Senate calls for commission to handle boundary disputes

Monday, October 5th, 2020 00:00 |
Rift Valley regional coordinator George Natembeya addresses members of the Maa community at Olengape in Narok county when tribal clashes erupted between Narok and Nakuru counties in mid-2018. Photo/PD/File

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

 Senators have called for the establishment of an independent commission to oversee delimitation of county boundaries.

Legislators argue that if persistent territorial and boundary issues are not resolved ahead of the 2022 General Election, they may precipitate ethnic violence. 

The lawmakers want the process fast-tracked to help curb bloodshed being witnessed in 14 counties over border disputes.

Article 188 of the Constitution states that the boundaries of a county may be altered only by a resolution recommended by an independent commission set up by Parliament.

“…and passed by the National Assembly, with the support of at least two-thirds of the members of the Assembly and Senate and support of at least two-thirds of all county delegations,” Article 188 b (i) (ii) says.

Senators on Thursday piled pressure on the National Assembly to pass the county boundaries Bill that was sponsored by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr to operationalise Article 188.

This follows border disputes between Isiolo and Garissa, particularly in areas of the Elgera and Koldesa, which have remained unresolved.

Others include Kisumu-Siaya-Vihiga over the Maseno area as well as a boundary dispute between Turkana-Marsabit-Samburu, which has persisted for the longest time.  

Machakos and Makueni are in conflict over the location of Konza City along with Makueni and Taita Taveta over ownership of Mtito Andei. 

There also exist boundary disputes in Kajiado-Taita Taveta-Isiolo and Meru counties where lives have  been lost. 

There is also a dispute in the Kapedo area between Turkana and Baringo. “It might escalate once geothermal power starts being exploited around Silale because that is a disputed area,” Marsabit Senator Godana Hargura said warning that there will be more challenges once counties continue to realise and generate their resources.

“These issues should be resolved in a manner that people do not have to fight and die over where the boundary is supposed to be,” Hargura added. 

After the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, legislators argue that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has no jurisdiction over county boundaries. 

“They can only alter constituency and ward boundaries. It is until this Parliament operationalises Article 188 that these matters will be resolved,” Vihiga Senator George Khaniri said.

Migori Senator Ochillo Ayacko accused the National Assembly of stalling the crucial bill that  he says would unlock such boundary disputes.

“The National Assembly reckons that the Bill was a Money Bill. Whether it is a Money Bill or not, boundary disputes are very emotive,” he said.

Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua lamented that the Bill to give effect to Article 188 sponsored by the Makueni senator sailed through the entire process of the Senate, only to stall at the National Assembly.

 “We are dealing with a time bomb. County boundaries are not minor issues,” Wambua said.

“If the reason that Bill cannot pass is simply that it is a money Bill, then they can adopt it.

They can do whatever it is that they want to do with it, but let us have a law that will ensure that we resolve the disputes that exist and which continue to threaten the peace and order in this country.”

“If they feel that it is a money Bill, they should take it upon themselves to originate another Bill, which would give effect to Article 188.

As it is now, we are in limbo. We cannot move because of that contest of Money Bill or Bills that concern counties,” Taita Taveta Senator Johnes Mwaruma said on his part.

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