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Politicians out to hijack BBI process, county assemblies warn

A section of County Assemblies Majority Leaders led by Caucus Chairman Victor Kareithi Mutuma (right), Kisumu Majority Leader Kenneth Onyango (2nd left) and Laikipia Majority Leader Peter Thomi (2nd left) arrive for a press conference at Serena Hotel in Nairobi on Monday April 26, 2021 saying that County Assemblies as the representatives of Wanjiku at the grassroots re-affirm their faith the promise of the Building Bridges Initiative(BBI) as the most effective tool for strengthening devolution through increased allocation, enhancing equitable representation and promoting inclusivity. And asked Kenyans to ignore the sensationalism around multiple bills. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The County Assemblies Leadership Caucus has warned that politicians are hiding under minor errors in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill to hijack law review.

The Caucus chair and Leader of Majority, Meru County Victor Mutuma, termed reports that assemblies passed an erroneous version of the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020 "unfortunate sensationalisation of the facts."

"We wish to state that we, members of the 43 county assemblies that overwhelmingly endorsed the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill, 2020, passed it after having read, scrutinized and approved of its contents, particularly its vision for this country, and the numerous benefits it has for Kenyans," said Mutuma.

The joint Justice and legal affairs Committee (JLAC) of the National Assembly and Senate said that only 13 assemblies received the right document for consideration.

The counties are Mandera, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Nyandarua, Nyeri, Murang’a, Kiambu, Turkana, Elgeyo Marakwet, Laikipia, Nakuru and Siaya.

The JLAC noted that 32 assemblies debated a Bill containing errors but said that they were minor and not affecting the substance of the document. 

The 43 assemblies that passed the Bill on Monday said they received it from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

"If indeed it is true that some county assemblies debated any Bill that may have had typographical errors, they can and will most definitely be corrected either by the Parliament or the Attorney General's office," said Mutuma.

He added: "Such corrections, if any, and as long as they do not affect the substance of a Bill are normal in legislative processes and are allowed by the revision of Laws Act, Cap 1. For your information, even the Constitution of Kenya (2010) underwent some correction of errors after it was approved by Kenyans through the referendum."

The MCAs declared support for BBI saying it is the only route to strengthen devolution through increased allocation; enhancing equitable representation and promoting inclusivity.

They explained that it is a popular initiative and politicians and other partisan interests must not hijack the process.

 "We approve of BBI as a progressive exercise in nation-building that will have a far-reaching impact on Kenya. When history asks what we did for our country, we will proudly have this to say, that we were among those who took part in what will one day be recognized as a foundational block towards the healing and growth of this country," said Mutuma.

And a section of MP’s from Nyanza came out to defend the BBI and condemned attempts to frustrate the process.

The legislators led by Opiyo Wandayi (Uguja) and Jared Okello (Nyando) said that the initiative was key to address the country’s political, social and economic problems.

“That opposition and desire to throw the Handshake into disarray and kill the BBI exist to this day. The latest effort to derail the handshake and the BBI is the contest over the contents of the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill, 20202 as proposed by the BBI,” said Wandayi.

The MP noted that the Bill was endorsed by majority assemblies after getting approval of millions of Kenyans.

“We are convening as elected leaders of the Luo community to express singular and undivided support for the BBI Bill as endorsed by the people of Kenya and the majority assemblies. We reject any attempt to alter that Bill whether the alteration is for grammar, the flow of sentences, the wording of law or semantics,” he said.

The MPs noted that Nyanza is banking on BBI to boost the economy of the region and urged residents to rally behind President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga. 

“Over the years, Nyanza has stagnated due to corruption and deliberate marginalisation. We support the BBI in its efforts to ensure corruption is punished in the most painful way possible because we are convinced that ending corruption is a vital step towards reviving opportunities for us,” the leaders said.

“We support every small effort to end marginalization of regions and communities and create shared prosperity. We have full confidence in the two leaders to take care of our interests in the run-up to 2022 and beyond,” Wandayi said.

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