Kenya: BBI Hurdle – Why a June or July referendum is unlikely

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The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) faces a chronological nightmare even as its supporters insist a referendum is still possible by July.

According to the timetable, Parliament should have done without the bill by today at the latest before it went to a referendum on or before June 6.

However, Parliament has taken a month-long hiatus and has yet to complete the Joint Committee’s report which will then be considered by the House – making the June 6 deadline very unlikely.

Even a July referendum can be unlikely given the current political gerrymandering and alliance building as well as Kenya’s dire financial situation.

But even if, by some miracle, the BBI team were to secure a referendum by July or August, the team will have to overcome monumental legal and temporal issues raised by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Read: BBI in limbo as Covid-19 wreaks havoc on its schedule

Two weeks ago, the commission threw a wrench into the work on the length of time it would take them to create the 70 new ridings proposed.

While the BBI team says constituencies should be created six months after the document was adopted, the IEBC says the time is far too short, citing previous boundary reviews that have lasted up to two years.

Public hearings

The IEBC talks about the need for public hearings, report preparation, dispute resolution and re-registration of voters in the new constituencies, as the agency prepares for the 2022 general election.

As part of the 2010 boundary review, the then Independent Interim Boundary Review Board conducted the first round of data collection and public hearings from May 2009 to November 2010, the IEBC assuming the role of the second round of hearings from January to March 2012.

Read: IEBC hints at 2024 date for constituency boundary review

“The committee is of the opinion that the six-month period provided for in the transition clause for the exercise to be completed is not adequate given past experience and practice,” said the chairman. from IEBC, Wafula Chebukati, two weeks ago.

Besides the timeline, there are also questions as to whether the BBI team erred in assigning the proposed 70 ridings to different counties based on population.

In the proposed constituencies, Nairobi County will take the lion’s share at 12, Kiambu (6), Nakuru (5), Kilifi (4), with Mombasa, Kwale, Machakos, Uasin Gishu, Narok, Kajiado and Bungoma by obtaining three each. Meru, Trans Nzoia, Bomet, Kakamega, Kisumu will have two each.

The entire Nyanza region of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii and Nyamira only had four more constituencies, Kisumu getting two and Siaya and Nyamira one each. Mandera, Embu, Makueni, Kirinyaga, Murang’a, Turkana, Nandi, Laikipia and Kericho will each receive one additional constituency.

Mr Chebukati argues that it is the commission’s sole responsibility to determine the constituency boundaries and that the role of the BBI should have ended only by suggesting the number to be created and not specifying which counties should get what.

These are some of the questions on which deliberates a joint committee of Parliament – made up of the National Assembly and Senate teams dealing with justice and legal affairs – and which had until April 1 to submit a report, deadline which they did not respect.

The Nation understands that the joint committee decided to table the report on May 4 when Parliament resumed.

“The two main ones agreed that there were no amendments to the document. This is our position,” said committee co-chair Muturi Kigano, rejecting the possibility of Parliament reopening the document as it had been. suggested.

Read: Raila ally wants House recalled to enact BBI bill

Last week Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo said that as soon as the committee finished its report, Parliament could be called back for a special sitting to approve the document, saving time.

“With the BBI bill as it stands, a referendum is inevitable. The question is when. In our previous projection, we had it in June. I still believe it can be done d ‘here July,’ Dr Amollo said.

Senator Nandi Samson Cherargei, allied to Vice President William Ruto, warned: “They must be careful because beyond August of this year, I think it would be too late because then it will only take more than ‘one year before the elections. “

The committee had engaged Professor Patricia Kameri-Mbote and Dr Collins Odote, among others, to guide them on the questions raised about Parliament’s role in the process and whether or not the two houses could reopen the document. for any edition after public participation.

But even if everything went according to plan, there is still the money problem facing the BBI. While the IEBC says a referendum will cost up to 14 billion shillings, ODM chief Raila Odinga has suggested 2 billion shillings.

With the warning from the International Monetary Fund that it will not allow its Covid-19 loans to be used in political processes, the BBI team will have another mountain to climb in terms of finances. The parliamentary budget office has forecast that it will cost 361 billion shillings to implement the BBI bill once it is passed.

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