Joint BBI team holds marathon meetings ahead of special sitting

Bill has been before the bicameral Parliament for three months now

The parliamentary team on BBI has begun marathon meetings to conclude its report ahead of the special sittings next week.

The joint Justice and Legal Affairs committee held a day-long closed-door meeting at the Windsor hotel, where the consultants it hired to clarify sticky issues in the Bill presented their findings.

“We can’t tell when we are going to conclude this process, may be in a day or two. It is still too early,” a source in the committee said.

The meeting comes even as it emerged that Parliamentary leadership had planned three-day special sittings of the House next week to debate and take a vote on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi on Monday told the Star that they have agreed on a meeting from Tuesday through to Thursday to dispense with the BBI Bill.

The Bill has been before the bicameral Parliament for three months now.

The Suba South MP said next week’s sitting has been agreed on by both the minority and majority side and it will be communicated to Speaker Justin Muturi this week.

After receiving the communication from the Majority Leader, Muturi is expected to gazette the special meeting.

“It was supposed to be 27th to 29th; the letter is likely to go to the Speaker this week. That is what we agreed with [National Assembly Majority Leader Amos] Kimunya,” Mbadi said.

On Monday, the Star established that the consultants presented their findings and opinions on the controversial issues that nearly split the committee.

Fireworks are expected in today’s meeting when the members deliberate on the findings of the experts and agree on the final report.

“We are yet to deliberate the findings of the experts,” the source, a senator who is a lawyer, said in confidence as he is not authorised to speak on behalf of the committee.

Co-chairs of the committee Muturi Kigano (Kangema MP) and Senator Okongo Omogeni (Nyamira) did not respond to enquiries for comment.

Kigano’s aide said his boss was in a meeting.

Opinion has been divided on this. Lawyers, including those sitting in the joint committee have clashed on the Parliament’s role in the processing of the Bill.

While a section led by Muturi has insisted that Parliament’s role is ceremonial, others led by senior counsels Omogeni and Siaya Senator James Orengo have insisted that the House’s mandate cannot be ceremonial.

In addition, the panel wanted to know the fate of public submissions, whether they can be included at this stage.

They also want to get experts positions on submission of the IEBC that it is the only body that can delimitate constituencies and whether all amendments proposed in the Bill must be subjected to a plebiscite.

Last week, some senators led by Omogeni and Orengo suggested tweaking of the proposed additional 70 constituencies.

They are expected to present their proposal during the ongoing committee meetings, a situation that could spark divisions.

The Star has established that ODM boss Raila Odinga, a partner in the Handshake that birthed the BBI, has reined in his lieutenants not to alter the document.

Kimunya said he will give details on Wednesday regarding the referendum.

Mbadi told the Star that the referendum’s timelines might be revised as the initial June deadline is now untenable.

He cited the court cases against the BBI which he noted might disrupt the initial June timeline.

“Referendum may not be in June, you know this thing is not in our hands it is in the hands of the Judiciary. Judiciary is the one that holds the key,” he said.

In February, the High Court temporarily restrained the electoral agency from taking the Bill to the people in a referendum.

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