President Ruto, Raila Odinga bid to pass gender rule

Parliament 2024

A view of the National Assembly in this picture taken on February 13, 2024.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Currently there are a total of 21 female senators in the 67-member House.
  • In the National Assembly, only 80 members are women out of the 349 lawmakers.

President William Ruto and opposition leader Raila Odinga have rolled out yet another aggressive push to achieve the ever elusive gender principle that has in the past failed 10 times.

A series of high profile meetings, including one between Mr Odinga and Gender Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa on Tuesday preceded tabling – in the National Assembly – of a report prepared by a Multi-Sectoral Working Group on the realization of the two-third gender requirement.

The group was appointed by President Ruto to develop and recommend a framework for implementation of the requirement in line with his campaign pledge.

The report by the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) formed by Dr Ruto and Mr Odinga following the aftermath of the anti-government protests last year and has since been adopted by Parliament, has also recommended implementation of the requirement.

The tabling of the report followed high-level meetings involving National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula and his Senate Speaker Amason Kingi with CS Jumwa and the Group as well as another one between the group and the leadership of the two Houses preceded the tabling of the report.

The report that has since been committed to the National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) for consideration has recommended constitutional amendments to provide for gender top up through party lists, similar to top ups in the 47 county assemblies.

The team also recommended that the Elections Act, 2011 be amended to provide for submission of party lists that comply with the two-third gender principle.

Further, the report has recommended that the political parties Act, 2011 be amended to provide for establishment of the women inclusion and Political Participation Fund for purposes of financing education and training, mentorship and capacity building, including support for women seeking elective positions.

The working group also recommended the enactment of Equity Law and Legislation to implement Article 100 of the Constitution.

Other recommendations by the team require administrative action in empowering women.

“It is notable that the report of the multi-sectoral working group comes at an opportune time as you will recall that last week, this House adopted the report of the National Dialogue Committee,” Mr Wetang’ula said.

“…last week, the leadership of both Houses of Parliament also held a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Gender, Culture, the Arts and Heritage, and the Multi-Sectoral Working Group. During the meeting, the commitment of Parliament towards ensuring the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle was reiterated and reaffirmed,” the Speaker told MPs.

Currently there are a total of 21 female senators in the 67-member House. Of the number, three were elected while 18 were nominated by parties.

In the National Assembly, only 80 members are women out of the 349 lawmakers. A total of 29 were elected from the 290 constituencies while another 47 were elected as County Woman Representative while four were nominated by parties.

In its report, Nadco observed how attempts to implement the requirement flopped in the 11th and 12th Parliaments.

A total of 12 Bills on the requirement were considered by the House but failed to get approval by the House.

“The Bills made several proposals including- the filling of special seats to be determined after the declaration of elected members from each constituency, the progressive implementation of the rule, the creation of special seats for a period of twenty years, the imposing of sanctions and reward system for political parties in order to motivate them to meet the threshold, the strengthening of the institutional framework for monitoring the implementation of the equality principles of the Constitution,” observed the Nadco report.

Previous attempts were geared towards giving effect to Article 27 (8) and 81(b) of the constitution so that not more than two-thirds of the members in appointive and elective public bodies are of the same gender.

Consistent failure to enact the law saw former Chief Justice David Maraga deliver an advisory to former President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament as it had failed to comply with the requirement of the constitution. Mr Kenyatta declined to dissolve Parliament.

In the botched Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) sponsored by Mr Kenyatta and Mr Odinga after the Handshake in March 9th 2018, the report proposed to increase the membership of the Senate to 94 from 67.

It proposed that each of the 47 counties should elect two senators, a man and a woman in a move meant to cure gender inequality.

In the National Assembly, the document had proposed to have 360 members up from the current 349 to bridge the gender gap, where 290 were to be elected from the constituencies and another 70 filled by political parties.

The additional 70 seats were to be allocated on the strength of actual votes cast per county and were to be distributed among women, youth and people with disabilities.

The report had further recommended that Article 91 of the Constitution be changed to require political parties to ensure not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies are of the same gender.

Previous attempts including the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2015 sponsored by then Leader of Majority, Mr Aden Duale was lost at the debate stage after failing to get the required constitutional voting threshold to move it to the Third Reading.

Mr Duale would then have another Bill in 2015, but it elapsed at the end of the term of 11th Parliament.

Again in November 2018, Mr Duale’s another attempt aborted after he withdrew it at the debate stage after he sensed there were not enough MPs in the House to push it to the Third Reading stage.

Similarly, in 2015, another Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill by Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkonga that sought to achieve the gender principle progressively collapsed at the end of the 11th Parliament.

In the 10th Parliament, then Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, the later Mutula Kilonzo sponsored the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2011 to address the gender puzzle in the elective and appointive bodies. The Bill elapsed before it could be debated.