arched in all directions with a flexibility that is supposed to come in handy to be moved forward whenever a member has the floor and pulled backwards and away whenever it is idle.
According to Marende, the Kenya prison department was able to make the seats and deliver them to parliament at a cost of Ksh.77 million while the private sector would have cost them Ksh. 168 million therefore saving 54 percent of the total cost.
Members will be able to seat at any position but they will be required to input a special card into a system comprised of electronic voting system and computer monitors in order to log into the system to participate in debate. The speaker led members in the orientation of how to use the facility.
It is a three step process:
How to operate the single user computerized parliament facility according to Marende
- Insert the card
- Put in pin provided (four figures)
- Press mic button to accept pin
- Press mic button once to request speaker for floor
- If you wish to raise a point of order or intervene press intervention button marked “int”
Similar refurbishment would be done to the old chambers ready for use by the senate including the construction of a multipurpose office block that will constitute a multipurpose parliamentary annex with offices for members and committee rooms.
“We are committed to provide resources for the two chamber legislature to function effectively. I encourage the current members of parliament to seek re- election because the next parliament will be an important pillar of the government. The status and place of parliament will remain paramount,” said Kibaki.
Kibaki used the opportunity to hand over the original copy of the new constitution that he signed on the 27th of August 2010 and the pen he appended the signature with to Marende for safekeeping in the August House.
“The modernization of the house comes at a time when we are fully engaged in the implementation of our constitution. I commend members of parliament for rising to the occasion and passing the legislation needed to anchor our constitution since its promulgation two year ago,” said Kibaki.