Kenya: Another Win for BBI Proponents as Senate Approves Bill

President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga conclude a joint press conference about the country's growth, at Harambee House in Nairobi on March 9, 2018.

Nairobi — Proponents of the Building Bridges Initiative(BBI) led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and his handshake partner former Prime Minister Raila Odinga have recorded another win after the Senate passed the Bill Tuesday.

The vote in the Senate followed a similar in the National Assembly last Thursday when it was also approved.

Senators passed the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2020 also known as the BBI Bill setting in motion its next phase of implementation through a national referendum.

51 Senators voted in its support, 12 rejected and 1 abstained during a voting exercise in its third reading and committee of the whole House.

The vote came after back and forth among Senators on whether the bill should have been amended or not but a ruling by House Speaker Ken Lusaka carried the day to have it voted on without amendments.

"Standing Order 162 provides for the custody of Bills and the process after passage of a Bill. Although as I have indicated earlier in this Communication, no specific provisions exist in our Standing Orders on the processing of a constitutional amendment by popular initiative, I am of the view and I rule that invoking Articles 10 and 259 of the Constitution and applying Standing Order No. 1 requiring the Speaker to decide all matters not expressly provided for by the Standing Orders, 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," said Lusaka.

"This would apply to those types of errors which the Committees found as inadvertent errors in the copies of the Bill which were typographical in nature, and which did not affect the substance of the Bill. 21. The Senate is accordingly guided," he said.

While lauding Senators for passing the Bill, Siaya Senator James Orengo said the debate on the Bill showed what the House really stands for in a politically mature way and alluded that their speeches will be used for future reference.

"You will be surprised that 20 years from now your speech will be used to determine some decisions in this House. We are the makers of this document unlike some people think. So, our work has not been in vain," Orengo said.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and his Bungoma counterpart Moses Wetangula called on their colleagues regardless of which political divide they belong, to unite Kenyans and sensitize them more about the Bill.

"No Bill has been debated as vigorously, extensively and deeply as the Bill we have passed today. After passing this Bill, there is no longer those who opposed and those who supported, it is now a Bill that was passed by the House of Senate," Wetangula said.

Sakaja said, "I just pray that all of us as leaders in this country even as we go to the people a process and a Bill that is supposed to unite our people should not be used as a source of division. Let us watch our tone."

Just like the National Assembly, the vote was largely divided along MPs allied to President Kenyatta and Odinga against those loyal to Deputy President William Ruto who had vowed to shoot it down.

Senators Susan Kihika (Nakuru) Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Anuar Loitiptip (Lamu), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Christopher Langat (Bomet), Irungu Kangata (Murang'a) and Nominated Senator Millicent Omanga were among those who voted NO insisting that the Bill was not a popular initiative but an executive initiative meant to burden the taxpayers by creation of extra positions among other reasons.

Lusaka will now retreat to embark on the correction of typographical errors in the Bill before transmitting it to President Uhuru Kenyatta for assent.

Before assenting to the Bill, President Kenyatta shall request the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct, within ninety days, a national referendum for approval of the Bill, subject to the determination of pending court cases challenging the Bill's constitutionality.

Once the court gives the electoral body the green light to prepare the national referendum, within thirty days after IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati confirms to the President that the Bill has been approved in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the President shall assent to the Bill and cause it to be published.

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