NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – The Senate and national Assembly were set to start debate on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill Wednesday afternoon, with fireworks expected due to political tempratures raised since last week.
The legislators are divided on whether or not the Bill should be edited, with Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) MPs already rallied by their party leadership to insist on passing the bill without amendments.
On Wednesday, Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka adjourned a special sitting meant to debate the Bill to 2:30 PM following requests by Senators for more time to read the document.
Led by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula and his Siaya counterpart James Orengo, Senators argued that the document was bulky and required more time.
“We should unset ourselves in our thinking and bisect and dissect this document so that we can give Kenyans something that is important and that helps this country move forward,” Wetangula said.
Orengo echoed his sentiments saying, “Although I was a member of the committee, I still felt the need of having a hard copy. This is a document that you cannot read on the phone or on the computer and do justice to it.”
Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) Chairperson Okong’o Omogeni who tabled the Bill on the floor of the House and Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior who is also a member of the committee supported the requests by Senators saying it would be fair for them to read it first and make an informed decision on the Bill
“That direction is useful but more importantly for me, is that the only way to debunk the kind of things that have been going on in the media is to allow these members to read the report. The only way we will feel appreciated for the work that we did, is to allow them read the report. So, give them time,” Kilonzo said.
Meanwhile the BBI Bill that was prepared jointly by the National Assembly and Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee was tabled before the National Assembly.
The Committee Chairman Muturi Kigano formally tabled the report before the House paving way for its first reading.
The House was set to start debate on the Bill on Wednesday afternoon with a looming showdown after some members raised concerns that the document has some constitutional issues which need to be addressed ahead of the debate.
Politics of the handshake is set to take centre stage during the debate of the Bill that largely seeks to alter the country’s governance structure.
The submission of the report has been a culmination of infighting among members of the Joint Committee who were divided as to whether there is need to further amend the report or not.
The debate of the Bill by the bicameral Parliament will provide an opportunity for political theatrics after some members of the committee differed on the constitutionality of some of the proposals contained in the Bill notably the distribution of the proposed 70 new Constitution.
Whereas some members opined that it is solely the prerogative of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to conduct the delimitation of boundaries exercise that would ultimately decide on which regions should be given more constituency, other members held contrary views.
While the proponents of the BBI Bill are optimistic that the document will be subjected to a referendum by July latest August 2021, they will first have to wait for a High Court ruling that barred the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) from conducting the exercise to be vacated.