Senate endorses BBI Bill, next stop is referendum

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021 00:00 |
Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka during a past House session. Photo/PD/File

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the Building Bridges Initiative driven Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 yesterday.

In a show of might, allies of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga pulled all stops to surpass the constitutional threshold of 24 senators both in the second and third reading.

During voting at the second reading, which took place a few minutes to midday, more than two-thirds - 52 of the 67 senators voted in support of the Bill while 12 voted against it. 

The lawmakers took the vote on the bill after three weeks of debate characterised by calls to amend the document.

Nominated Senator Mary Seneta, who is facing expulsion by Jubilee, abstained from the vote while Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki and Wario Golich (Turkana) were absent.

And when the House reconvened for the Committee of the Whole House better known as the third reading, 51 senators voted “Yes”, 12 voted against while one abstained.

Those who voted “No” are associated with Deputy President William Ruto. However, some of his allies also voted in support of the bill.

Public discourse

The Ruto allies who voted in support of the Bill include Mohamed Mahamud (Mandera), Nderitu Kinyua (Laikipia) and Philip Mpaayei (Kajiado). 

Those who voted against the Bill include Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a), Mithika Linturi (Meru), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Christopher Langat (Bomet), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Lelegwe Ltumbesi (Samburu) and Imana Malachi (Turkana).

Others are Anur Loitiptip (Lamu) and nominated senators Milicent Omanga and Iman Dekow. 

Congratulating the House for passing the Bill, Minority Leader James Orengo insisted that Parliament’s role in the Bill is not ceremonial as the debate in both the Senate and National Assembly had enriched the public discourse.

“Our work and debates have not been in vain,” Orengo said.

“I hope after passing this Bill, we will live with it because it will be part of our history of contribution to this country and the court will try to determine what we meant by passing this amendment,” he added.

Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula said in the history of the Senate, no bill or motion has been debated vigorously, extensively and robustly as the BBI Bill.

Continue opposing

“Every member who desired to speak was given an opportunity to do so, after the passage of this Bill, there are no camps of those who voted for and against, it is the decision of the House,” Wetang’ula said.

“We may not have gotten all we wanted but the constitution is a living document, it’s dynamic in nature, and there will be another opportunity to correct what we deem not fit,” he added.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei warned that the DP’s allies will continue opposing it up to the referendum to make sure it flops.

While eulogising the late Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji, who spearheaded the process, Nairobi Senator Johnstone Sakaja said a process and a Bill that is supposed to unite the people should not be a source of conflict.

“Let’s watch our tone and let’s not divide Kenyans in we versus them narratives, let’s go as one team,” Sakaja said.

Earlier, Speaker Kenneth Lusaka had ruled out any possibility of amending the Bill saying the House should debate and pass it as it is.

The ruling came as a blow to a section of senators who had insisted that the Bill should be amended to strike out contentious issues. 

Following in the footsteps of his National Assembly counterpart Justin Muturi, Speaker Lusaka said the Bill is a product of a popular initiative and thus Parliament has no mandate to interfere with the aspirations of the promoters.

“Parliament cannot replace or usurp the people’s views on a popular initiative with its own and the ultimate authority regarding a popular initiative Bill rests with the people,” Lusaka ruled before the House proceeded to the third reading.

“I therefore rule, in respect to the specific question asked, that, no amendments may be made to the provisions of a Bill to amend the Constitution by way of popular initiative in the Senate,” he added.

He explained that the Senate has the option of either passing or rejecting the Bill in totality in accordance with Article 257(8) of the Constitution.

Delegated authority

“All the clauses and the schedules will accordingly be read out and proposed as is standard procedure in the Committee of the Whole but only one question will be put which shall be that all the clauses, the schedules and the title be part of the Bill,” he advised.

“Senators will then be expected to vote either YES or NO or ABSTAIN on the Bill as a whole and not any particular clause or part of the Bill on its own,” he added.

Lusaka said Kenyans have the sovereign power to amend the Constitution and that Parliament, through its delegated authority, cannot interfere with that.

On the typographical errors, he said the two Speakers of Parliament shall correct the same before the document is taken to the President en-route to a referendum.

“It is appropriate that the Speakers of Parliament correct ‘formal errors’ or oversights without changing the substance of the Bill before certification of the Bill and submission to the President.

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