MPs on fresh collision over BBI proposal

Friday, April 16th, 2021 00:00 |
Senator James Orengo. Photo/PD/FILE

The fate of the 70 new constituencies proposed in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report hangs in the balance after a team of senators resolved to drop it.

The team of eight lawyer-senators, led by James Orengo (Ugenya), yesterday morning met and “edited” the proposal on grounds that it falls within the domain of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

The senators, drawn from both majority and minority sides, made several other far-reaching proposals, which will significantly amend the BBI report if adopted by the National Assembly and the Senate.

Changes are said to have been agreed upon by the joint committee of the National Assembly and Senate, which reviewed submissions from legal experts; Prof Patricia Kameri-Mbote and Dr Collins Odote. 

The senators included Orengo, Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira), Mithika Linturi (Meru), Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a) and Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni). 

Proposals are, however, likely to put the senators on a collision course with among others, opposition leader Raila Odinga, who has ruled out any amendments to the report.

Contentious clauses

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi and Minority Whip Junet Mohammed have also made it clear that they will oppose any amendments to the report.

During yesterday’s meeting, the senators agreed that there was need to change several contentious clauses in the report to “match” the aspirations of Kenyans. 

Lawmakers, however, insisted they were not amending the report, but rather, only “editing” it to make it consistent with the law.

“The proposals we made are not in dispute. For instance, we have proposed that the contentious issue of delimitation be left to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to determine,” said Linturi, who attended the meeting.

Linturi maintained that the creation of new constituencies is the mandate of the IEBC.

Mutula Kilonzo, however, differed with his colleagues, arguing that it was illegal to amend the report derived from a popular initiative.

 “The proponents of change are coming in late. They would have done so before the report was subjected to a vote by county assemblies,” he said.

He termed the group’s move as “political” and voiced fears that the other senators who were not invited to the meeting will reject it.

According to Mutula, MPs were not likely to agree on the issue of 70 constituencies since each region has its own interests.

“The matter of delimitation will never satisfy all. For instance, leaders in Nyanza region feel they were shortchanged and want more. If it happens, we in Makueni will also ask for more constituencies in our region. It will never end,” Mutula explained.

Kang’ata on the other hand supported the proposed changes to the report.

During yesterday’s meeting, Orengo was tasked to engage Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka to convene a Kamukunji (informal meeting) to enable all senators to ventilate the team’s proposals.

The joint Senate and National Assembly committee co-chaired by Kangema MP Muturi Kigano and Omogeni wants the proposal to have the 47 elected Women Reps moved from the National Assembly to the Senate reversed. 

It also wants Nairobi City County placed under the National government. The committee further wants the report amended to have the Judiciary Ombudsman picked by the Judicial Service Commission and not the President.

The committee is also opposed to the proposal in the report to have two Senators (male and female) represent each of the 47 counties.

Legislators also want the role of vetting of appointments of senior Government officials assigned to the Senate.

“Constitutional amendments should never divide but unite the country. We have borrowed experiences from many jurisdictions that have made attempts to amend their Constitution.

Elicit division

An attempt to amend a Constitution should not elicit division or fights amongst citizens,” said Omogeni.

He continued: “We looked at various jurisdictions where attempts have been made to amend the Constitution with the result being that whenever the proposed amendment is carried, the country remains united and when the vote is lost, the country still remains united.”

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