What you need to know:
- The joint committee has been considering the BBI sponsored Bill and was due to table its report on April 1.
- In suspending the respective House’s sittings, Speaker Muturi and his Senate colleague Ken Lusaka allowed the committee meetings of the two Houses to be conducted virtually.
The National Assembly and Senate will be recalled early next week to consider the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 as the joint committee of the two Houses plans to conclude its report on the Bill this week.
Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri) and Leader of Minority< John Mbadi, (Suba South) said that once the report of the joint committee on Justice and Legal Affairs and Justice and Human Rights is ready, a special sitting of the two Houses will be inevitable.
“I don’t see why the electoral commission should not call for a referendum in May this year,” Mr Kimunya said, noting that he is ready to petition House Speaker Justin Muturi for the special sitting once the report is ready.
The joint committee has been considering the BBI sponsored Bill and was due to table its report on April 1.
However, the month-long suspension of ordinary parliamentary sittings from April 1 means that the earliest the report can be presented in the two Houses is May 4, when the sittings resume.
Mr Mbadi noted that consideration of the BBI is one of the urgent matters that the two Houses need to finalize.
“The two Houses are ready to consider this Bill anytime,” said Mr Mbadi.
This comes as Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi revealed that he has requested Mr Kimunya and Mbadi to petition Speaker Muturi to recall the MPs to consider the Bill.
“Anything short of this would be a reckless abdication of duty by the House leadership. The Houses can, and should, debate the Bill and vote on it on a single afternoon,” said Mr Wandayi, who is also ODM’s secretary for political affairs.
Standing Order No. 29 of the National Assembly provides that the Speaker may on the request of the Leader of Majority or leader of minority appoint a day for a special sitting of the House.
Suspended ordinary sittings
However, before the Speaker allows such a request, he must be satisfied that the business proposed to be transacted is urgent or exceptional.
“If satisfied, the Speaker shall by notice in the Gazette, notify the members of the place, date and time appointed for the special sitting of the House,” the House rules state.
Both the National Assembly and the Senate suspended their ordinary sittings for a month- from April 1 to April 29- on the request of President Uhuru Kenyatta as advised by National Emergency Response Committee (NERC) to check the spread of Covid-19.
In suspending their respective House’s sittings, Speaker Muturi and his Senate colleague Ken Lusaka allowed the committee meetings of the two Houses to be conducted virtually.
Yesterday, Justice and Legal Affairs committee chairman Muturi Kigano (Kangema) and the co-chair of the joint committee said that the committee will meet today virtually to consider the report of the experts on the contested areas.
“We are planning to have the meeting to conclude this matter,” Mr Kigano told Nation.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, a member of the Senate’s Justice and Human Rights Committee, said that his Senate colleagues have been meeting over the matter virtually.
“The first business of our meeting will be to receive the report from the experts on the issues we wanted expert opinion on,” Mr Kilonzo Jnr said adding; “we are just waiting for our co-chairs to tell us when this meeting will happen.”
During the public hearings on the Bill, the joint committee was torn apart over whether it should open the Bill for amendments, adopt it as it is or reject it in total.
“The question is if you open it for amendments, how do you do it? Does the process of amending start from the National Assembly to Senate? These are some of the issues we want the experts to tell us,” the Makueni Senator noted.
In its submission to the joint committee, Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC) was of the view that parliament may open the Bill for amendments but restrict it to commas and full stops.
City lawyer Kibe Mungai told the committee that nothing stops parliament from adding extra counties or constituencies.
But the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is against the Bill’s proposal to create 70 new constituencies.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati while presenting the commission’s views to the committee said that delimitation of the electoral boundaries is the mandate of IEBC as provided for in Article 89 of the constitution.
Law Society of Kenya (LSK) President Nelson Havi told the committee that the BBI process was not a popular initiative as claimed by its promoters but executive-driven and should therefore be rejected as it is unconstitutional.
The committee is also tasked with making a finding on whether the schedules can be severed from the constitution.
The Bill was approved overwhelmingly by a majority of the 47 county assemblies before its submission to the two Houses of parliament.
According to the constitution, whether parliament approves or rejects the Bill, it will still go to the referendum, which essentially reduced the role of parliament to that of a conveyor belt.
However, Siaya Senator James Orengo says that the role of parliament in considering the BBI Bill should never be treated as ceremonial.
“You cannot have a provision in the constitution where parliament is required to conduct business or a transaction for ceremonial purposes,” Mr Orengo said adding; “The fact that Parliament is involved in this process is proof enough that the two Houses are not ceremonial.”
“In fact, Parliament is one of the few institutions which is involved in the parliamentary process and in the popular initiative. It is not for nothing,” the Siaya Senator noted.