Ruto and Raila MPs gang up against constituencies

President Uhuru Kenyatta (centre), DP William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga at the Bomas of Kenya, Nairobi. [Standard]

The proposed creation of 70 constituencies is at the heart of the sharp divisions among MPs allied to Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga, who have now opposed the endorsement of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill in its entirety.

The Saturday Standard has learnt that the matter was contentious within majority members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, opting to draft a report with far-reaching implications to enable Kenyans understand their dilemma.

Whereas, there are two reports, a Majority and Minority, Raila and Ruto wing stood their grounds that the fundamental issue on the Second Schedule and table apportioning the constituencies, must be addressed or else the referendum process will face legal hurdles.

The MPs report collaborated fears raised by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chair Wafula Chebukati that it is their mandate to delimit and review boundaries of constituencies and wards under Article 89 of the Constitution.

"The Schedule purports to share the 70 new constituencies to counties. The Schedule is in conflict with the provisions of Article 89 of the constitution and supersedes it in legal status. The schedule makes reference to an Act as against the Constitution in all its provisions. It is proposed to drop it," said an MP, a member of JLAC.

But an ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta yesterday dismissed the difference, claiming that the Tanga Tanga wing had joined hands with disgruntled ODM MPs.

"The Tanga Tanga MPs are working with disgruntled ODM colleagues not happy with the constituencies," said the Jubilee leader over concerns that the committee member accused Central of getting the highest number of constituencies.

Apart from identified minor errors in 32 counties leaving only 11 correct as well as the Senate, the MPs are reported to have agreed to write a report with recommendations on the same.

However, Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja dissented and his Murang'a counterpart Irungu Kangata abstained. As a result, the team will now give Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Ken Lusaka (Senate) two reports that will be tabled in both Houses when they resume next month.

The Saturday Standard established that the divisions were borne by their disagreement over the constitutionality of the second schedule, with Ruto and Raila allies ganging up to endorse a position not to amend Article 89 and especially (4) to allow the new constituencies to be part of the 2022 elections.

Their argument is that the schedule is not anchored on anything. And even as the stalemate deepened, the revelation by the joint Senate and National Assembly Justice and Legal Affairs Committee that only 11 county assemblies passed the right Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020 is likely to put to question the legality of the process that begun three years ago.

A group that wrote a minority report, led by Senator Sakaja, holds a contrary view that as long the schedule is endorsed by the county assemblies, Parliament should let the people decide that matter. The team includes Muturi Kigano and Samburu West MP Naisula Leisuda.

The majority group brought together Senators Okong'o Omogeni (Nyamira), James Orengo (Siaya), Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Irungu Kangata (Murang'a), Nominated Senator Naomi Wako and MPs Otiende Amollo (Rarieda) Zulekha Hassan (Kwale woman Representative are opposed to the usurping of the IEBC role.

In a press conference at Windsor Club after signing their report on BBI public participation conducted last month, the committee co-chaired by Senator Omogeni and Kigano said they had captured the matter in the Hansard, stating the discrepancies in the Bill that went to the county assemblies.

Though they denied reports of multiple Bills, Senator Omogeni said there were errors and misspellings.

"We noted that 32 counties passed the Bill with the errors while 11 got a good copy and it is a fact we have documented. As a team, we have collectively agreed with the contents and observation. The alleged rumours about saboteurs among us are not true," said Omogeni.

Kigano said Senator Kangata is the only one who abstained without giving details.

Kangata who was absent at the press conference called for a meeting and refused to sign the Joint committee report questioning the formula and the rational of apportioning the constituencies across the counties.

"I wonder why Mombasa with the same voter population with Murang'a got five constituencies as opposed to one while Kilifi which has the number of voters with Nyeri got four compared to one for the former, while Machakos got three constituencies with 600,000 voters and Meru with 700,000, got only two," asked Kang'ata.

An MP at the meeting said: "Creating the 70 constituencies is constitutional, but appropriating the constituencies is unconstitutional, and the IEBC might decline to approve them because the role lies within its purview, secondly where do you place the schedule, it remains hanging because it cannot in the constitution, the elections law act."

The lawmaker said there must be a remedy to the matter and that is why it is captured in the minority report.