• BBI will go a long way in fostering cohesion and inclusivity as the 2010 Constitution nearly consigned presidential runners-up to political oblivion.
• Runners-up will now be able to marshal their troops within the National Assembly and keep the day's government on its toes.
As East Africa’s largest economy, Kenya must fast-track its development agenda and incorporate a rights-based approach in which national cohesion guides policy.
National cohesion is strongest when everyone in the country has the opportunity, the resources and the motivation to participate in society as fully as they wish and on an equal basis. But this very cohesion is brought to the test when a section of the citizenry feel they are politically or economically excluded.
It is against this background that the Building Bridges Initiative seeks to address the cohesion challenge alongside political accountability through a constitutional amendment.
The proposed constitutional reforms originate from the BBI process that sought citizens views from all corners of the country.
They shared their concerns on issues ranging from their responsibilities and rights, national ethos and responsible citizenship, corruption, productivity and shared prosperity, devolution, divisive elections, ethnic antagonism, inclusivity, and security, among others.
The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, therefore, focuses on these issues, with an overriding objective of promoting a cohesive society and the ideals of a united, prosperous and just nation.
Notably, the Bill seeks to amend the second chapter of the Constitution on formative aspects of the republic to address regional integration, cohesion, shared prosperity, and the economy's centrality.
The aspiration is to enhance Kenya's standing leadership in the region and balance production and sharing.
Clause two of the Bill proposes to insert a new Article 10A (Regional integration and cohesion) into the Constitution to recognise integration and cohesion of the East Africa region and Africa as integral towards achieving national economic goals.
The provision obligates the state to take the policy and legislative measures for the attainment of this ideal.
A key proposed amendment is the insertion of a new Article 107A, which creates the office of the Leader of Official Opposition, who shall be the runners-up in a presidential election, and whose political party or coalition of parties has at least 25 per cent of all the National Assembly members.
This, indeed, will go a long way in fostering cohesion and inclusivity as the 2010 Constitution nearly consigned presidential runners-up to political oblivion. But with this amendment, they will now be able to marshal their troops within the National Assembly and keep the day's government on its toes.
In terms of political accountability, the same Article provides that where the person under clause (2) is unable to assume office, or the office becomes vacant under Article 103, the political party or coalition of parties not forming the government to which the person was a member shall nominate another person to be the Leader of Official Opposition.
More critically, Clause 4 of Article 107A states that a person shall not assume the office of the Leader of the Official Opposition if the Prime Minister is appointed from the person's political party or coalition of parties.
Article 107A has been buttressed by Clause 17, which seeks to repeal Article 108 (Party Leaders), and replacing it with a new Article 108 (Order of precedence in the National Assembly, which spells out the new order of precedence in the National Assembly as follows: the Speaker of the National Assembly; the Prime Minister; Leader of Official Opposition.
Clause 29 of the Bill proposes to amend Article 152 (Cabinet) to provide for a mixed Cabinet with some Cabinet members appointed from the National Assembly members. The amendment further provides for the membership of the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Ministers into the Cabinet.
Lastly, the tenure of office of the Cabinet is provided, outlining that the Cabinet remains in office until the President-elect assumes office. On the other hand, Clause 30 of the Bill proposes to amend Article 153 (Decision, responsibility and accountability of the Cabinet) as a consequential amendment of renaming the office of the Cabinet Secretary as Cabinet Minister.
Clause 50 of the Bill proposes to amend Article 203 (Equitable share and other financial laws) to expand the criteria for determining equitable share to include the need to eradicate corrupt practices and wastage of public resources, the need to ensure the attainment of the economic and social rights guaranteed under Article 43 and ensure the average amount of money allocated per person to a county with the highest allocation does not exceed three times the average amount per person allocated to a county with the lowest allocation.
With these proposed amendments, Kenya is on the right trajectory to achieving a cohesive society.
The writer is the Siaya Governor
Edited by Kiilu Damaris