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Senators want Constitution bill subjected to public participation

By Hillary Mageka
Thursday, April 1st, 2021
Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni.
In summary

Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka

Senators yesterday demanded that the Building Bridges Initiative bill be subjected to more public participation.

The lawmakers also expressed the need to institutionalise the role of Parliament in processing such a bill to amend the Constitution arising from the popular initiative.

The fate of the bill is uncertain after both Houses of Parliament yesterday proceeded on a 30-day recess in compliance with new measures announced by President Uhuru Kenyatta to contain the third wave of Covid-19.

Speaking yesterday, Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni, who co-chairs the joint committee mandated to steer the BBI legislation, said Parliament must stamp its authority bearing in mind this is the first time the two Houses  are processing a bill to amend the Constitution through a popular initiative.

Omogeni said “Parliament must do it right” by opening the bill to incorporate public views.

“We owe it to the public and the future generations... This matter should be given due consideration and where necessary get assistance from experts on constitutional matters,” he said.

 “I want to assure the country and the promoters of the BBI that there is no intention by the joint committee to scuttle the BBI process.

However, we want to undertake a process that can stand any constitutional test,” he added.

Harmonise various provisions

Omogeni, however, cautioned that opening the bill for amendments may attract lawsuits.

“Let us bear in mind that any process that we undertake, as Parliament, is subject to the supervisorial jurisdiction of the High Court,” he said.

Backing the calls to open the document, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen said it is the responsibility of Parliament to advise the country  “certain issues” contained in the Bill before going into a referendum.

“We also have a responsibility to ensure that there is harmony of the various provisions of the Constitution.

There are many examples that are being given to the committee, including by IEBC on delimitation of boundaries among others,” said Murkomen.

Senate Minority Leader Senator James Orengo said it will be superfluous for anyone to say that Parliament has a ceremonial role in a constitutional amendment Bill arising from popular initiative as detailed under Article 257 of the Constitution.

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