Parliament begins debate on BBI amid sharp divisions

By James Macharia  

The fate of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) bill is yet to be known and the path to a possible referendum in June seems to be getting rougher by day.

On Teusday, Members of Parliament started debate on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill,2020, commonly referred to as BBI.

It’s a bill that has sparked differences in both houses; the Senate and the National parliament, and for that matter dividing members of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party which previously had most proponents of the bill.

The bill was tabled in parliament at a time when various leaders across the political divide were engaged in a game of exchanging words over the bill, especially on the criteria used by the Secretariat to come up with the now proposed 70 new additional constituencies.

Pundits have expressed their concerns and have cited illegalities in the proposal, arguing that the only body mandated with the task of reviewing boundaries and coming up with new regions is none other than the Independent Electoral and Bounderies Commission (IEBC).

Amidst of the hot-buttoned debate, article 257 of the 2010 Constitution has always been the subject of the discussions as to whether the parliament has powers to amend a bill tabled before them for debate.

Lawyer Paul Mwangi BBI taskforce Secretary wants the bill to be passed as it is.

The lawyer argues that once the MPs open the bill, it will cease to be a popular initiative but a parliamentary initiative.

Siaya senator holds a different view.

He says that the bill has to be amended before parliamentary approval.

His sentiments were echoed by Godfrey Osotsi, nominated Member of Parliament.

“Much as I am a supporter of the BBI process, we cannot as a Parliament pass a faulty document which the courts will easily throw away,” said Osotsi.

Murang’a senator Irungu Kang’ata abstained in JLAC report and said that Covid-19 pandemic and those lethally affected should be catered first. Kang’ata also cited injustice in the new constituencies distribution criteria.

“My position on BBI debate tomorrow (today): First, many friends have died because of Covid-19 and many businesses closed due to pandemic. Vaccines first!  Sh15 billion referendum cash enough for vaccines. Secondly, correct injustice visited upon My Kenya on constituencies’ distribution. Why Nyeri none and Kwake four,” said Kang’ata.

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