, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 23 – Central Kenya Members of Parliament now insist that criteria for the review of constituency boundaries must precede the adoption of a new Constitution.
The legislators, who met on Friday for the second time in a week over the matter, said: “Kenyans cannot choose the system of government they want before the question on the number of constituencies in the country is settled.”
Led by Ndaragwa MP Jeremiah Kioni the leaders said: “The question of representation and the constitution making process are intertwined; one cannot go without the other.”
“Even if you do not come up with the actual numbers of constituencies some formula or procedure must be carried into the new constitution because when you talk about the form of government you cannot form it without the issue of representation,” said the MP on behalf of the group after the two-hour meeting.
The MPs have been vocal demanding for more constituencies in their region claiming that their areas are densely populated. Currently Kenya has 210 constituencies and the Interim Independent Boundary Review Commission is mandated to review both administrative and electoral boundaries.
It was established after recommendations from the Independent Review Commission that probed the 2007 disputed Presidential polls. The team concluded that the country was irregularly represented and called for review of boundaries.
During his Kenyatta Day speech President Mwai Kibaki urged the team to adopt the principle of ‘one-person-one-vote’ in determining the new boundaries. MPs from Northern Kenya however maintain that the size of areas is as important as the number of voters in boundary determination.
“Legislators represent people not acres or trees. Legislators are elected by voters not farms or cities or economic interests,” said Environment Minister John Michuki in his support for President Kibaki’s plea.
“The principles of equal representation and those of one person one vote must be the guiding factors.”
In their Friday meeting Central Kenya leaders said a three tier approach adopted should be adopted to bring harmony between the population density and actual size of constituencies.
“We have three levels; the rural areas, urban and the less densely populated areas. We need a criteria for each of these and have a guideline that will ensure equality for all Kenyans,” said Imenti North MP Cyrus Rutere.
While the Committee of Experts on the constitution is finalisng its draft, the Boundaries Commission has just started consultations and has barely made any headway.
The new demand places more hurdles on the way to a new constitution which is already facing opposition from church leaders over the issue of Kadhi courts.
At a similar meeting on Wednesday the mount Kenya leaders called for internationally accepted standards of voter representation in determining the number of constituencies in the country.