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MPs’ special sitting to pass BBI Bill without a report

By Jacob Ng’etich | April 11th 2021
President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi County to deliver his Seventh State of the Nation address. [PSCU]

Parliament is set to reconvene this week for a special sitting to pass the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 could be passed without both Houses considering a report by the joint Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) on public views.

It has emerged that there are divisions within the committee after the membership sought more time to get expert opinion on whether they can propose amendments or the role of Parliament is ceremonial as provided for in Article 257 of the Constitution.

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said they would call for a special sitting between Tuesday and Thursday for the Second Reading and thereafter fast-track the completion of the parliamentary process.

“We cannot keep Kenyans in limbo all that time; we have to finalise with our role as Parliament. So, report or no report, we will go ahead with the sitting as the National Assembly and pass the Bill in the House,” said Mr Kimunya.

The Kipipiri MP said he hoped the Senate Committee would also do the same so that the matter moves forward.

“The committees were working jointly for ease of time and convenience, after that each committee will separately table the report or the Bill,” said Kimunya.

Senate Minority Leader James Orengo said the House could equally convene this week, and that he will consult with his majority counterpart to petition Speaker Ken Lusaka to call for a special sitting.

The remarks by Kimunya come after reports emerged that the joint committee, after failing to agree, is set to table the Bill next week without any public participation report.

The Sunday Standard has learnt that contrary to the firm position taken by members when the committee sought an extension to consult experts on the thorny issues, the members are reported to have shot down the proposals to amend the Bill.

President Uhuru Kenyatta at parliament, October 12, 2017. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Mutual suspicions and boardroom wars have threatened to scuttle the BBI process birthed after the Handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, with deep disagreements emerging over thorny issues.

This comes just days after ODM Secretary for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi said the roadmap for the amendment of the Constitution, as set out under Article 257, was so clear and unambiguous that it required no belabouring.

He said the two major remaining steps were a vote on the Bill in Parliament and the people’s verdict at the referendum.

“Anything else is just but splitting of hairs. This critical constitutional process should not be held captive by elements that are preoccupied with unhelpful power plays and succession games within their respective political parties and ethnic nations,” said Mr Wandayi.

The Ujunga MP said irrespective of the outcome of the never-ending deliberations of the committee, the bicameral House would not need to wait for a report from the committee.

“Indeed, if the committee is unable to generate one, it can as well just table the materials it has received from the public during its public hearings in the form of memoranda, petitions, reports and representations, among others,” said Wandayi.

He said time was of essence as the clock ticks towards the next General Election.

“Time is increasingly becoming critical in our collective drive to implement the necessary constitutional, legal, and administrative reforms within the BBI framework. Parliament, among other institutions, must, therefore, move with speed and play its part by dispensing with the Bill,” he said.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi was categorical that with or without a report, the House would proceed to consider the Bill on April 1. However, this did not happen because Parliament altered its calendar and went on long recess in line with the President’s directive to curb the spread of the Covid-19. 

Among the issues causing a split is the creation of 70 new constituencies, which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had said was its responsibility.

Nominated MP Jennifer Shamallah, a member of the committee, said they were yet to complete the report. 

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