MONEY AND POWER

Scramble for 70 lucrative constituencies

Already leaders drawn from around the country are pushing to revisit the model adopted by the BBI experts to distribute the seats

In Summary
  • Leaders want Nairobi to cede some constituencies to rural counties.
  • Constituencies are the focal points for resource allocation and government hiring.
President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga lead Kenyans in collection of signatures for the BBI process during the launch at KICC on November 25.
SIGNATURE LAUNCH: President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga lead Kenyans in collection of signatures for the BBI process during the launch at KICC on November 25.
Image: PSCU

The distribution of the 70 additional parliamentary seats proposed by the BBI is turning into a major issue threatening public acceptance of the document.

Already leaders from different parts of the country are pushing to revisit the model adopted by the BBI experts to distribute the seats, as claims of raw deal rock some areas.

He or she who controls constituencies through parliamentary seats  has power and money and can grant and call in favours. 

 
 

Kenya has 290 constituencies.

But submission of BBI signatures to the IEBC means the document won't be revisited. All they can do is seethe.

The constituency unit has become a key point for resource distribution and employment opportunities.

Absorption into the police, the Defence Forces and prisons, among others, are all conducted within the constituency. Social protection funds, such as the cash transfer programme for the elderly, are channelled through constituencies. 

Every constituency is also assured of more than Sh100 million through the National Government Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF).

For these reasons, the scramble for additional constituencies has become a matter of political life and death for various political kingpins.

Leading the call for redistribution of the 70 additional seats is Wiper boss Kalonzo Musyoka, who still wants Nairobi to cede some of its 12 seats to other regions.

 
 

He said the distribution formula was arbitrary as it was not anchored on any formula.

 

The former Vice President is lobbying for Kitui county which he said got a raw deal in the distribution model adopted by BBI experts.

Nairobi emerged the major beneficiary, bagging 12 of the 70 constituencies to be created should BBI be approved.

“In the extra 70 constituency there isn’t any scientific formula used. For example, in the Lower Eastern counties, Machakos is supposed to get three extra seats and Makueni one while Kitui gets nothing.

Kitui is the size of Rwanda. In terms of population, Machakos has 1.4 million people and Kitui 1.3 million, so what scientific formula is used," Kalonzo asked.

“Personally, I think Nairobi that is supposed to get 12 can very easily share some. Look at the schedule and get Kitui one.”

Also discontented are Wajir South leaders who have appealed to President Uhuru Kenyatta to consider splitting the constituency, which is both populated and vast.

Wajir South MP Mohamud Sheikh and ex-Wajir Senator Abdirahman Hassan argue that Wajir, which covers  5.68 million acres and has more than 300,000 people, deserves an additional two seats.

He said its size of 23,000 square kilometres is equivalent to that of Nairobi and Western combined.

“We are a bit disappointed in the manner in which the 70 (parliamentary) seats have been distributed across the country," Hassan said.

ODM leader Raila Odinga whose leader is the face of the law change initiative is also unhappy with the distribution formula and is – behind the scenes – recommending consideration of constituency as a key electoral area and basis of representation.

The drafters of the BBI Bill considered county population as the basis of dishing out the constituencies. The Orange Party claims this was an error. Instead, they want constituencies population to carry the day in any allocation formula.

In ODM proposal, the current formula has denied Homa Bay county two constituencies. It says there should be an additional constituency in Nyeri, Nyandarua, Wajir and Marsabit.

Under the ODM proposal, Kilifi would lose one of four allocated constituencies. Machakos that got three would lose one to Kitui.

ODM also proposes only eight additional constituencies for Nairobi instead of 12.

"Nairobi was to be left with eight additional constituencies noting that some of the constituencies, though very highly populated, are very small in size and thus cannot be delimited or divided more than once," ODM argues. 

But Nairobi ODM chairman and Makadara MP George Aladwa told the Star they will resist any attempts to take any seat from the 12 given in the BBI draft.

Aladwa - who alongside nominated MP Maina Kamanda co-chairs the BBI team in Nairobi - added that population in the city is very large, 4.7 million.

“Initially, we wanted Nairobi to have 16 additional constituencies. We are not happy with the way it has been reduced to 12 and we will not entetain any further reduction," Aladwa said on the phone.

Nominated MP Godfrey Osotsi, all the 47 counties should get one seat each and the remaining 23 be given seats on the basis of population "in the spirit of equitable sharing".

The lawmaker is also opposed to Nairobi getting additional constituencies, saying the county is small and giving it 12 more seats will result in very small constituencies.

“I don’t think Nairobi deserves additional constituencies, though they argue it is overpopulated. They should have considered the geographical size,” he said.

He added, “They must consider that Nairobi is a capital city and a county at the same time.”

In the BBI proposal, Nairobi got the major share of the additional seats, 12. It now has 17 constituencies and will have 29 if the referendum is passed.

Kiambu and Nakuru counties followed with  six and five constituencies respectively.

Kilifi will receive four more seats while Mombasa, Kwale, Machakos, Narok, Kajiado, Uasin Gishu and Bungoma counties will get three constituencies each.

Meru, Trans Nzoia, Bomet, Kakamega and Kisumu counties will get two additional counties.

Mandera, Embu, Makueni, Kirinyaga, Murang’a,  Turkana, West Pokot, Nandi, Laikipia, Kericho, Siaya and Nyamira counties each received a constituency.