Uhuru and Raila drastic changes in new Referendum Bill

Some contentious issues in the first draft of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report unveiled last month have either been dropped or reviewed in a new document released yesterday.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020, has also included new proposals in a bid to incorporate concerns raised by stakeholders.

The Bill was made public during the launch of signature collection by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi.

Concerns raised by Deputy President William Ruto and his allies, constitutional experts and religious leaders on the selection of Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission officials by political parties have been deleted.

The proposed establishment of the National Police Council and the Independent Policing Oversight Commission and the elevation of Nairobi City County to ‘special status’ have also been dropped.

While the Judicial Ombudsman will now be nominated by the president, vetting and approval will be done by the Senate, and he/she will be an ex officio of the Judicial Service Commission.

On the composition of the Cabinet, the Bill introduces a new requirement under Article 153 (A): “The President may appoint not fewer than 14 and not more than 22 Deputy Ministers. It also provides that a Deputy Minister may be appointed from among members of the National Assembly.”

Order of precedence

While Article 107 (A) stipulates that: “A person shall not assume the office of the Leader of the Official Opposition if the Prime Minister is appointed from the person’s political party or coalition of parties.”

The Bill spells out the order of precedence, with the Speaker, the leader of the majority party and the leader of the minority party in that order.

“I am pleased with the president and Raila who took into account a lot of the views by stakeholders. It will go a long way to show it was not a two-man show as was being peddled by the opponents,” said Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) yesterday in reaction to the Bill.

He added: “It is a major improvement from the Bill on the BBI report. Senate has additional responsibilities, including vetting state officers and oversight over county governments’ funds.”

Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichungwa, however, questioned the latest development. “Building Bridges for a few or another “Berlin Wall” to protect the privileged?” he tweeted.

For Police, the National Police Oversight Authority has been retained alongside the National Police Service, while an additional arm of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations has been created.

New constituencies

The three arms of the police shall each be headed by a Deputy Inspector-General appointed by the president.

The Bill has factored in the views of the pastoralist community and Mt Kenya leaders in ensuring the States promotes sustainable sources of livelihood including agriculture, pastoralism and the blue economy.

On gender parity, a new clause (f) has been introduced to Article 82, which states: “Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for sanctions for a political party that fails to comply with the principle that not more than two-thirds of the party’s candidates are of the same gender.”

To address gender representation in the National Assembly, the Bill has proposed the creation of 70 new constituencies and a top-up after elections.

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