Hillary Mageka @hillarymageka
Debate on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) bill continued yesterday with Senate Minority Leader James Orengo leading the push for amendments to the document before it is passed by Parliament.
Orengo maintained that the bill ought to be amended as passing it in its current form would reduce the role of Parliament to that of a mere rubberstamp.
Orengo’s hardline stand on the bill has put him on a collision course with his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party which has rallied its MPs and Senators to pass the bill in its current form.
Yesterday, the Siaya senator stood his ground even as the party appeared to crack down on Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo, who shares a similar view, by removing him from the National Assembly Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, and replacing him with Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang.
Orengo, Otiende and Nyamira senator Okong’o Omogeni have been portrayed by some ODM loyalists as the anti-BBI forces within the party.
Yesterday, Orengo received rare support from Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, who argued that the bill, in its current form, contains some proposals which undermine the current Constitution.
“The philosophy of the Handshake was born out of how to resolve fractures, quarrelsome and divisive elections in Kenya.
When you look at this amendment, it tells you of a classic case of a good job done badly,” Wetang’ula said as he tore into the Bill.
Founded on deceit
He went on: “In fact, it is a good idea derailed by competing interests. Certain things in this Bill should never have found their way there.”
“That is why I don’t agree with proponents that we cannot amend this Bill. If you read Article 257, nothing ousts the authority of Parliament to amend any bill, including a bill such as this,” he added.
In what seems to be a change of heart, the Bungoma Senator opined that the Bill is founded on deceit.
The senator took issue with the second schedule of the Bill that creates 70 constituencies, the creation of the Judiciary Ombudsman, scrapping of 47 woman representative positions in the National Assembly and creation of the Youth Commission.
“I don’t understand why we are creating a Youth Commission, we have so many laws that govern our youth.
I want to say that Kenyans must learn to understand that youth is neither a disadvantage nor a disability, it’s a transient state in human life,” he said, adding that promoters of the Bill overloaded it with extraneous matters.
“Even in creating the 70 constituencies, we go ahead to violate other provisions of the Constitution. I have not found anywhere a request by anyone Kenyan for 70 additional constituencies,” he added.
Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang’, however, differed with both Orengo and Wetang’ula, maintaining that the bill should be passed without amendments.
“I choose to be optimistic. What I see in the Bill is a glass that is half full rather than a glass that is half empty,” Kajwang’ said as he declared support for the Bill.
“It is only a fool or a stranger, who will begrudge the Handshake of its calming and cooling effect on the political temperatures of this country,” Kajwang’ added.
Tharaka Nithi Senator Kithure Kindiki noted the real intent of the bill is to expand the positions of power at the expense of citizens and to negotiate post-2022 political deals.