, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 25- A network of women organisations is calling on Parliament to accelerate debate on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, which among other things seeks to entrench a December general elections.
Under the umbrella body of the Women’s Political Alliance, the activists argued on Sunday that the decision by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to announce a March 2013 poll was ill-advised as the Bill was already before the House.
“We were surprised at the turn of events when we heard that the IEBC had announced the (election) date of March 4 (2013) so we want to put our voice to this debate and ask the MPs (Members of Parliament) and the minister concerned to ensure that this Bill goes as proposed,” the Alliance Vice Chair Esther Keino.
She added that the Commission has erred in announcing the date before Parliament was through debating the Bill tabled by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo and which had ‘matured’ for second and third readings.
“IEBC should have waited for the determining of the Court ruling on the appeal by the women organisations including the Caucus for women’s leadership and the other stakeholders because elections will affect all Kenyans and the selected dates will also affect the number that turn up for the elections depending on whether it is (a) holiday period or not,” Keino emphasised.
On the reasons advanced by the Commission as to why the polls should be in March 2013, the group dismissed them as being baseless.
“The courts recommended March 4 but they said it was up to the principals. The commission should listen to what Kenya is saying and we feel that we need to have December elections as we have historically done since it is the most convenient time to engage in the poll,” Keino added.
In their favour of a December vote, the group’s also cited the need to ensure that the elections do not interfere with the smooth running of the schools’ calendar, since teachers are usually actively involved as polling clerks, returning officers or presiding officer.
In addition, the group’s Secretary Beatrice Kamau said they support the amendment as it also establishes the implementation of the Affirmative Action.
“The implementation of this principle will transform the traditional perceptions towards women’s leadership resulting in an increased number of women being directly voted into elective constituency and senate seats,” Kamau said although she was quick to add that if passed, the Bill would help address the issue of representation for all genders.
The women also warned that failure to pass the Bill will open up the country to a constitutional crisis after the elections hence the need to speed up the process.
Separately, Eldoret North MP William Ruto called on President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee to meet and end the controversy on the election date.
Ruto termed the election debate as an unnecessary contest that is breeding unnecessary confusion.
Speaking after attending a Sunday service at Faith Evangelistic Ministries in Nairobi, Ruto said that the leadership should avoid unconstitutionality when coming up with an election date.
“It is really not a matter of life or death, I think what should happen is the principles should sit down and come up with a proposal on the election date, the IEBC have suggested March, majority of people to the best of my knowledge would prefer December but there needs to be a meeting of minds and we should not breed unnecessary anxiety over a simple thing like an election date,” he told Journalists.
The IEBC’s choice of a March 2013 election date has created dissatisfaction within some political quarters.
“I don’t think the IEBC were compromised, I think the IEBC were boxed into a situation where they had to make a decision one way or another and I think it was an attempt on their part to resolve the stalemate,” Ruto stated.