Fate of 27 'endangered' constituencies in limbo as IEBC's time runs out

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati at Bomas of Kenya, June 14, 2021. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The fate of 27 endangered constituencies now hangs in the balance after the Court of Appeal on Friday dealt a blow to the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill.

The constituencies were earmarked for scrapping and merged because they have lower population than is constitutionally mandated, but the process had been halted by the Independent and Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) while awaiting the outcome of the case.

The constituencies that did not meet the population threshold during the last boundaries review in 2012 are Othaya, Ndaragwa, Tetu, Mukurweini, Kangema and Mathioya in Mount Kenya region. In the Coast region, those that did not meet the quota are Lamu East, Lamu West, Mvita, Mwatate, Wundanyi, Voi, Bura and Galole.

Others are Samburu East, Marakwet East, Keiyo North, Mogotio in the Rift Valley and Vihiga and Budalang’i in Western as well as Laisamis, Isiolo South, Kilome, North Horr, Saku, and Mbeere North.

The vote-rich Rift Valley is the biggest loser in the rejection of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

If the court had allowed the process to continue, the region would have been the biggest beneficiary of the 70 constituencies that would have been created.

With already 76 seats, the region would have got extra 23 seats.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said it was regrettable that the region is missing the chance to have more representation and funds that would have helped in ensuring more development projects.

"We didn’t expect this but we respect the court and the rule of law. Kenyans have lost a great deal. How will we explain to our learners why they get Sh4,000 bursaries while others get Sh100,000,” said Kinyanjui.

Out of the 14 counties in the Rift Valley, Nakuru would have got five. Narok and Kajiado would each have had three more and Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu two each. Bomet, Kericho, Laikipia and Turkana would have got one each.

The Constitution grants IEBC powers to review boundaries at eight to 12-year intervals. However, the review should be completed at least 12 months before a General Election. It also can change the number of wards from the current 1,450.

“I accept the decision of the court but I still maintain that the proposed constitutional amendments would have been beneficial to Nakuru residents. We would have got more funds for bursaries and development,” said Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri, who was among the 235 MPs who supported the Bill in Parliament.

IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati before the National Assembly Committee on Delegated Legislation at Parliament, Nairobi, August 11, 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

But Kericho Governor Paul Chepkwony and Senator Aaron Cheruiyot, who were against the Bill, said the changes can still be pursued even after the ruling.

In the North Rift region, Elijah Kasheusheu, a nominated MCA in West Pokot, said the county stands to lose the additional constituency together with the 35 per cent allocation.

“We have to stand with President Uhuru Kenyatta. Our party leader Senator Gideon Moi will also give us direction on 2022 politics,” he said.

Under the BBI, the creation of new constituencies was poised to be the solution for meeting the gender quota and the representation of youth and people with disabilities.

Under the new plan, it would see counties whose ratio of population to elected leaders exceeds 132,138 people per MP receive additional representatives.

The counties that were to get more representatives are Nairobi (16), Kiambu (6), Nakuru (5), Kilifi (4), Mombasa (3), Machakos (3), Narok (3), Kajiado (3), Bungoma (3), Kwale (2), Meru (2), Trans Nzoia (2), Uasin Gishu (2), Kakamega (2), Kisumu (2), while Mandera, Embu, Makueni, Kirinyaga, Muranga, Turkana, Laikipia, Kericho, Bomet, Siaya, Homa  Bay and Nyamira were to get one each.

Other beneficiaries were to be Rift Valley region which was to get 19 new seats, Mt Kenya region which was to get 12 new MPs and Coast (9). Western and Nyanza had been given 5 seats and lower Eastern (4). Aside from Mandera, no other county in North Eastern Region was to get new representation.

Nairobi (33), Kiambu (18) and Nakuru (16) were going to be the counties with the highest number of representatives in Parliament.

IEBC is now expected to resume its review of the boundaries of the constituencies and wards to ensure the population in each of them matches the population quota.

The population quota per the 2020 Census has risen from 133, 000 to 164, 000.

  [Josephat Thiong'o, Kennedy Gachuhi, Nikko Tanui and Irissheel Shanzu] 

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021