CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

House must agree on referendum law

Parliament at crossroads with two legislative proposals on the referendum.

In Summary
  • There’s a need for consensus on how the process will move forward with the interests of the nation at the centre.
  • While both views are sound, we must not forget why the BBI process came to be and what it is meant to achieve.

With the BBI report now concluded, all Kenyans will be looking to Parliament for guidance on the way forward. Parliament must therefore set in place the key laws needed for the implementation of the BBI.

But as it stands today, Parliament can be said to be at crossroads with two legislative proposals on the referendum that are set to derail the process. There is a need for consensus on how the process will move forward with the interests of the nation at the centre of everything.

There is a Bill by the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee, which is proposing a referendum in 2022 alongside the general election. A similar Bill sponsored by the Justice and Legal Affairs committee proposes that a referendum be held within 90 days after passage of the proposed law.

 

The two proposals have already divided Parliament, with MPs who majorly have been supporters of the BBI process supporting the Bill by JLAC. The proposal aims at ensure that the envisioned changes are in place before the next election and Kenya has enough time to implement them.

There are a good number of Kenyans who are supportive of this proposal, as they want to see changes that will help achieve the handshake agenda. Making changes now will help the country go into the election with a clear direction on how not only elections will be managed but how the country’s leadership will shape up.

Those who have expressed reservations on the BBI are supporting the CIOC Bill. While they have a right to raise concerns about the BBI process, they must also be conscious to the time needed to implement the changes – some touching on how the election is managed.

It should also not be lost to Kenyans that the supporters of the CIOC Bill raise a key concern about having a referendum just close to the elections. It would not be wise to put the country on a campaign mode early and in the middle of a pandemic.

While both views are sound, we must not forget why the BBI process came to be and what it is meant to achieve. The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga arose from the disputes arising from the last elections.

It is therefore important that MPs bear in mind that the process is aimed at ensuring that we do not have similar disputes in future. As history shows, such disputes result in loss of lives and destruction of property.

Kenyans do not want to go back to such elections and therefore there is need to implement changes before the 2022 polls. Kenyans are also yearning for a streamlined constitution that can prioritise development, reduce waste, make leaders more accountable and streamline service delivery.

 

Members of Parliament must therefore reach a consensus on the best way forward, and how to execute the recommendations in the BBI while ensuring that the spirit of what was proposed is not lost during its execution.

The BBI process is critical to the country’s future as it sets the stage for critical changes that we need in our governance. It is therefore important that this process is protected from narrow selfish political interests.

MPs have in the past come to a consensus, especially when they want something in their interests passed. It is time they rose to the occasion and put the interests of Kenyans first and built consensus on this particular matter.

There must be a point at which the two ideas must converge and make a clear proposal for the country on the implementation of the BBI report. We must therefore push our MPs to do the right thing for the country.