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CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

BBI taskforce faces tight timelines

The team has less than six months to complete its work

In Summary
  • Mudavadi has suggested that the country should explore the possibility of holding a referendum and the General Election together.
  • But Ford-K secretary-general argues that holding a referendum together with the General Election would be unwise.
BBI chairman Yusuf Haji, Deputy President William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House during the handing over of the BBI report.
BBI chairman Yusuf Haji, Deputy President William Ruto and President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House during the handing over of the BBI report.
Image: PSCU

The Building Bridges Initiative task force has tight timelines following the six-month extension of its mandate through a gazette notice.

President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday extended the team’s mandate to June.  

The 14-member team is supposed to propose statutory or constitutional changes necessary for the implementation of the BBI report.

The gazettement has been challenged in court with activist Okiya Omtatah arguing that President Kenyatta has no powers to create a committee to steer amendments to the Constitution through a popular initiative.

ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi has suggested that the country should explore the possibility of holding a referendum and the General Election together.

Mudavadi says there is no point of having a referendum in 2021 and the General Election the following year.

“The committee shall complete its work by June 30 if its term is not extended. Where a referendum is proposed, it is unlikely that the same will be undertaken in the same financial year since another financial year will have started and may need to be carried forward to 2021.

"Even then, we still have the big elephant in the room - the IEBC, which is in a shambles,” he said.

But Ford Kenya secretary-general Simiyu Eseli told the Star by phone that holding a referendum together with the General Election would be unwise.

Eseli said the BBI team was tasked with inquiring into and making recommendations on nine areas that Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga saw as crucial to the creation of a united nation.

The team will give wide-ranging recommendations, including restructuring the executive.

“How then can we have an election and a referendum at the same time? We might be electing people to the wrong offices,” he explained.

He said the country should go through a referendum first before holding the General Election.

“After all, a referendum is a much simpler exercise than the general election. People should go to an election knowing clearly the positions they are filing,” the Ford-K official argued.

The challenge, according to Mudavadi, is that in 2021, the election cycle will have started and it may not be prudent – even economically –  to hold two successive ‘elections’ in two years.

“The idea of holding an election together with a referendum needs to be explored,” he stated in a statement.

His remarks came barely three days after National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale said it was impossible to have a referendum in June as suggested by Raila.

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo and his Mwingi West counterpart Charles Nguna supported Raila’s push for a referendum before July this year.

Duale said there are procedures to be followed before a referendum. They include collecting signatures, drafting of a bill and forwarding the same to 47 counties for approval.

“I want to tell Raila for free that the referendum he is talking about in June is impossible. Don’t cheat yourself. You need two to three months timeline to collect signatures,” he said.

Further, "introducing the Bill takes another month while taking it to IEBC takes three months and subsequently to the 47 county assemblies in which at least 24 of them must support you will take another three months. Then you must have budgetary provision and bring it to both houses of Parliament.”

The constitutional amendment may be proposed by a popular initiative signed by at least one million registered voters.

A popular initiative for an amendment to the Constitution may be in the form of a general suggestion or a formulated draft Bill.

The promoters of a popular initiative then deliver the draft Bill and the supporting signatures to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which shall verify that the initiative is supported by at least one million registered voters.

If the IEBC is satisfied that the initiative meets the requirements, it will submit the draft Bill to each county assembly for consideration within three months.

Should the county assembly approve the draft Bill within three months after the date it was submitted by the IEBC, the speaker of the county assembly shall deliver a copy of the draft Bill jointly to the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament, with a certificate that the county assembly has approved it.

The draft Bill is introduced in Parliament after it is approved by a majority of the county assemblies.

The Bill is submitted to the President for assent only after it is passed by Parliament. Should either House of Parliament fail to pass it, the proposed amendment shall be submitted to the people in a referendum.