Kalonzo Musyoka
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Why Nadco report has split parliamentary leadership

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Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left) and National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah during the signing of the bipartisan talks framework agreement on August 29,2023.

Photo credit: Wildred Nyangaresi | Nation Media Group

Sharp differences over the implementation of the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco) rocked Parliament on Tuesday, with a meeting of the House leadership turning into a bitter shouting match.

The lawmakers are reported to have failed to reach a consensus, with MPs allied to President William Ruto calling for public input on the proposed Bills, a proposal that was flatly rejected by Opposition leader Raila Odinga’s camp.

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula and his Senate counterpart Amason Kingi remained tight-lipped on the issue, while National Assembly Majority Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu, UDA) and his Senate counterpart Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho, UDA) played down talks of a split.

The Tuesday meeting was attended by Mr Wetang’ula, Mr Kingi, the leaders of majority and their minority colleagues in both houses, as well as the majority and minority whips and technical staff.

They failed to agree on how the nine Nadco Bills should be processed with the session ending prematurely amid chaotic scenes.

So heated was the meeting that sources said no one was willing to climb down from their hard-line positions.

Nonetheless, it was agreed that another session be planned for today. The Kenya Kwanza side wants the Bills subjected to the normal legislative process, including public participation.

But the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party, led by National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi (Ugunja, ODM) is pushing for the adoption of the Bills as proposed by the parliamentary team of legal experts.

The Azimio camp’s argument is that the Bills are products of a negotiated process whose report was adopted by the House without changes.

Yesterday, Mr Ichung’wah denied the existence of a rift in the leadership of the House but admitted that the Bills must go through the required process before it becomes law.

“The legislative process has no short-cuts,” he said.

Reached for a comment on divisions in the leadership of the House, Mr Cheruiyot curtly said: “Those are rumours. Disregard them please.”

Mr Wandayi said he did not wish to comment on a matter that “is well within the firm control” of Parliament.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2023 is an Omnibus Bill and one of the nine Bills proposed by the Nadco report.

It seeks to, among other things, anchor the Office of the Official Leader of Opposition in the Constitution, through the Leader of Official Opposition Bill 2023, and extend the period within which constituency boundaries are to be reviewed .

There is also the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) (Amendment) Bill 2023 that seeks to, among other things, amend the law to expand membership of the IEBC Selection Panel to recruit commissioners and the Elections (Amendment) Bill 2023.

Also in the report is the Political Parties (Amendment) Bill 2023, which seeks to entrench party discipline by dealing with errant members who advance the ideologies of rival parties, the National Government Coordination (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Statutory Instruments (Amendment) Bill 2023.

The others are the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) (Amendment) Bill 2023 and the Elections Offences Act.

A source at Tuesday’s meeting claimed Mr Wetang’ula and Mr Kingi had attended with a predetermined outcome in mind.

“They were of the view that the proposed Bills be subjected to the normal legislative process,” the source, who did not want to go on record, revealed.

“The Azimio side, however, argued that, because the Nadco report was a negotiated process and was adopted by Parliament without amendments, the Bills should simply sail through.”

What is also irking the Azimio brigade is the proposal to split the omnibus Bill into separate Bills, a process they fear will serve the interests of a few Kenya Kwanza politicians.

The source further noted that it was Mr Wandayi’s view that either the Bills are passed the way they have been drafted by the team of experts in Parliament or “we go back to the principals.”

Mr Wandayi declined to confirm or deny claims that he did not want the Bills altered on fears that doing so would kill the Nadco report.

With another meeting scheduled for this morning, it is unclear whether there will be a headway in the stalemate. 

The report compiled by a select team of politicians from President Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza and Mr Odinga’s Azimio was adopted by the National Assembly and Senate last week without amendments.

It recommended the creation of the Office of the Official Leader of Opposition and that of the Prime Cabinet Secretary, electoral reforms, boundaries delimitation, audit of the presidential election results, among others.

However, the committee that was co-chaired by Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka and Mr Ichung’wah disagreed on how to address the high cost of living as it proposed that the matter be handled by President Ruto and Mr Odinga.