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Cabinet gender plan misunderstood – Mutula

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 19 – Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo says the Cabinet does not intend to delete the one-third gender clause in the Constitution, but instead wants to insert a formula in the supreme law to ensure the ratio is attained.

Mr Kilonzo says Thursday’s Cabinet meeting resolved to do away with a proposal in the Elections Bill setting aside 72 constituencies for women on a rotational basis, as it would have been unconstitutional.

Speaking to Capital newsbeat on phone, the Justice Minister said they wanted to insert a clause in the Constitution akin to the provisions for gender balance in county governments.

“The formula for gender parity in Parliament should be constitutionalised; it is already in the Constitution for County Assemblies. If you do it through legislation you run the risk of continuous litigation,” he argued on Friday.

The Cabinet formed an ad-hoc taskforce chaired by Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno to work on the constitutional amendment which will be presented to Parliament for debate and approval.

A formula proposed in the Elections Bill where some 72 constituencies were to be reserved (on a rotational basis) for single gender candidates was scrapped at the Cabinet level as it was deemed unconstitutional.

In essence, the Cabinet is seeking to insert a clause in the Constitution that spells out how to ensure Parliament shall not be composed of more than two-thirds members of the same gender.

“We are going to deal with it from a practical perspective; that is cause an amendment that ensure each gender can produce a minimum of one-third without having to violate the Articles that require a referendum,” said Mr Kilonzo.

Such mechanism is provided by the Constitution for County Assemblies through Article 177 which says the assembly shall have a number of special seat members necessary to ensure that no more than two-thirds of membership of the assembly is of the same gender.

The special members are to be nominated by political parties in proportion to the seats a party has garnered after an election.

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Mr Kilonzo explained that the Cabinet taskforce shall seek a way to add the formula without altering the gender provisions or altering any of the Articles that would require approval through a referendum.

He added that the formula must also ensure that the number of Members of Parliament is also not affected, as that provision is contained under the Chapter on Representation whose amendment would also require a referendum.

The Cabinet taskforce comprises Mr Otieno (chairman), Mr Kilonzo, James Orengo, Otieno Kajwang, Beth Mugo, Naomi Shaban, Charity Ngilu, Amason Kingi and Kiriatu Murungi.

The proposed constitutional amendment has ruffled feathers in many quarters with various groups accusing the Cabinet of attempts to mutilate the constitution.


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