Kenya: Speaker Muturi Rules Out Any Amendments to the BBI Bill

Nairobi — National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has ruled out further amendments to the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020 also known as the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill by members noting it is a product of popular initiative.

In an elaborate ruling that was triggered by concerns raised by members that touched on the constitutionality of the Bill, Muturi said that amending the Bill would “negate the popular will of the people indirectly amending the Constitution”.

“I am of the considered opinion that any attempt to amend the provisions of the Bill directly negates the popular nature of the Bill and the exercise of the sovereign will of its promoters who have collected more than one million signatures of registered voters in its support and ostensibly convinced a majority of the county assemblies to approve without alteration,” he said.

While the joint Justice and Legal Affairs Committee of the National and Assembly and that of the Senate that had prepared the report acknowledged that there were certain provisions in the Bill that ought to be expunged, Muturi noted that only typographical errors in the document would be corrected.

Consequently, Muturi invoked Standing Order 152(3) of the National Assembly Standing Orders that provides the Speakers of the bicameral House to correct the errors.

“The errors are not material enough to impugn the entire Bill, its processing by the House and the intentions of its promoters. Alterations to the text of such a Bill may only be allowed to correct errors of form or typographical errors before submission for assent as provided in the Standing Orders and I will invoke this provision of the Standing Orders donated by the House at the appropriate stage,” he said.

During the debate on the second reading of the Bill last week, Ugenya MP David Ochieng’ had petitioned Muturi to give directions on the role of the House in dealing with a Bill to amend the Constitution by popular initiative and whether, and the extent to which, the House may amend the Bill.

To dispel doubts that the BBI Bill was not a popular initiative, Muturi noted that the Bill which was before the House is indeed “a Bill to amend the Constitution by popular initiative and is to be enacted by the people of Kenya and not Parliament”.

“The Constitution does not place any restriction with regard to the age, gender, tribe, profession or status of a promoter of such a Bill,” he said.

On the question as to whether the Bill upsets the “basic structure” of the Constitution and whether it contains “unconstitutional” constitutional amendments, Muturi noted that the contents of the Bill ought to be subjected to a national referendum thus “any question as to the constitutionality of its provisions is premature”.

While Garissa Township MP Aden Duale had raised issues touching on the value of the public participation exercise that was conducted on the Bill, Muturi said that he was satisfied that adequate public participation exercise had been conducted on the Bill.

On the question of the effect of pending court cases on the consideration of the Bill currently before the House, Muturi not that currently there is no court order that has stopped Parliament from debating the Bill and voting on it.

176 out of the 349 MPs are needed to approve the Bill in the Second and Third reading for it to pass.

The ruling is a major boost for its proponents who insist that Kenyans are the ones to have a final say on the fate on the document that was birthed from the political truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

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