Kitayama to table bill in Parliament seeking to increase Counties from 47 to 52

Kuria East MP Marwa Kitayama addresses Christian members at Migori Central SDA Church. [File, Standard]

A Member of Parliament affiliated with President William Ruto's United Democratic Alliance, Marwa Kitayama (Kuria East) now intends to table a bill to amend the constitution.

His Bill proposes to increase the number of counties to 52 from the current 47 capped by the constitution.

Kitayama has written a notice to the Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetangula.

He explained that if the constitution is changed, new counties of Kuria County, be carved from Migori County, Teso County from Busia County, East Pokot County from Baringo County, and Mount Elgon County which should be hived off from Bungoma and Trans Nzoia Counties.

The MP said that so far he had collected 60 signatures in support of the proposal and that once the Speaker approves its introduction he will be allowed to make a Statement on the floor of the House so that other members can give their views before harmonization and finalization of the proposal to cater for the views is given.

" Parliament cannot by itself collect views of the people and establish county boundaries. However, the constitution has empowered the independent and Boundaries Commission with the powers of delimitation.

That is why under the bill, clause 5 proposes that IEBC should delimit the additional counties of Kuria, YTeso, Mt Elgon, East Pokot, and Mwingi from the existing counties of Migori, Busia Bungoma transoia Baringo West Pokot and Kitui respectively within six months of the commencement of the act," reads the bill.

He added, "Clause two of the Bill proposes amendments to Article 97 of the Constitution to increase the number of women elected to represent the counties in the National Assembly from 47 to 52 while Clause Three of the bill proposes amendments to Article 98 of the Constitution to increase the number of Senators from 47 to 52 cater for the proposed increase in the number of counties," said Kitayama.

The MP said the Constitution established 47 Counties and that there was no scientific basis for this number and that they were merely based on the districts existing in 1992 without taking into account that other districts were gazetted in subsequent years by the government for purposes of enhancing service delivery.

The proposed amendment has generated some excitement with Trans Nzoia Senator Allan Chesang describing it as a good bill but asking Kitayama to amend it to have Mount Elgon moved to Trans Nzoia from Bungoma saying that it might not be viable to have the area as a stand-alone county.

"Instead of having Mount Elgon County, the region should be moved from Bungoma to Trans Nzoia County since the area residents have much in common with their brothers in the Rift Valley region while they are domiciled in the Western region where they are misplaced," said Chesang.

At the same time, Tiaty MP William Kamket said that he fully supported Kitayama's bill since it will allow the people of East Pokot to be in charge of their affairs and that he will be lobbying other legislators to support it both in the Senate and National Assembly since it meant well for the area residents.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed told the Standard that he will support the bill when it comes to the floor of the house to ensure that the regions get their own counties so that they can bring services closer to the people.

Constitutional expert Bob Mkangi said that Article 188 of the Constitution provides the procedure for altering the boundaries hence the creation of new counties because there is no way the creation of new counties can be effected without altering those of the current since a change cannot be effected by simply adding names to the 47 in the schedule.

"After promulgation of the constitution in 2010 changes were to be effected through the procedure under article 188 in which boundaries of counties were to be altered only by a recommendation by an independent commission set up for that purpose by Parliament," said Mkangi.

The Constitutional Expert said that the proposal to increase counties must get the support of the National Assembly, with at least two-thirds of all of the members of the Assembly, and set a similar threshold at the Senate.

Mkangi said that the boundaries of a county may be altered to take into account: population density and demographic trends; physical and human infrastructure; historical and cultural ties; the cost of administration; the views of the communities affected; the objects of devolution of government and geographical features.

"From a socio-economic scope with Kenyans going through tough times, famine and high cost of living the timing of the proposal seems off unless there is the justification of how it repairs the immediate needs and challenges currently faced by Kenyans," said Mkangi.

Kitayama MP who is serving a second term said that Article 95 of the Constitution allows him to introduce proposals to be considered by the National Assembly in its role of making laws which includes proposals for amendment of the Constitution through such a Bill and that the Senate will be given a chance to consider it in due course.

Kitayama said that article 256 of the Constitution allows for the amendment of the Constitution by Parliament which is the basis for the Bill which is yet to be formally introduced since the Standing Orders of the National Assembly require Members to conduct wide consultations before finalizing a Bill to amend the Constitution.

"The Counties can therefore be increased to take into account issues such as service delivery and community and cultural interests through a Constitution of Kenya amendment which can be done two ways which are a parliamentary initiative or amendment by popular initiative," said Kitayama.

The MP said that the principal objective of the Bill is to amend the Constitution and increase the number of Counties from 47 to 52 which is borne from the need to strengthen the structures of devolution with the special wish to bring development and services closer to the people depending on the views he will receive from the Members and other stakeholders this number may increase.

The Kuria East MP said that Article 174 of the Constitution provides for the objects of the devolution of Government among them being the pursuit of promotion of democracy and accountable exercise of power; promotion of social and economic development; the provision of proximate, easily accessible services throughout Kenya; and equitable sharing of national and local resources throughout Kenya.

Kitayama said that the amendment shall ensure that the objects of devolution are realized and that the rights of minorities and the marginalized in the counties are promoted and protected with these amendments allowing some specific minorities the right to manage their own affairs and further their own development.

"Fundamentally the Bill seeks to solve the perennial ethnic antagonism and divisive elections in certain counties with Article 6(3) of the Constitution mandating State organs to ensure that there is reasonable access to its services in all parts of the Republic and as far as is appropriate to do so having regard to the nature of the services," said Kitayama.

The MP said that he will be seeking the support of other Members of Parliament, collecting the views of other Members, the Attorney General, and other Constitutional Commissions, and Harmonize his proposal with the views collected as per the Standing Order 114(7A) of the National Assembly.