Proposal for 70 more MPs dropped in final BBI report

Wednesday, November 25th, 2020 00:00 |
Deputy President William Ruto is among leaders who have been protesting certain provisions in the BBI report. Photo/PD/FILE

The proposal to create 70 extra parliamentary seats is among key proposals that have been dropped in the final Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report to be unveiled today by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

People Daily has established the two had given in to pressure and allowed amendments to the BBI Draft Bill to be launched this morning, setting the stage for collection of four million signatures to trigger a referendum.

Apart from the clause on MPs, other far-reaching changes captured in the final document include dropping of the proposal to create a Kenya Police Council which had been vehemently opposed by a cross-section of leaders and interest groups, including Deputy President William Ruto.

The final document has opted to retain the status quo on the police.

Also watered down is the appointment of a Judiciary Ombudsman which had elicited uproar from a section of leaders, including MPs and lawyers, who had accused the BBI team of attempting to dilute independence of the Judiciary.

Instead of the proposal to create 70 additional parliamentary seats, the BBI technical committee has recommended delimitation of boundaries to create new constituencies by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) immediately after the BBI referendum.

The changes are said to have been made following days of heated arguments within the technical committee over the criteria to be used in allocating the additional seats.

While a section of the technical committee members were pushing for use of population density, a formula that is popular with leaders from the Mt Kenya region, the opposing group was agitating for the number of votes garnered by parties in a particular area as the basis.

“After the disagreement with neither side willing to back down, it was agreed to drop the whole idea, which had also attracted protests from leaders outside Mt Kenya region,” said a source privy to workings of the committee.

Our sources say the secretariat had dropped several proposals which had attracted much hullabaloo from some interest groups.

New draft

They include the proposal to replace the current National Police Service Commission (NPSC) with a police council to be chaired by the Interior Cabinet Secretary.

Initially, BBI had proposed to repeal Article 246 of the National Police Service Commission and replace it with a new Article establishing the Kenya Police Council that was to be responsible for overall policy coordination of the National Police Service.

The arrangement would have seen the Interior PS becoming the accounting officer of the police with the CS calling the shots.

Pastoralists groups also seem to have won big, as the technical committee gave in to their demands for amendments to the proposals touching on the economy and shared prosperity.

The bill had initially only mentioned agriculture as the main source of livelihood. But the new draft has incorporated “blue economy, pastoralism, agriculture and any other source of livelihood”.

Yesterday, former Dagoretti South MP Denis Waweru, who is co-chairing the BBI secretariat alongside Minority Chief whip and Suna East MP Junet Mohamed, while confirming conclusion of drafting of the Bill, could neither confirm nor deny that the report had been amended.

“The Bill is now ready and everything is now set for the launch of collection of signatures by President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Premier Raila Odinga. But I am not in a position to talk about the issue of amendments,” Waweru told People Daily.

A fortnight ago, while announcing the start of collection of signatures that was due last Thursday but was postponed at the last minute, Raila had indicated the secretariat was editing the draft before release.

The ODM leader had then said no new ideas would be included and that only editorial issues would be captured in the new report.

“We’re not going to bring in substantive new issues, these are basically editorial issues which are being captured.

There are certain issues which probably had been mentioned but were not captured, they’re being added,” Raila had told a delegation of Coast leaders.

Delay in editing

And while announcing the postponement of the exercise last week, Mohamed and Waweru said the decision was as a result of delay in editing of the BBI Draft Bill.

Yesterday, sources said that the technical committee comprising Oduor Ong’wen, Nancy Gitau, lawyers Tom Macharia, Prof Ben Sihanya, Faith Waigwa, Ken Nyaundi, Prof Lawrence Gumbe, Isaiah Kindiki and Stephen Mwachofi had agreed to make some amendments to the draft.

On the issue of representation, the initial report had proposed 360 MPs elected from single and multiple-member constituencies.

The extra 70 MPs were to be drawn from constituencies with big populations whose residents faced the risk of being under-represented.

The strategy had been expected to also address the controversial two thirds gender rule and representation of youth and people with disability.

According to sources, opponents of the use of population to determine areas to be allocated part of the 70 additional seats argued that it would have ended up benefitting Mt Kenya region more, based on the 2019 population census.

The report recommended the existing constituencies be retained, including the protected seats because they have become key for representation of sparsely populated areas.

A meeting of MPs in Naivasha last month had proposed population quota to become 132,138 people per MP that should have been used as the basis for additional 70 seats.

Counties that are presently under-represented by virtue of having heavy populations would on the basis of a population quota of 132,138 people per constituency receive additional MPs. MPs from Nyanza, Western, Coast and North Eastern had been opposed to this formula. 

In the earlier proposal, Nairobi would have got 11 new seats, Kiambu (21), Mombasa (9) and Kilifi (4). In the breakdown, Meru, Kirinyaga, Nakuru, Kakamega, Nandi, Kericho, Kajiado and Kitui would get tw each while Nyeri, Vihiga, Makueni, Uasin Gishu, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Embu and Kisii  will have one each.

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