NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 22 – The Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende on Thursday cautioned Kenyans against demonising proposed amendments to the Constitution, saying it was not wrong as long as the requisite procedures were followed.
Marende who spoke after a meeting with former Speaker of the Canadian Parliament Peter Milliken, said there was no harm in amending the Constitution as it was a living document.
There has been outcry from the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) on the Cabinet’s move to amend the Constitution to pave way for a December election, every fifth poll year.
Narc-Kenya and the National Council of Churches of Kenya have also registered their disapproval at the Cabinet’s proposal, arguing that such convenience amendments risk derailing the gains of the Constitution.
“A Constitution of any country is enacted by the citizens of a nation to help them regulate their affairs by way of governance so depending on the circumstances it is possible to amend at any time,” Marende said.
The House Speaker further noted that the issue of the proposed amendment would be addressed once it got to Parliament, adding that he had not yet received the amendment Bill.
Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo has already published the Bill to alter the elections date.
The Cabinet argues that an August election, as set out in the Constitution, will interfere with the budget cycle. The Cabinet also insists that the amendment will bring certainty on when general elections should be held.
However the CIC feels that the Cabinet should alter the budget date to conform to the election date rather than change the poll date to fit the budgetary cycle. The commission also says that the amendments will interfere with modalities of devolution.
“If they make the requisite criteria, from the Speaker’s perspective, there will be nothing wrong with amending. The requisite criteria would be provided for in the Constitution and other enabling legislation. As to whether it is right or wrong, I cannot say,” said Marende.
Meanwhile, Milliken challenged Kenya to synchronise the work of the National Assembly and the County assemblies noting that there was a risk of overlapping of duties. He said that there was need for more clarity into the responsibilities of the institutions.
He also noted that MPs would have a daunting task of holding government officials to account once the bicameral system came into place.
“I think you will feel the impact of removing the Cabinet from Parliament. Figuring out how the legislations will summon ministers to appear and deal with issues all needs to be sorted out. So there needs to be proper legislations harmonising all these,” he said.
He added that Kenya would be required to train and recruit more staff to handle the National Assembly and the County assemblies.
Marende observed that the Canadian government already provides support to Kenya in terms of enhancing parliamentary capacities.
“We intend to retrain all our staff and we will be making new recruitments for both the Senate and the National Assembly by the end of the year,” said Marende.
The National Assembly shall consist of a total of 350 members while the Senate shall have 68 members.