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Which way ODM? Raila allies split on BBI amendments

POLITICS
By Allan Mungai | March 28th 2021

ODM leader Raila Odinga during Nyanza leaders' BBI consultative meeting. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

A sharp division has emerged among ODM MPs over a push to effect amendments to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 in Parliament.

Some insiders confided in the Sunday Standard that there were divisions within ODM leader Raila Odinga’s camp, with some lawmakers faulting contents of the Bill, especially on proposed creation of 70 constituencies where they claim Luo Nyanza region was shortchanged.

Raila even reportedly called ODM Chairman John Mbadi and Elections Director Junet Mohammed to rally members in the National Assembly to back the Bill in its totality.

The party is divided into a wing of radicals pushing for the Bill to be tabled in Parliament without any amendments made to it and one that supports changes. The first wing is led by Junet and Mbadi.

The lawmakers are for the idea that the Bill should be tabled in Parliament and dispensed with as soon as possible so that the country can go to a referendum.

Limited role

The two diverging positions that the party has taken on the Bill was apparent as the House debated adding the joint Justice and Legal Affairs Committee more time to compile the report before it is tabled in parliament as the Bill goes to a second reading.

While Junet and Mbadi were against the idea of the Bill going another week before it is tabled, other colleagues such as Kisumu West MP Olago Aluoch, Jared Okelo (Nyando), TJ Kajwang (Ruaraka), Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) and Siaya Senator James Orengo supported giving the joint committee more time to consider public views.

TJ said Parliament had a duty under article 95 and 96 to re-look the Bill.

“I get worried when I hear members speak as if they are not members of this House. When you say you are ceremonial yet the constitution has Articles 94, 95 and 96,” he said.

“We will deal with it as National Assembly, we have a voice. How we deal with this thing is what we have charged the committee to let us know. So you can’t say we are ceremonial, you cannot speak politics when we are speaking parliamentary language,” he added.

Orengo led the ODM charge in the Senate to have the committee take another week to finalise on the report.

He said Parliament played a limited role during the 2010 constitutional process and the same should not happen now.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale suggested that part of the unease with the BBI in Parliament had to do with ODM’s uncertainty about having Raila as Uhuru’s successor in next year’s polls.

But Okelo felt there was meddling in the process.

“All MPs subscribe to political parties that took their views before several committees, so to interfere at this point in time feeds into what we were told that there were members of the Executive out to meddle with the affairs of this constitution making process and we reject that kind of move,” he said.

Orengo, while denying there was any attempt to hijack the BBI process as Okello claimed, gave the clearest indication yet that Parliament would seek to assert itself in the process.

“After the Constitution of Kenya Bill went through the experts wasn’t it brought to Parliament? It was and the House debated it and proposed amendments. Therefore, it is not something that you can wish away,” said the senator.

Nasa coalition yesterday had a Parliamentary Group meeting at Parliament grounds and some of the discussions revolved around the joint committee.

Shortchanged

Some members want the document amended by Parliament and feel especially shortchanged by the allocation of constituencies to counties.

“In my view, Parliament is not a voting machine, it has a duty to the people so the when there is an issue before it the people will want to hear what Parliament says about it,” said Orengo.

“We have a precedent which was established by the same committee of experts which came out with this provision. What Parliament does about it the Constitution has already spelled out.”

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang, speaking on KTN News, denied any concerns within ODM concerning the Bill, but indicated that his county should have gotten two additional constituencies.

“ODM fully supports the BBI. I have two constituencies that are really vast, Ndhiwa and Karachuonyo that should have been split,” said Kajwang.

Mbadi said Parliament has little role on the passage of the Bill and therefore cannot effect any changes as stipulated in Article 257 of the Constitution.

He differed with Orengo on the process by CoE that tabled a report in Parliament to make amendments.

“Even the Naivasha deliberations were not implemented because the House failed to raise the two-thirds requirement,” said Mbadi.

“We should not seek changes for political expediency. We cannot circumvent the law. Parliament role is zero. If we are unhappy we can initiate another amendment later.”

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