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TWO-THIRDS GENDER RULE

BBI gender plan: Counties to pick 47 women senators

The idea is to achieve gender parity in Parliament without passing extra burden to taxpayers.

In Summary

• County share of revenue to increase from 15 to 35 per cent of last audited accounts.

• President banking on cohesive nation and political stability to create environment for investment.

Women legislators protest outside parliament on June 13, 2019.
Women legislators protest outside parliament on June 13, 2019.
Image: EZEKIEL AMING'A

Kenyans will vote for 94 senators in the 2022 General Election to cure the two-thirds gender rule headache, according to sources privy to the Building Bridges Initiative proposals.

In the yet to be released report, the Senate will be composed of one man and one woman elected in each of the 47 counties.

Chief Justice David Maraga has advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament for failing to implement the two-thirds gender law. The matter is pending in court.

 
 
 
 

Insiders say the proposed Senate composition is geared towards solving the gender equation as it affects the entire Parliament, not just the National Assembly.

The BBI reportedly proposes mixed representation in the National Assembly where 290 MPs will be elected on first-past-the-post basis.

An additional 63 seats will be allocated based on actual votes cast per county, thereby increasing National Assembly members to 353.

This means the more people will vote in an election, the higher the chances that they will get the seats allocated to their county.

“It will be based on party lists. People will be voting for parties. Those with the party that has got more votes in terms of the vote for MCAs all the way to the President in a county will get the allocated seats. This will help us realise gender representation in Parliament,” a source said.

The composition of the Judicial Service Commission, according to the insider, is also set to change in the validated report’s recommendations on Judiciary reforms.

The county share of revenue may increase to 35 per cent of the last audited accounts of the national government.

 
 
 
 

“The document is modelled around the draft BBI report. There are likely to be some more proposals under the theme of shared prosperity,” the source said.

The draft BBI report proposed the establishment of an ethics commission domiciled under the Office of the President to entrench a new national ethos.

It also proposed an expanded Executive to include the post of prime minister appointed by the President from the majority party and two deputies.

The task force recommended that the President would name Cabinet ministers in consultation with the PM, drawn from Parliament and technocrats, to be ex-officio MPs.

Also in the first report was a position of Minister of State to be appointed from among MPs – but with no extra salary.

The runner-up in the presidential election was recommended to be named ex-officio MP and Leader of Official Opposition.

There were also recommendations for an overhaul of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.

President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga are expected to receive the validated BBI report from the Garissa Senator Yusuf Haji-led task force in a date yet to be announced.

The government says the BBI process would handle the gender question in Parliament.

The Public Service, Youth, and Gender ministry, citing Maraga’s recent advisory to the President, said it was banking on the BBI process to provide a solution.

Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia told the Star they hope the initiative will articulate how the gender principle will be achieved.

“Women of Kenya will support BBI if the gender question is solved. We are looking forward to fulfilling that delayed constitutional requirement of inclusion,” she said.

In the 2017 elections, women won a paltry eight per cent of the 290 constituency seats, excluding the 47 special county seats.

Documents exclusively obtained by the Star show that Kenyan women leaders are keen on the proportional representation electoral system.

Borrowing from the practice in South Africa, they sought that this be achieved with a zebra list of male and female MPs.

The proposal was for the party list to adopt a zebra pattern alternating male and female names on the list.

To achieve the two-thirds gender rule in the National Assembly, they proposed that such seats should be reserved for women in the first instance.

A referendum to implement some of the BBI proposals is expected to be held early next year, government sources indicated on Sunday.

Even as the BBI momentum grows by the day, hurdles still stand on President Kenyatta’s way in his bid to seal his legacy through the unity process.

The country’s economy is in crisis; Covid-19 numbers are on an upward trajectory as well as doubts on whether the process is inclusive.

Budget books show a projected deficit of Sh1 trillion in the next financial year, portending a cash crisis to fund the plebiscite and the 2022 election.  

Whereas Raila and Uhuru appear to have struck a common chord on the BBI, Deputy President William Ruto is opposed to it.

Five activists, including economist David Ndii, are also at the High Court seeking orders to block the bid to expand the Executive.

The BBI process, meant to solidify the historic handshake between Uhuru and Raila, is now the subject of 2022 politics.

Ruto, in his tour of Lower Eastern, dismissed the BBI report, saying it is meant to create posts for politicians at the expense of mwananchi.

“We should start with giving jobs to barbers, salonists, boda boda riders, mama mboga and kiosk operators before we allocate positions at the top,” he said.

The DP said he will not join teams that are not advancing the needs of the “hustler nation”, a strong signal he will not back the BBI.

“Let them not tell us issues of prime minister. We must give youths jobs first,” Ruto said, a message that his allies have equally taken up.

President Kenyatta at the weekend sought to lay the ground for the BBI in Parliament in a meeting with House leaders.

This was a day after he chaired a Cabinet retreat where the need to bolster the country’s security ahead of the election was discussed.

National Assembly Majority leader Amos Kimunya said Parliament was ready to handle the BBI report once it is unveiled and forwarded to the House.

He said Saturday’s meeting explored having reasoned debate on how to implement the report as well as actualising the Big Four agenda.

The President reiterated his commitment to the Big Four agenda, in which lawmakers have a crucial role.

Kimunya took a swipe at Ruto, accusing him of misinforming Kenyans through his allies on key government policies.

“Let it not be mistaken that the President has lost his commitment to Big Four in favour of BBI. Our challenge is that there are people who want to be on the campaign,” the Kipipiri MP said.

“I doubt if the DP understands the Big Four. It was about empowering people at all levels through the pillars of food security, health, housing and manufacturing. He (Ruto) wants to steal the Big Four and convert it into a hustler empowerment narrative."

Kimunya dismissed claims the BBI is a two-man project, citing the effort put into it and the launch where everyone supported the initiative.

The MP said it beats logic that some quarters were discussing a report that was yet to be unveiled.

“When people say they don’t want it, they are creating an anti-BBI wave which they hope would translate to a hustler move to be hustler versus BBI.”

He also hinted that the fundamental principles derived from the nine-point agenda of the handshake are the same.

Kimunya said the BBI doesn’t sound good to the DP’s side “because we are saying you should not pit one group against the other”.

His Minority counterpart, John Mbadi, in dismissing the opposition to the process, said the BBI is not totally alien.

“This report is not new to us for someone to question why we support it. It was being fine-tuned. We already know the architecture,” the Suba South MP said.