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BBI Bill: Wajir civil groups protest addition of 70 constituencies

By Patrick Vidija | May 7th 2021
Session in progress at the National Assembly chambers.[Standard]

Civil society groups drawn from Northern Kenya now want the proposed addition of 70 constituencies in the BBI bill scrapped.

Under the umbrella of the Coalition of Civil Societies of Northern Kenya, the groups claim it is only the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission that is mandated to propose addition or subtraction of constituencies after boundaries review.

Led by Chairman of Northern Pastoralist Association Mohamed Abdille, the societies said delimitation of boundaries was supposed to take place this year and the process did not take place.

“So we are wondering how BBI reached at the 70 proposed new constituencies without the review of constituencies by IEBC,” Abdille said.

While addressing journalists at the Parliament buildings, Abdille said the proposal overlooked some counties in the allocation of new constituencies yet the number of voters has been increasing over the years.

“We want to support sentiments expressed by the chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman, Wafula Chebukati, for dismissing as unconstitutional the delineation of 70 proposed new constituencies in the BBI Bill,” he said.

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2020 well knows as the referendum bill or BBI Bill has proposed 70 additional constituencies and distributed them among 28 counties with its proponents saying it will ensure equity of the vote.

The Bill indicates that the larger Rift Valley will get 23 new constituencies, Nairobi 12, Central Kenya 11 and Coast 10.

Kiambu County will get six new constituencies, Nakuru 5, Kilifi 4 while Uasin Gishu, Narok, Kajiado, Mombasa, Kwale and Bungoma counties will get three each.

Meru, Bomet, Kakamega, Kisumu counties are slated to get two new electoral areas while Mandera, Embu, Makueni, Kirinyaga, Murang'a, Turkana, West Pokot, Nandi, Laikipia, Siaya and Nyamira have been allocated one each.

Protected constituencies with little population in Tana River, Lamu, Taita Taveta, Marsabit, Isiolo, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Samburu, Elgeyo-Marakwet, Baringo, Vihiga and Busia will not be affected by the delimitation.

But the four civil society groups said the formula applied in distributing the new constituencies is not only vague but is clearly based on the numbers of voters in a county and not in a constituency.

They said for example, Wajir County was overlooked in the allocation of new constituencies yet the number of voters in each constituency has been increasing over the years.

Mohamed Abdille Chairman of Northern Pastoralist Association while addressing members of the press in Nairobi.[Courtesy]

“We have also realized that this trend was rampant in nearly all constituencies of the pastoralists’ communities and we are demanding that this matter be reviewed. We are therefore demanding that Parliament should reject the delineation of 70 proposed new constituencies as proposed in the BBI Bill and revert this responsibility to IEBC which has the constitutional mandate to undertake boundaries review,” the coalition said.

According to Abdille, the task of allocating where the additional constituencies is the work of the IEBC and not politicians.

The coalition said though it does not have a problem with the proposed increase of the number of constituencies from 290 to 360 as outlined in the BBI, they differ with the promoters of the bill for saying that they used population to decide the counties to get the additional constituencies, with priority given to those underrepresented in the National Assembly.

“If this was the case, the more deserving constituencies from pastoralists regions would not have been left out in the distribution of the 70 new constituencies proposed in the BBI Bill,” Abdille said.

“We are therefore appealing to President Uhuru Kenyatta to personally intervene in this matter and ensure that not only is Wajir South Constituency delimited but also other constituencies of Ijara in Garissa County and North Horr in Marsabit which also meet the criteria set for the delimitation of constituencies,” he added.

He said President Uhuru is aware of the plight of the people of Northern Kenya a region that covers 60 percent of the Kenyan landmass and he should utilize all the resources at his disposal to ensure that Northern Kenya residents are not going to continue to be marginalized.

“We had supported consensus to be reached on the BBI document, unfortunately, its promoters were not willing to accommodate dissenting views and locked all avenues for consensus,” he said.

The Bill on Thursday, May 6, 20201 headed for a big win at the National Assembly as MPs burned the midnight oil to conclude both the second and third readings.

The lawmakers gave the BBI a clean bill of health with an overwhelming vote in support of the first amendment.

MPs for the first time attained the required two-thirds majority to vote on a bill to amend the constitution.

At least 320 members participated in the vote at the second stage where 235 supported the bill, 83 for No while two abstained.

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