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Tough rules to secure deal on new boundaries

BUSINESS
By | December 20th 2010

By BEAUTTAH OMANGA

The Government Printer faces a one-year jail term should he fail to publish the list of new constituencies drawn up by the yet-to-be established Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The tough penalty is among a raft of proposals in a Bill tabled in the House last week by the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, which reviewed the work of the now defunct Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC).

MPs led by Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Ababu Namwamba met in Nairobi last week to seek the way forward over the boundaries row. At right is Nominated MP Amina Abdalla. [PHOTO: MOSES OMUSULA/STANDARD]

The ill-fated Andrew Ligale-led IIBRC failed to gazette its list of 80 new constituencies, after the Government Printer refused to publish the notice containing the new electoral units. This was followed by a court injunction barring the commission from going ahead with the notice.

Before this, the IIBRC’s list had provoked uproar in Parliament and split the Cabinet along familiar party lines, forcing MPs to go back to the drawing board.

In the Bill, the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chaired by Ababu Namwamba has recommended that the task of redrawing new boundaries be taken over by the IEBC), which is established by the new Constitution but is yet to be formed.

As the IEBC revisits the issue of 80 constituencies, it will publish a preliminary report outlining the proposed boundaries for voting areas, showing specific geographical and demographic details.

According to the Bill, Kenyans will then be given 30 days to give their views on the proposal to the IEBC.

After receiving views from the public, the commission will have to include them in its final report within two weeks.

It will then forward a notice of the new constituencies to the Government Printer who will be obligated to publish the new constituencies by law.

To speed up the process, the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee wants Parliament to form the IEBC within a month, but this could be delayed if MPs go on Christmas recess as scheduled.

The Bill recommends that two officials from the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) and two from the IIBRC should be incorporated into the new commission, which would have nine commissioners.

While the IIEC, led by Hassan Issack, is generally regarded as having done well since its formation in 2008, the IIBRC bowed out on low ratings.

On Sunday, former Kabete MP Paul Muite called on Parliament to scale down the number of Commissioners proposed for the IEBC from the traditional nine to only three or five.

"The tendency of having nine has all along been used to entrench ethnicity in the commissions since each province as they existed then had a slot.

"Lets go for professionals whose mandate will be strictly policy and a bigger team of professionals in different fields in each county dealing with implementation of the policies," urged Muite.

A member of the Parliamentary committee, Isaac Rutto, said they resolved to retain at least four of the commissioners from IIEC and IIBRC for continuity.

The Bill also outlines the manner of selecting the new commissioners.

Names of all applicants will have to be published, plus their qualifications. The committee will then select and handover 16 names to a parliamentary committee, which will trim them down, leaving only the most qualified to be tabled in the House for adoption.

The IEBC will have powers to appoint a commission secretary, but its CEO will have to be approved by Parliament.

The new Constitution empowers the IEBC to carry out progressive registration of citizens within and outside Kenya, carry out regular revision of the voters roll, regulate processes by which parties nominate candidates for elections

The IEBC will also be required to settle all electoral disputes, including disputes relating to or arising from nominations but excluding election petitions and disputes subsequent to the declaration of election results.

It will also regulate the amount of money that may be spent by or on behalf of a candidate or party in respect of any election.

The IEBC will also have to develop a code of conduct for candidates and parties contesting elections.

The parliamentary team has recommended that the IEBC be constituted and granted a defined mandate to address controversial issues that have dogged the creation of the new constituencies.

The Namwamba team has recommended that Parliament enact laws to anchor the new IEBC in the new Constitution within one month.

But if the House adjourns this week and proceeds on recess, then the earliest the commission will be established will be in April next year assuming the house resumes in March, as is the tradition.

The Committee’s report suggests that the IEBC, once established, should also have powers to re-look at the first review of the constituency and ward boundaries as undertaken by the defunct IIBRC.

The IEBC will be required to use the Ligale team’s report and the Legal Committee’s proposals to get a solution to the controversy.

"That at the conclusion of its defined limited task of addressing the identified issues, the IEBC shall consult for purposes of feedback and validation prior to the gazettement. The validation exercise shall include the commission referring its report to parliament," reads the report.

Namwamba and his team were mandated to resolve the standoff surrounding the creation of 80 new constituencies, and have identified at least 20 electoral units that deserve review.

They include, Kitui South, which the committee says deserves categorisation as "sparsely populated" but still be split in two.

The report suggests that Igembe North be split in two because of its population. The IEBC will also be required to address concerns of the Ogiek community in Kuresoi, while in Kitutu Chache, the committee suggests that the locals’ demands over the placing of Jogoo ward be addressed.

In Makueni, the committee noted that it had been alerted of concerns that proposed boundaries for KIbwezi West constituency and shifting of Nzaui District to Kibwezi constituency, were created against community wishes, and would cause disharmony. The committee noted that the set quota population method was ignored as other less deserving cases were considered leaving Makueni out.

In Bomachage, the report states that creation of the new Gucha constituency seeks to cluster two communities with a history of conflict and rivalry, and would cause friction. It notes that the name Gucha constituency and ward names are not acceptable to the local community, as the constituents never proposed them.

Other constituencies where issues have been raised include Bonchari, Naivasha, which deserves at least two, Laikipia West, Dagoretti, which deserves one more constituency, Malava, and that the entire costal region’s counties deserve additional constituency each.

Others are Imenti North, Fafi, Embakasi, Mwingi North, Mosop, Emgwen, Keiyo North, Kieni, Mathira, kipkelion and Turkana Central.

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