BBI team seeks advise of legal experts on contentious issues

Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 00:00 |
The Kenyan Senate during a past session. Photo/PD/FILE

Anthony Mwangi and Hillary Mageka

A joint committee of the Justice and Legal Affairs from Senate and the National Assembly has tapped two legal experts to seek their opinion on contentious issues, mainly whether the Building Bridges Initiative Bill can be amended.

 Prof Patricia Kameri-Mbote and Dr Collins Odote will give their views on whether the constitutional Amendment Bill, 2020 was coherent and fully constitutional.

Mbote is the Dean of the School of Law at the University of Nairobi where she has taught for over 30 years.

Mbote is one of the applicants for the Chief Justice position. She is an Advocate of the High Court and was conferred the rank of Senior Counsel in 2012. Odote is a senior lecturer at the same university.

Committee co-chair Muturi Kigano said this was the first time the House has considered a way to amend the Constitution by popular initiative and many constitutional and legal issues were expected and had arisen.

“After public participation, the committee has considered six thematic areas; the nature of the Bill, public participation, process of the Bill, substantive issues, referendum issues and status of litigation in court,” he said.

Second opinion

A member of the committee, Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) said they will allow the consultants to deliver their report before taking a position.

“The issue at hand currently is whether the report can be amended or not. Members are divided on the matter and although we are also experts in law, we are seeking a second opinion before acting,” Kaluma explained.

Meanwhile, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi is today expected to give directions as to whether the joint committee compiling a report on the Bill will continue with its sittings.

Last week, Muturi gave the committee a 10-day extension and directed that the report be tabled on Thursday, April 1.

Muturi said he knew that the Bill would go to the second reading stage with or without the report.

He directed the committee to table its report this week and warned that he will not take any excuse or allow for further extension of time.

Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai told People Daily that the Speaker will give directions during the Special Sitting called today for MPs to deliberate on whether to alter the calendar as requested by President Uhuru Kenyatta as part of the Covid-19 mitigation measure.

“The Speaker will give directions today during the Special Sitting. He will also direct on how other House committees will conduct their business during the lockdown period,” Sialai said.

And with hours to go before the lapse of the deadline given by the Speaker, the joint committee was still divided over whether to amend the BBI report or not.

Kigano, however, appeared to downplay the divisions, saying his team was intact and that its meetings over the weekend had been called off following the directives given by the government of gatherings.

Critical response

The committee says it has collected critical response to the law review during public participation that needed time to analyse and prepare a report.

 “We have not made any progress. We held a meeting on Friday, then the directive by the President came.

We have not met since we were barred from holding any meetings. We are stuck,” said Mutula.

 “The question is how are we going to meet? The co-chairs do not want us to meet physically and they are also opposing virtual meeting.

That is where the fight is. We are at a standstill and we do not know what is going on,” Mutula said.

The committee Kigano co-chairs with Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni collected views from 65 groups and individuals last week and was expected to table their report yesterday.

Siaya Senator James Orengo has also warned MPs against trivialising the role played by Parliament in legislation, adding that its role as ceremonial as dangerous.

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