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All eyes on President Kenyatta as Senate passes BBI Bill

President Uhuru Kenyatta during a past function at the State House in Nairobi.

Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Kenneth Lusaka (Senate) will submit the Bill to the President for assent as detailed in Article 257 of the Constitution. All eyes are now on President Uhuru Kenyatta as senators on Tuesday joined their colleagues in the National Assembly in approving the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The move means that Speakers Justin Muturi (National Assembly) and Kenneth Lusaka (Senate) will submit the Bill to the President for assent as detailed in Article 257 of the Constitution, which details procedures of amending the Constitution through a popular initiative. Having styled it as his legacy project, the President now holds the key on the date of the referendum.

 

Article 256 (5) provides that before assenting to the Bill, the President will have to request the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to conduct a referendum within three months.

The time will start running the moment he receives the Bill and forwards it to the electoral commission. Moving fast and transmitting the Bill to the commission as soon as he gets it will indicate the President’s support and could determine how soon the country will go to a referendum.

A total of 65 senators voted in all the three stages – second reading, amendments stage (Committee of the Whole) and the third reading. In the second reading, 52 senators voted in support of the Bill while 12 opposed and one – Mary Seneta – abstained in all the three stages. In the final two stages, 51 senators voted for, 11 against.

And for the umpteenth time, Deputy President William Ruto and his Hustler Movement were left leaking their wounds as they fell short of shooting down the Bill, as umbilical cord of President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, proved too strong. It was a double tragedy for the Tangatanga senators as they soon found themselves on the back heel after the vote on the second reading.

Soon after the vote, it dawned on them that they had lost one of their own after the Speaker implemented the decision of the Political Parties Tribunal which upheld the expulsion of Nominated senator Isaac Mwaura as a member of Jubilee party.

Senators Aaron Cheruiyot, Kipchumba Murkopmen, Susan Kihika, Irungu Kangata, Kithure Kindiki, all dyed-in-the-wool supporters of the DP railed at the Speaker, accusing him of taking the decision to remove Mr Mwaura even though the senator had a preexisting court order.

 

Mr Mwaura had attended the morning session and even voted in support of the Bill during the second reading. But tables were turned when at the resumption of the debate on the Bill during the afternoon session.

Tangatanga Mps raised questions on the validity of his vote because the notice in the Kenya Gazette indicated that the senator ceased being a lawmaker on May 7, four days earlier.

The Ruto group also claimed Mr Mwaura had a preexisting court order which stayed the findings of the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal. which upheld Jubilee’s decision to expel him.

The party, which is divided between the forces that support President Kenyatta and DP Ruto, has accused the senator of violating the party’s constitution and membership oath by describing it as a dead party and shifting loyalty to the United Democratic Alliance.

What happened

Mr Mwaura’s troubles started in December last year, following his remarks against President Kenyatta in Kwale, during Msambweni MP Feisal Bader’s homecoming ceremony.

He was among the other six senators who had been kicked out by the party’s top organ NMC over indiscipline. He honoured the summons by the party for disciplinary proceedings, which ended with an expulsion recommendation by the National Management Committee (NMC).

The Party’s national chair Nelson Dzuya complained he had the senator had been disloyal after he pledged allegiance United to Democratic Alliance, a party associated with Dr Ruto.’

Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki described the action as a travesty of justice and urged Mr Lusaka to reconsider the move. Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen accused the Speaker of disregarding a court order and threatening democracy.

 

“I can confirm that I had not seen or disregarded any court order by the time I came here,” Mr Lusaka said in his defense amid further accusations of acting at the behest of powerful people outside the Senate.

“I will [present] all documents related to the notice in the Kenya Gazette on Tuesday next week.” It took the experience of minority leader James Orengo and Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula to save the Speaker’s blushes.

While defending Mr Mwaura, Mr Orengo reminded the House that the role of the Speaker ended with the publication of the notice in the Kenya Gazette and that he had no powers to overturn the decision.

“Your role has ended and there is nothing else you can do. You can’t recall your decision in this instance,” he said, while advising Mr Mwaura to seek redress at the High Court. – nation.co.ke