Kenya: MPs Divided On BBI Over Party Affiliations

Nairobi — Homabay Senator Moses Kajwang' and his nominated counterpart Sylvia Kasanga have called on their colleagues to put their political inclinations aside as they debate and vote for the Building Bridges Initiative(BBI) Bill.

The two said some of the members seem to be in support of or against the Bill based on which side of the political divide they belong and not the contents of the Bill.

The House was scheduled to vote on the Bill, which is on its second reading Tuesday with senators having debated on it during two special sittings.

However, the House adjourned until Wednesday morning.

"It has gotten to a point where if people contemplate a Raila Odinga presidency, they feel that they will be left out. That if people contemplate a Deputy President William Ruto presidency, they feel they will be victimized. We have to bring this to an end," Kajwang' said.

"This country has always done well whenever we set aside our egos and whenever we decide that for the greater benefit of this country we are going to move together but knowing that at the end of the day, we are not going to win everything and we are not going to get everything," he said.

While supporting the Bill, Kasanga echoed his sentiments and added that the Bill is not perfect, but the benefits therein, including allocation of 35 percent shareable revenue for Counties are too good to throw away due to political differences

"Whereas the document may not be perfect, whereas it may have issues, it is still the perfect beginning to providing an incremental change to our constitution and that is something we should celebrate. Nothing is static; everything has to evolve based on the times we are in," Kasanga said.

Other members led by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula and his Nandi and Makueni counterparts Samson Cherargei and Enock Wambua respectively called for amendment to remove various provisions they term unconstitutional like the creation of the Judiciary's Ombudsman and 70 more constituencies.

"I went through all the submissions from all the 47 Counties and I did not see anywhere a request by Kenyans for 70 additional constituencies," said Wetangula.

Wambua said, "If the provisions in terms of the constitutional roles as assigned to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) are unconstitutional, then why don't we just remove them then pass this Bill?'

Others like nominated Senator Abshiro Halake and Naomi Shiyonga urged ther colleagues to pass the Bill saying the disputed BBI provisions can be amended through ACTs and policies once the Bill becomes a law.

As Senators continue to disagree on whether the Bill will be amended or not, House Speaker Ken Lusaka is expected to give a ruling before Senators vote on it.

At the National Assembly, Speaker Justin Mutur ruled out further amendments to the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020 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.

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