Wrangles over Bill threaten to tear apart Orange party

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021 00:00 | By
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo (left) and Siaya Senator James Orengo at a past event. Photo/PD/File

Feuds within Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) on the Building Bridges Initiative Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2020 could harm the party ahead of the 2022 elections.

Party leader Raila Odinga’s allies are pulling in different directions on whether to amend the contentious Bill that seeks to alter the Supreme law or not.

And now Raila could be forced to cede ground to accommodate divergent opinions on the contentious structure and texture of a constitutional amendment Bill currently before Parliament.

This even as ODM, through its Director of Communications Philip Etale, urged Kenyans not look at the differences in the opinion as split in the party, but as a demonstration of maturity in democratic space.

“We wish to assure our members, supporters and the general public that our legislators are only differing on substance but have a common agreement that they will all pass the Bill on the voting day,” said Etale.

Sensitive report

He said members have to disagree and later agree on principle, especially when it comes to sensitive matters as the Constitution review.

During debate on the BBI Bill last week, Siaya Senator James Orengo, Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira), Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo and Tom Kajwang’ (Ruaraka) expressed strong reservations about modalities that will be used to curve out 70 new constituencies from the current 290 constituencies.

“As a matter of law, and this is where I disagree with my chairman, a constitutional amendment can be unconstitutional,” said Amollo at the floor of the House last week.

He went on: “While the role of Parliament is restricted, it is not ceremonial. Parliament cannot substitute its views for those of promoters. It has the inherent authority to correct any errors.”

The trio is signatories to a majority report that declared the schedule that distributed the proposed 70 extra constituencies as unconstitutional.

Although some of Raila’s lieutenants feel any amendment to the Bill might give the Deputy President William Ruto an advantage, DP’s brigade is apprehensive that changes in the Constitution will lay groundwork to repeal presidential term limits and pave way for President Uhuru Kenyatta to remain in power beyond August 2022 when his second term ends.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohamed (Suna East), Opondo Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) and Olago Aluoch (Kisumu Town West) are among MPs who did not append their signatures to the majority report, or the minority report that criticised the action.

Six members

Minority report championed by Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and supported by six members of the joint committee described the finding as extremist and dismissed the majority’s position that BBI had no right to allocate the proposed 70 constituencies to counties.

But on Saturday, Orengo and Amollo seem to have changed tune on their earlier stand on BBI. “We have no differences on the question of BBI, because we all support BBI. We have two goals; to pass BBI and to ensure that Raila becomes the next president,” said Amollo.

If the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2020 is passed by Parliament and endorsed by Kenyans at the ballot, the composition of government will be altered. “We want this BBI to be passed in both the National Assembly and the Senate and in the month of July or August, we go to the referendum,” said Orengo.

A Facebook post by Dennis Onyango, Raila’s Spokesman, points to a deeper mistrust on how BBI could tear the Orange party down in the middle.

“The demagogues have had their years, indeed decades, discussing politics in flawless English on the floor (of Parliament) and public rallies. It is time for a different path,” Onyango’s post reads.

Yesterday, BBI Co-chair Dennis Waweru said that although Parliament can make reservations on the BBI, they cannot amend its content.

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