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Boost for BBI as House seeks key changes to Constitution

Thursday, July 29th, 2021 00:00 | By
Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni is the sponsor of a Bill which seeks to amend the Constitution. Photo/PD/Samuel Kariuki

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

With the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) case still pending in the Court of Appeal, Parliament has taken a step closer to implementing some of the constitutional changes proposed in the legacy project.

The move appears calculated to effect constitutional amendments that do not require a referendum through hence accelerate the reform process as the clock ticks towards the 2022 General Election.

In what might be seen as a boost for the Handshake duo of President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga, National Assembly Clerk Michael Sialai yesterday asked Kenyans to present proposals on a Bill that contains some of the critical proposals contained in the BBI.

The Bill is sponsored Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni, who chairs the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee in the National Assembly. He is a key ally of the President.

If passed into law, the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, (National Assembly Bill No. 40 of 2020) will allow the President to appoint Cabinet Secretaries from among Members of Parliament.

It will also allow the President to assign the Attorney General duties of a Cabinet Secretary.

Technocrats

The Bill, which has undergone the First Reading, also mandates governors to appoint members of the County Executive Committees from among Members of the County Assembly (MCAs).

The Constitutional (Amendment) Bill 2020, which is popularly known as the BBI Bill, also proposes changes to the law to allow the President pick ministers from in and outside Parliament.

Already, the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal affairs has endorsed a similar Bill which seeks to amend Article 152 of the Constitution to remove the clauses providing for Cabinet Secretaries to be drawn from among technocrats.

The Bill, sponsored by West Mugirango MP Vincent Kemosi, also wants the oath of office for Cabinet Secretaries as well as other references to the post substituted with “Cabinet Minister”.

In an advertisement in the local dailies yesterday, the National Assembly Clerk invites public views on the Kioni Bill.

“The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, (National Assembly Bill No. 40 of 2020) has undergone First Reading pursuant to Standing Order 126 and is committed the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee for consideration to facilitate public participation and thereafter report to the House,” says Sialai in the advert.

“Pursuant to the provisions of Article 118 (1)  (B) of the Constitution of Kenya and Standing Order 127 (3), the committee will be conducting public hearings on the aforementioned Bill in the listed counties from 10:00am to 5:00pm,” the notice adds.

Due to the need to comply with the Ministry of Health Covid-19 protocols containment measures, members of the public are encouraged to prepare written memoranda on the Bill and submit to the committee during the scheduled public hearing dates across the country.

Representations may also be forwarded to the Clerk of the National before August 23, 2021.

Once tabled, the Bill will require a two-thirds majority to sail through Parliament because it is a constitutional amendment effort.

Uhuru and Raila Odinga, who are the major proponents of the constitutional change initiative, are in the Court of Appeal fighting to overturn a High Court ruling which declared BBI “unconstitutional, null and void”.

Raila on Tuesday told a gathering in Murang’a County that “BBI reggae” will continue despite the setback in court.

In their May 14 ruling, the High Court judges said any proceedings to amend the Constitution ought to be started either by Parliament or through a popular initiative.

“For the President to institute such amendments would be akin to granting him the roles of the promoter and referee, since, after beginning the process, he would sprint to the finishing line to await and receive it and to determine its ultimate fate,” the judges said.

But in their appeal, the President and Raila argued that they were not promoters of the Bill and associated it with the BBI Secretariat. A seven-judge led by Appeal Court will rule on the appeal on August 20.

Yesterday Kioni termed as “untrue” concerns that the committee was pushing for subsets of the BBI through piecemeal legislation.

“It is our considered view that Cabinet ministers should be nominated from Parliament, not outside, as it is currently. That is why we are proposing the amendment,” Kioni told People Daily.

Kioni, a staunch proponent of the BBI, noted that the Bill had undergone the First Reading and was on it is way to Second Reading in line with House procedures.

According to him, Parliament will be seeking public views on the Bill as dictated by article 118 (1) (b).

“We will be moving around the country to gather public views starting the second week of August and we will culminate our sittings in Nairobi City County,” he said.

Kioni urged citizens who won’t make it to the public hearings to send their views to Parliament through prescribed channels.

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