Pass the BBI as it is, Mt Kenya leaders tell House

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AfricaPress-Kenya: How the 70 new constituencies proposal in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) will be handled appears to be a key determinant on how Mt Kenya region may vote in the impending referendum.

There have been proposals from some quarters to reopen this debate. During public participation on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said it wanted the delimitation of boundaries mandate left to it.

Legislators from Mt Kenya region fear that a move to have Parliament or the two legal committees from the Senate and the National Assembly amend the Bill, especially on this clause, may deny Mt Kenya region the 15 additional constituencies.

There is an argument that the region will also indirectly benefit from 18 other constituencies earmarked for Nairobi, Nakuru and Laikipia.

The joint committee co-chairmen Muturi Kigano and Okong’o Omogeni did not table the report in the House but instead requested for more days after identifying six areas they said required the help of experts before the report is tabled.

The areas identified are the nature of the Bill, public participation and its extent, the way of processing the Bill, substantive issue of the Bill, the referendum and status of litigation touching on the Bill. The move by the committee has raised questions on the constitutionality and participatory role of Senate and National Assembly in the constitution-making process.

With the IEBC having termed as unconstitutional the proposal in the BBI to allocate 70 additional constituencies to some 28 counties, many Mt Kenya legislators are worried that “some monkey business” is being planned.

Among those who have raised concerns are MPs Ngunjiri Wambugu (Nyeri Town), Sabina Chege (Murang’a), Wangari Mwaniki (Kigumo), Nduati Ngugi (Gatanga) and Kathuri Murungi (South Imenti).

Others are Rahim Dawood (North Imenti), Cate Waruguru (Laikipia) and Peter Kimari (Mathioya) who have maintained that Parliament has no power to amend the report agreed in a negotiated process.

While making the one man, one vote crusade a key plank of his message during the Sagana State Lodge consultations with Mt Kenya leaders in January, President Uhuru Kenyatta paraded dozens of MCAs from wards with more population than some constituencies elsewhere.

He said it was a glaring example of how densely populated areas were getting a raw deal in budgetary allocations and public recruitment.

Tinkering with boundaries

“We even have evidence of when they started tinkering with district boundaries in the 1980s that resulted in the unfair distribution of counties when the 1992 cut-off was used,” Uhuru told the meeting at Sagana.

At his meeting with MPs, he is said to have wished he was staying much longer to rectify the county distribution matter.

Dawood said no region should think that reopening the 70 constituencies debate will favour them against others.

“If we were to remove the protection of the 30 constituencies, counties like Isiolo and Lamu would remain with just one and extras would go to populated areas like Meru,” he said.

“It would also be a strong basis to push for splitting of larger counties like Meru and Kiambu since budgetary allocations to each county start at Sh2 billion.”

The legislators are citing the experience under the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission that was last to conduct a negotiated review of boundaries after the 2007 disputed General Election.

The Andrew Ligale team is blamed for allegedly giving Mt Kenya a raw deal and parallels have been drawn after IEBC Chairman Chebukati said that while BBI promoters are right to create the constituencies, they erred in allocating the constituencies to specific counties.

Ligale has always insisted the process was free and fair.

In parliament, Chebukati said distributing the constituencies to counties is the work of the commission as stipulated in Articles 84(4)(c) and 89 of the Constitution.

Anti-BBI crusaders have been accusing the drafters of the report of favouring President Kenyatta’s backyard, claiming that it was a ploy by the president to reward his region before retiring.

However, a section of elected leaders from Mt Kenya have vehemently opposed any move to open the discussion of amending the report and to be precise the discussion on creation of more constituencies.

And in an indication of how dear the region holds the issue, it has led to the closing ranks of the Kieleweke and Tanga Tanga political factions.

Wambugu said it will not be possible for Parliament to amend the report as that would be illegal and unconstitutional.

“Altering the BBI report by either the Senate or National Assembly is not possible. The Bill must be debated on as it is; and either passed or rejected as it is both at Parliament and in the referendum,” he said.

Kathuri of South Imenti said the reason why BBI was popular in areas like Imenti and Igembe was purely because it offers an opportunity to correct historical boundaries distribution injustices.

Kimari said a section of leaders from other regions have been opposed to the idea of Mt Kenya getting more constituencies. He however maintained that the region was not getting any favour but the additional constituencies was on merit since the census results dictated which county would receive how many constituencies.

“There has been a narrative that Mt Kenya would gain more with the report but its not about gaining, it is a move to rectify historical injustices,” he said.

Nduati said Mt Kenya region leaders would unite to oppose any move to amend BBI by Parliament, saying such a move would make the 47 County Assemblies wonder why they were never given the chance to do the same.

Chege said, “No chance should be given for reopening the BBI. We should pass what the counties passed given that a citizen may have appended her signature on the basis of a particular clause that if amended, she or he may wish to withdraw her support.”

Mwaniki said the report sought to address inequity in both representation and resource allocation and it was the main reason the region backed the report.

Laikipia Woman Rep Cate Waruguru said Kenyans have already proposed their wishes in the report and no one, including the IEBC or Parliament, can amend it.

“We expect nothing more or less from what was proposed by Kenyans, so if they have any amendments, they should be advised that it cannot be done now in the National Assembly or Senate,” said Waruguru.

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