Four questions in BBI referendum

Vijana Tuvuke na BBI chairman Kelvin Shaban Gichuhi (seated left) and other officials address journalists at Sagret Hotel in Nairobi on October 22, 2020 when they declared their support for the Building Bridges Initiative.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kenyans will also go to the plebiscite to choose whether they agree with proposals to change the independence, terms of service, or abolition of some of the Chapter 15 independent commissions.
  • On the functions of Parliament, Kenyans will be asked in a plebiscite to choose whether they want a Parliament that has members of the Executive sitting in it.

Kenyans will answer four broad questions in the anticipated Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) referendum that is expected to fundamentally change the 2010 Constitution.

BBI Steering Committee joint secretary, Paul Mwangi, in an interview told the Nation, that Kenyans will be asked to vote on those issues touching on the functions of Parliament, the independence of the Judiciary and the Chapter 15 Commissions, as well as the objects, principles and structure of devolved government.

The creation of the office of prime minister, the appointment of MPs as ministers and the inclusion of technocrat ministers as ex-officio MPs, as well as the transfer of functions of Nairobi County to the national government are some of the things Kenyans will be required to vote for in the BBI referendum.

Kenyans will also go to the plebiscite to choose whether they agree with proposals to change the independence, terms of service, or abolition of some of the Chapter 15 independent commissions.

The constitutional commissions are protected by the 2010 Constitution and any changes to them requires the approval of Kenyans in a referendum.

Sovereignty  

“A proposed amendment to this Constitution shall be enacted and approved by a referendum, if the amendment relates to any of the following matters: the supremacy of this Constitution; the territory of Kenya; the sovereignty of the people; the national values and principles of governance; the Bill of Rights; the term of office of the President; the independence of the Judiciary and the commissions and independent offices to which Chapter 15 applies; the functions of Parliament; the objects, principles and structure of devolved government; or the provisions of this Chapter,” Article 255 of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) says.

This means that any proposal that affects the 10 issues must be put to Kenyans as a question for which they will vote on in a referendum.

On the functions of Parliament, Kenyans will be asked in a plebiscite to choose whether they want a Parliament that has members of the Executive sitting in it.

Currently, all the 22 Cabinet Secretaries, who will now be called Cabinet ministers in the BBI proposals, the President and his deputy do not sit in Parliament, with the CSs required to answer questions in the House through parliamentary committees in a pure presidential system introduced in 2010.

The BBI report has now proposed a mixed Cabinet with some members of the Cabinet being drawn from members of National Assembly. Those chosen from outside the House, including the Attorney-General, will be co-opted in the House as ex-officio members.

Prime Minister

The report also proposes the creation of the office of Prime Minister, who will be the leader of government business in the National Assembly, and will supervise the execution of functions of ministries and government departments as well as chair Cabinet meetings as assigned by the President.

There will also be two Deputy Prime Ministers chosen from among Cabinet ministers.

The BBI report also proposes that Parliament ceases to vet Cabinet Ministers and Principal Secretaries, a move that will dilute functions of the legislature.

The BBI team has proposed the abolition of the National Police Service Commission, , as well as changes to the composition of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission; Parliamentary Service Commission, Judicial Service Commission, Commission on Revenue Allocation, and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, necessitating the approval of Kenyans in a referendum.

On the objects, principles and structure of devolved government, Kenyans will vote on the recommendation to transfer five key functions of the Nairobi City County to the national government.

(Download a copy of the BBI Report: BBI REPORT)

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