Fate of Bill on polls date lies with Speaker

November 15, 2011 4:19 pm


National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende/FILE
NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 15 – House Speaker Kenneth Marende is on Wednesday expected to rule whether a Cabinet sponsored Constitutional Amendment Bill which among others things seeks to move the election date from August to December is legally before the House.

This is after MPs challenged the amendments and urged him to reject any debate. The lawmakers claim that the Cabinet’s move goes against the spirit of the new Constitution.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara said they were opposed with the Cabinet’s decision to present omnibus amendments for the House to approve, while the matter (of the election date) was still pending before the High Court awaiting determination.

“Any attempt to introduce amendments to the Constitution and which is not brought under the principle of peoples’ participation is inadmissible and ought to be rejected,” he said.

He said that this is the first time since independence in 1963 that the House is being asked to consider constitutional amendments being brought to the House in one Constitutional Amendment Bill.

Imanyara argued that the Cabinet should have published a Sessional Paper which is usually how the government generates laws it had agreed on and wants to see them enacted by Parliament.

Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee chairman Abdikadir Mohammed accused of the Cabinet of trying to use the House to rubber stamp its decisions.

He expressed his committee’s fears that allowing the Cabinet-backed amendments would open the door for other amendments.

“We have had a history of this kind of interpretations; the famous Ngei amendment… the Change the Constitution Movement was the whole idea of the Executive trying to use constitutional amendments and this House to set the political agenda.”

He termed most of the amendments as substantively unnecessary.

“We strongly urge as the committee that the Constitution has given mandate over this matter, that this matter be withdrawn and if the minister wants to speak with Parliament about a parliamentary initiative we should be happy to listen” he said.

Besides the election date, the Bill touches gender quotas for county and national assembly representation.

Tempers flared between the backbenchers and the Cabinet forcing Temporary Speaker Ekwe Ethuro to intervene.

Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang and Joint Chief whip Jakoyo Midiwo clashed when the latter accused the Cabinet of approaching the House with arrogance.

“Separate the amendments because some of them we believe are not necessary; we are not saying we cannot do them,” pleaded Midiwo.

“It is important for Kajwang to understand that the for us to amend this Constitution you need two-thirds (majority), so arrogance will not force us,” he added.

Prompted by those remarks, the Immigration Minister sought to explain the Cabinet’s move amid interruptions from his fellow MPs, after he dismissed Midiwo’s statement as a being political.

He said it was the prerogative of the Cabinet to decide whether to present a separate Bill or an omnibus Bill citing it as ‘a matter of tactic’.

“That’s fine you can angusha (defeat the motion), that is not a legal argument.” he said.

Ethuro said Constitutional Minister Mutula Kilonzo will make his case for the amendments tomorrow afternoon.


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