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Why Rift Valley MCAs are wary of BBI proposed constitutional changes

POLITICS
By Steve Mkawale and Titus Too | February 7th 2021

From left: Former MP Paul Sang, Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui, Rift Valley Regional Commissioner George Natembeya and Nakuru west MP Samuel Arama. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

Ward representatives in most of the 14 Rift Valley counties will this week begin debating the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

MCAs interviewed by the Sunday Standard expressed mixed reactions about endorsing or rejecting the proposed reforms under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).

Ward representatives from five counties have given clear indication that they will endorse the document, which has the backing of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The MCAs from Trans Nzoia, Nakuru, Nyandarua, West Pokot and Samburu said residents stand to benefit from the proposals contained in the BBI report.

Their colleagues in Narok, Uasin Gishu, Nandi, Turkana, Kericho, Bomet, Baringo, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet, however, are still on the fence, saying what will happen at the assemblies will depend on the outcome of public participation meetings.

There are fears that the BBI proposals have failed to excite voters and could face opposition from citizens who don’t feel engaged.

Uasin Gishu Speaker David Kiplagat said the draft law lacks the passion of the Punguza Mizigo Bill, which was passed by the Assembly in 2019.

“The mood is a bit negative. There is a feeling that the proposals are aimed at creating positions for the ruling class. They want more focus directed to the Covid-19 fight and building the economy,” Mr Kiplagat said.

He said the county had utilised its ward development fund where 40 per cent of resources meant for development are disbursed to the respective wards while the remaining cash is channeled to projects.

“We are struggling to achieve funding at the current 15 per cent. Where will funds come from if it is enhanced to 35 per cent? BBI has been made to appear juicy just to entice the public.”

His Trans Nzoia counterpart Joshua Werunga said he had spoken to MCAs who pledged to support the document because of the promise of two more constituencies, which will bring the number to seven.

“Trans Nzoia is cosmopolitan and, based on assumptions, most MCAs who have spoken are in support of the document. They want the additional constituencies and share of positions for more cohesion in the county,” Mr Werunga said.

Minority Leader Emmanuel Simiyu said those who support the Bill are taking advantage of the split in the Jubilee Party and the strength of Ford Kenya Party in the region.

“As Ford Kenya followers enjoying membership of 16 out of 39 MCAs, we have been whipped by our party to support the document. We are in negotiations with our colleagues and I am confident it will be passed,” said Mr Simiyu.

No enthusiasm

Nandi Speaker Joshua Kiptoo, however, said that residents had not read the BBI document and warned it was possible the Bill would not sail through in the Assembly.

“There is no enthusiasm and it looks like MCAs are not in support of the Bill,” Mr Kiptoo said.

Turkana Speaker Erastus Ekitale said the Assembly will read the proposals before reaching a decision.

“We shall not oppose or support the Bill just for the sake of it. We shall interrogate it and find out what is in it that is good for the people. If it will make life better, we shall pass it but if it will be a burden, we will reject it,” Mr Ekitale said.

The speaker claimed there was no “clarity on the process that will be used to attain the final verdict.”

Elgeyo Marakwet Deputy Speaker Christopher Chemosong said their verdict will be determined by residents’ views.

Nakuru Speaker Joel Kairu said all signs showed that members will endorse the document.

“We were honoured to be among nine counties from the larger Mt Kenya region attending the Sagana State Lodge meeting. We have assured President Uhuru Kenyatta of our commitment to pass the BBI legislation within the required legal timelines,” Mr Kairu said.

In Narok County, Majority Leader Bernard Torome said members will resume debate next week but remained non-committal on the outcome of the debate, saying MCAs were divided over the Bill.

Bomet Majority Leader Josphat Kirui said members will be guided by the decision of voters during the public participation exercise.

“If the people endorse the document, then MCAs have no choice but to pass it. If they reject it, then we will also reject it,” Mr Kirui said.

His Baringo counterpart Lawi Kipchumba was categorical that members will not endorse the document because of ‘untruths’ peddled by those calling for change.

“There are a lot of lies in the push for BBI. The proposal of increasing county allocation to 35 per cent is unrealistic since the Government has been struggling to allocate the 15 per cent in the current Constitution,” Lawi said.

County Assemblies Forum (CAF) Secretary General Kipkirui Chepkwony said CAF plans to meet next week with the Council of Governors to deliberate on the way forward. He urged county assemblies to carry out public participation and reject external interference.

“The mood over the document is now shifting from the national proponents to the people on the ground. Their views should be annexed to the final document,” Chepkwony said.

Soy MP Caleb Kositany and his Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Daniel Rono urged ward representatives to read the mood of the electorate and vote in line with their wishes.

“The MCAs will decide whether the Bill is passed or not. If I was an MCA, I would not bother passing it. There is nothing urgent hence they should not rush; instead, they should address what concerns Kenyans,” Mr Kositany said.

Mr Rono said, “Based on the mood of Kenyans on the ground, the document lacks support. Those who will go against what the people are for will face the wrath of the electorate through rejection come 2022.”

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