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February 19, 2018

Senate forms special committee to scrutinise contentious election laws

Supporters of the National Super Alliance demonstrate in Nairobi,  October 11, 2017. /REUTERS
Supporters of the National Super Alliance demonstrate in Nairobi, October 11, 2017. /REUTERS

The Senate has been forced to set up a special committee to scrutinise the controversial electoral laws passed and forwarded to it by the National Assembly.

During a Wednesday afternoon session, the House dominated by Jubilee Senators set up the team to legalise the process of handling Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2017.

This was after NASA lawmakers termed the process unconstitutional and un-parliamentary.

"Aware that the country is still in an election cycle [and] arising out of the requirement for a fresh presidential election...there is need to legislate on and address certain legal lacuna," read the motion setting up the committee.

The Senate and National Assembly had approved separate special committees to scrutinise the Bill by receiving views from the public. They were to draft a report for tabling on October 10.

The committees jointly received views from the public, a move NASA Senators termed unlawful because no motion was approved to set up a joint committee of Senate and National Assembly members.

The joint committee session co-chaired by William Cheptumo (Baringo North) and Senator Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo) concluded public hearings last Thursday.

Their report was tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon and the Bill debated and forwarded to the Senate for its input before assent by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Read: Parliament passes controversial election law amendment

"CONCURRENT SESSIONS ILLEGAL"

The Senate's resolution to constitute the committee afresh was informed by NASA’s criticism and warning that Jubilee members were only engaging in an "exercise in futility".

Opposition Senators including Mutula Kilonzo Jr (Makueni), Moses Kajwang (Homa Bay) and minority leader Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) said the court will dismiss the laws after the approval.

They said it was unconstitutional and against parliamentary procedures for Senate and National Assembly to handle the matter concurrently.

NASA Senators put speakers Kenneth Lusaka (Senate) and Justin Muturi (National Assembly) on the spot, accusing them of not consulting and agreeing as per the constitution before allowing the tabling of any Bill to avoid the clash.

"The Bill should not proceed simultaneously in the two Houses. It could have originated from the National Assembly and been forwarded to the Senate by the speaker as per the constitution. Who is going to refer to another when they do concurrently?" Kilonzo said.

"NASA SHOULD GIVE NAMES"

Majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), while moving a motion to set up a nine-member team to scrutinise the Bill and report back on Thursday, demanded NASA forward names of its four members to participate in the process.

"There are many things happening at a fast rate and Kenyans are asking who should intervene to address the political situation. The minority side should provide names of its members to contribute to this process," Murkomen said.

Jubilee nominated five members to the committee. They are Dullo, Kimani Wamatangi (Kiambu), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Naomi Waqo (nominated) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho).

Murkomen warned that history will "judge NASA senators harshly" for abdicating their responsibilities of making laws.

He faulted NASA for the threat to challenge the laws in court on grounds their members did not participate in the process yet they agreed to stay away.

Senator Isaac Mwaura (Nominated) said the proposed laws will address electoral malpractices committed by IEBC officials, presiding officers in particular, who failed to sign results forms to give room for the Supreme Court to nullify an election.

Mwaura criticised NASA flag bearer Raila Odinga and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka’s move to withdraw from the upcoming repeat presidential poll.

"We will not allow a situation where this country goes to anarchy under our watch as legislators. How can you explain a situation where a candidate seeking to become the president of this country resigns from the race after the Supreme Court gives him another opportunity to prove his win was stolen?"

Dullo hit at NASA, clerics, Western diplomats and people criticising the move by Jubilee to pass and implement the laws over timing and the need to meet international standards.

"Which is the right time to pass this Bill? As parliamentarians we should ensure this country is held together."

More on stalemate: Raila dares IEBC to declare Uhuru president, says Kenyans will resist

Also read: Kenya election in balance as crisis deepens after Raila quits

The Senate committee to be chaired by Dullo will scrutinise the Bill for the House to pass and forward to President Uhuru Kenyatta for assent on Thursday.

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