What you need to know:
- Members of Parliament are divided on whether or not to amend contentious clauses in the BBI Bill.
- Speaker Justin Muturi has overruled amendments to the Building the Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM Leader Raila Odinga have jointly appealed to MPs to approve the Bill to amend the constitution ahead of a crucial vote in Parliament on Thursday.
The National Assembly and Senate will vote on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which divided MPs during debate with one faction insisting Parliament has the right to amend contentious clauses and another comprising of closest allies of the two leaders rejecting the push.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has overruled amendments to the Building the Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill but the pro-amendment faction in the Senate has kept up the campaign, the mounting acrimony, which has triggered a fallout in ODM, apparently prompting the rallying call by the President and the former prime minister.
“We are making a joint appeal to members of the National assembly and the Senate to join the 3,188,001 Kenyans who supported the Bill, and the 44 County Assemblies who approved it, in upholding what represents the hopes and aspirations of all those who participated in the various public forums seeking long term solutions to this country’s problems,” the two leaders said in a joint statement on Wednesday evening.
“We are asking them to stand up with their countrymen in charting a non- partisan and selfless way forward for all of us. This is not the time for political adversity nor for personal aggrandizement. This is the time to listen to the people and to remember that it is their sovereignty we exercise as their servants,” they added.
The Bill requires the support of a majority lawmakers, that is 175 MPs in the National Assembly and 39 in the Senate, to pass.
Substance of the Bill
The two leaders whose truce in March 2018 led to the constitutional reforms drive explained after the parliamentary vote the Bill would be subjected to a referendum, ending doubts as to whether a plebiscite would be held.
“After this vote, the Bill shall be going directly to the people to confirm that indeed they are satisfied that we have been listening to them as they talk. Let us be the faithful servants we were all elected to be.
On the back of a critical joint report by the committees of Justice and Legal Affairs, which branded sections of the Bill unconstitutional after scrutiny of the proposed law, the pro-amendment group was growing bigger until the National Assembly Speaker slammed the break on the campaign.
Mr Muturi warned MPs that opening the document for amendment may pave the way for new substantive insertions that may ultimately affect the form and substance of the Bill.
“We run the risk of eventually overriding the principal intentions of the promoters of the Bill and therefore offending the whole idea of an amendment of the Constitution by popular initiative,” he added.
The Speaker went on in a ruling on Tuesday: “The end of the Bill is in the hands of the people who approve the proposed amendments through a referendum particularly in the event that a House of Parliament fails to pass it. This is a process that is people driven where even this House or its rules cannot bar the exercise of the sovereign power of the people.”
Referendum within 90 days
The Bill seeks to alter Kenya’s governance system, create 70 extra constituencies, attain 50-50 representation in the Senate in terms of gender, as well as increase allocations to counties to 35 per cent of national revenue.
Once approved, the Bill will go to the President who will then forward it to the IEBC which is required to hold a referendum within 90 days. BBI promoters have said they expect IEBC to conduct the vote by August this year.
On Wednesday, the president and Mr Odinga recalled their agreement in 2018 in which they vowed they were “determined to offer the leadership that prevents future generations inheriting dangerous divisions and offers them a path to bright future for all.”
"Looking back at the journey we have walked together with you, our fellow Kenyans, over the period since the Joint Communiqué, we are encouraged that what we set to achieve is within our grasp as a nation," they said.
They recalled the commitment to “face challenges, and openly and honestly discuss our successes and failures if we are to formulate and implement the necessary corrective measures."
"The Building the Bridges Initiative which we set up soon after the Handshake has been one of the avenues we have used to bring Kenyans together to courageously face their challenges and formulate and implement corrective measures," the two leaders said.