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MPs form caucus to push for law reforms ahead of next elections

By Jacob Ng'etich | May 29th 2021
Garissa Town MP Aden Duale during Jubilee Party By-election nominations certificates issuance at the Party's Headquarters in Nairobi on Wednesday March 24, 2021 [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Some MPs have formed a caucus to push for minimum reforms ahead of next year's General Election.

The reforms include a parliamentary initiative to pass sections of non-controversial proposals contained in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill.

The MPs are pressing for minimum reforms akin to the 1997 Inter-Parties Parliamentary Group (IPPG), a political initiative by a section of the Opposition and its allies within the National Convention Assembly, to ensure a free and fair election then.

The new move is informed by recent High Court judgement that declared BBI-driven Constitution of Kenya Bill 2020, unconstitutional. 

Justices Joel Ngugi, George Odunga, Teresia Matheka, Chacha Mwita and Jairus Ngaah termed BBI illegal, null and void, dealing a heavy blow to President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Handshake partner ODM leader Raila Odinga’s quest to change the Constitution.

The current drive brings together MPs from across the political divide, including those allied to President Kenyatta, Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila, ANC's Musalia Mudavadi and Wiper's Kalonzo Musyoka.

To fast-track the process, the lawmakers are working on proposals which will  be used to build consensus. 

Yesterday, Aden Duale, the former National Assembly Majority Leader, said the group of MPs had started talks that will culminate in minimum reforms, and ensure peaceful, free and fair elections in 2022.

Duale said the key issues the caucus would look at included reforms to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and harnessing BBI proposals that do not require a referendum.

"We as leaders have started a process of reforms that include putting the electoral agency in good shape for the next election, which is just a few months away.

"We also want to have a number of issues in the BBI that were pro-people and not controversial, amended through Parliament," said Duale.

The Garissa Town MP said the caucus would involve all political parties, religious leaders, non-governmental organisations and all stakeholders in the process to build confidence and trust in institutions. 

Garissa Town MP Adan Duale flanked by other pastoral community leaders on Tuesday, Nov 3, 2020. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

"We want to look at the IEBC, the laws that would guarantee that we avoid divisive elections, and even security laws that would ensure a smooth election next year. As leaders, we want peaceful polls and transition," said Duale. "There are issues like that of more money to the counties and pro-youth amendments."

The Saturday Standard saw a list of 13 MPs proposed to be part of the caucus, who include Siaya Senator James Orengo, his counterparts Mithika Linturi (Meru), Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Makueni), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho).

Legislators include Gatundu South's Moses Kuria, Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita), Sakwa Bunyasi (Nambale), Shadrack Mose (Kitutu Masaba), Soipan Tuya (Narok Woman Rep), Cecily Mbarire (nominated) and Otiende Amolo (Rarieda).

"A constitutional change is about the country. We are seeking consensus across the divide. We are consulting among ourselves, then civil society, political parties, religious institutions and then we shall have a zero draft in two weeks," said Sakaja. 

According to Mutula Junior, it would be unfortunate to have all the good proposals in the BBI go to waste. "We want to tap into the BBI gains so that we secure a peaceful election through electoral reforms on issues that do not require a referendum given a plebiscite before the elections will be unrealistic," he said.

Kuria said they were keen on reforms that would bring stability since it was now evident that BBI changes were no longer tenable.

In 1997, the IPPG's push saw the National Assembly amend the Constitution to de-link from the electoral process State apparatus and the Electoral Commission mandated to manage the campaign without interference by the provincial administration.

Immediately after the High Court judgement on BBI, Mudavadi called for national dialogue to salvage BBI proposals.

The return to discussions and an inclusive national dialogue styled in the format of the 1997 IPPG arrangement, Mudavadi said, was the best way out.

"We should not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There must be a silver lining in the court’s judgement and this is what we must look out for as a nation," he said.

On Thursday, Catholic bishops urged that the restructuring of IEBC be expedited so that Kenyans could go to the polls assured of a free, transparent and fair election.

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