Kenya: National Assembly to Start Debate on BBI Bill Thursday

Nairobi — The National Assembly is on Thursday set to commence debate on the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2020 popularly known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.

The BBI draft Bill has so far received approval from 43 County Assemblies and rejected by three: Elgeyo Marakwet, Nandi and Baringo County Assemblies.

Only Uasin Gishu county is yet to vote on the Bill.

Speaker Justin Muturi on Tuesday notified the House that his office had received certificates from the counties that approved the Bill.

He noted that the threshold of at least 24 county assemblies had been met for the Bill to be transmitted to the bicameral Parliament for debate.

"The constitution contemplates expeditious processing of a Bill to amend the constitution by popular initiative. Such a Bill shall be introduced in Parliament without undue delay," he said.

While underscoring the urgency of the debate, Muturi noted that it would be unnecessary for the Bill to be published noting that Bills originating in the Senate are not subjected to publication so as to conform with the 14 day maturity period before the Bill first reading.

"I am of the opinion therefore, that the House is under obligation to do everything necessary within its power to expedite the introduction of the Bill for consideration," he said.

Muturi at the same time ruled against re-drafting of the Bill and directed that it be presented before the House as it was presented to the County Assemblies by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

He stated that the re-publication of the Bill may cause unnecessary delay and cause confusion as to the operative version of the Bill.

"In order to protect the Bill as proposed by its promoters and presented to the county assemblies as well as the process contemplated under the Constitution, I am of the opinion that the republication of the Bill would serve no practical purpose," he said.

Consequently, Muturi has directed the Clerk of the National Assembly Michael Sialai to obtain sufficient copies for all the members before debate.

Whereas the commencement of the debate in the bicameral House is ceremonial owing to the provision of the Constitution that stipulates that the outcome of the debate is non-consequential, President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga allies will be keen to pass the document so as to solidify its validity.

The proponents of the document have since exuded confidence that the document will be subjected to a national referendum in June if all goes according to plan.

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya has assured that Parliament will adopt the Bill by March 31 to pave way for a referendum.

The Bill which proposes the expansion of the National Executive by adding the Office of the Prime Minister and two deputies among other changes was borne out of a March 2018 truce between President Kenyatta and Odinga which ended hostilities sparked by the latter's rejection of the 2017 presidential election outcome.

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