Parliament has no power to alter Wanjiku’s BBI views
Tuesday, April 20th, 2021
Joseph Mutua Ndonga
A few days ago, the promoters of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) constitutional amendment bill announced the referendum would be in August. This is after it dawned on them the initial June date was no longer realistic.
They cited the delay by the National Assembly and the Senate to pass the bill. And now some of the BBI bill promoters are pushing for reopening of the report, a move that will definitely derail the process further.
The BBI bill had earlier been tabled before county assemblies and received overwhelming support.
The assemblies complied with Article 257 of the Constitution which outlines a roadmap of amending the Constitution through the popular initiative.
Under this law, the hands of the legislative bodies — both at county and national levels — are tied.
They have no power to alter or add a coma or fullstop to a bill that originates from views of the people.
The county assemblies had two options: to either adopt or reject the bill submitted to them by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission. The National Assembly and the Senate had a similar role.
However, even if the two Houses rejected the original BBI bill, it wouldn’t stop the IEBC from going ahead with referendum plans. Kenyans will have the final say.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Handshake partner Raila Odinga are the key drivers of the BBI process.
However, going by latest political events, it seems one or both of them has/have changed mind.
They no longer lead the BBI process with same vigour and energy they exhibited at the start of the journey.
Besides their allies are now rooting for the reopening of bill and if they have eventually have their way, then the BBI bill would no longer be a popular document.
Well, one of the key proposals that the MPs, who are pushing for the reopening of BBI report, are uncomfortable with is that of increasing the number of constituencies.
Central Kenya is highly populated and hence it is set to receive the lion’s share of the 70 additional parliamentary seats.
The BBI bill has no clause suggesting the power to create new electoral units would be taken away from IEBC. Once adopted, the commission will still exercise this power.
In the event that the document is reopened, we would result in two documents — one passed by county assemblies and the amended version endorsed by two Houses of Parliament. So which bill will be presented to Kenyans at the referendum?
Further, this would give the anti-BBI team more grounds to challenge the legality of the process in court.
One wonders why the same proponents of the constitution amendment initiative would want to offend the same supreme law of the land they seek to make better.
Remember how Raila allies repeatedly countered the narrative of cost of a referendum, arguing that Kenyans stand to gain more if BBI sailed through? What has changed? Kenyans deserve better leadership, please! — The writer is a social commentator and a blogger based in Nairobi