Kenya: BBI Excludes Us From Leadership, Reject It, Say Women Leaders

24 November 2020

A section of women leaders have called for the rejection of the BBI report for what they see as the exclusion of women from leadership.

Their call comes as former Prime Minister Raila Odinga gears up to spearhead the nationwide BBI taskforce drive to collect at least a million signatures calling for a referendum on its proposals.

The women who spoke during an event hosted by Crawn Trust at a Nairobi hotel, are also calling for the dissolution of Parliament for failure to implement the two-thirds gender rule, subject to the advisory given by Chief Justice (CJ) David Maraga to President Uhuru Kenyatta on September 21, 2020.

Justice Maraga was responding to six petitions asking Parliament to enact legislation related to the two thirds gender rule.

"According to Article 27(3), women and men have the right to equal treatment, including the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural, and social spheres. The petitions are based on the ground that despite four court orders compelling Parliament to enact the legislation. Parliament has blatantly failed, refused, or neglected to do so. It is my constitutional duty to advise you to dissolve parliament in accordance with Article 267(1)," said the CJ wrote in an advisory.

Power of women

Led by Ms Daisy Amdany of the National Women's Steering Committee (NWSC), the leaders voiced their frustration with the document whose proposals seek to water down participation and power of women in the legislative or law-making process.

"We commit ourselves to mobilise women to reject the BBI report. We also call for the dissolution of Parliament as its current legal status has been called into question following the advisory that CJ Maraga issued to the President," said Ms Amdany.

"We urge Kenyans not to be taken in by the deceptive seduction of politicians regarding the suitability of the document to address Kenyans' needs. Women's constitutional rights are not negotiable. There is nothing they can offer Kenyans except the implementation of the 2010 Constitution," she said.

She accused the BBI report authors of hoodwinking Kenyans with an outwardly reformist agenda in statements about the process, but with an agenda to change the Constitution to benefit a few political elites.

Handshake deal

"The nine-point agenda that was the main feature of the handshake deal between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga was a positive move in the right direction as far as efforts to heal the divisions in the country resulting from contested elections were concerned. However, I believe the authors lost their way as they drafted the document and wrote a report that does not address the challenges that Kenyans face," said Ms Amdany.

The NWSC is a coalition of more than 100 individuals and women rights organizations working together to advocate the advancement of women's rights.

Ms Diana Awuor Agai of NWSC accused the BBI report writers of playing hide and seek with the public in a an effort to lock out progressive views that would guarantee the protection of citizens' rights and interests.

Two-thirds gender rule

She accused the National Assembly of resorting to seeking court orders to delay the enactment of laws to implement the Constitution, which it was sworn to protect.

"For nearly 10 years, we have been asking Parliament to enact the two-thirds gender rule but all we have received in return is a series of clever moves to delay, obstruct and ultimately frustrate the process. Women and men of goodwill should reject the BBI process as it does not stand for our aspirations," she said.

Social justice campaigner Jerotich Seii particularly took issue with the clauses in the report, which call for the transfer of the 47 seats allocated to women representatives in the National Assembly to the Senate

"BBI purposes to fulfil the gender principle as outlined in the Constitution, but does not give guarantees for the continued representation of women. It proposes the expansion of the executive, but without gender parity," said Ms Amdany.

Male-dominated politics

Dorothy Otieno of Femnet criticised the President for playing a leading role in the continued delay and obstruction of attempts to implement the Constitution with regard to women's rights.

"President Kenyatta has led from the front in ensuring continued marginalisation and exclusion of women from leadership in all the mandated sectors of public service including appointment of cabinet secretaries, parastatal heads and members of the diplomatic corps," she said.

Ms Otieno noted that the process had exposed the ugly side of the male-dominated Kenyan politics.

Ombudsman's office

"BBI exposes the character of the Kenyan political culture that has long thrived on the exclusion of women, who make up more than 50 per cent of the population, from the political leadership, social and economic development of the country," she said.

Ms Seii, the social justice campaigner behind the #SwitchOffKPLC campaign, slammed the BBI report for its proposal to do away with the woman representative position.

"The report proposes the removal of 47 women reps. Its proposal to increase the number of female members in the Assembly does not provide a formula on how gender parity will be achieved as laid out by the two -thirds gender rule," said Ms Seii.

She also dismissed the proposal on the establishment of the Ombudsman's office as an attempt to strip away the independence of the Judiciary and make it subject to the whims of the President.

"Why are we so intent on punishing the judicial system for doing its job by subjecting it to supervision by an Ombudsman appointed by the Executive? That amounts to taking away its independence, which is a threat to our country's democracy," she said.

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