Emerging issues threaten BBI in a real way

April 23, 2021 - Reading Time: 2 minutes - By Acha Ouma

Emerging issues threaten BBI in a real way 

After a deadlock on whether they can amend the Bill to amend the Constitution, Parliament’s two committees scrutinizing the bid reported a farcical issue that could derail the efforts backed by the Handshake proponents. 

Up to 34 county assemblies processed an erroneous Bill, the committees of the Senate and the National Assembly said, and that could result in the development of legal complications that could kill the efforts to amend the Constitution. 

Everyone involved in the chain through which the Bill has gone pleaded their innocence, from the Building Bridges Initiative technical team to the electoral commission and the county assemblies themselves. 

If it is indeed true that the 34 county assemblies botched the BBI Bill, it would be possible for someone to challenge the legality of the entire process. This is in addition to the eroded legitimacy of the process, as it suggests that the elected representatives and their leaders did not bother to read the document before passing it. 

The revelations in Parliament have overshadowed the earlier debate, which had split the team, on whether the Bill can be amended in either the Senate or the National Assembly, which could again create a roadblock if the Bill proceeds. 

Proponents of the BBI are racing against time. 

Their target to have a referendum by June is not likely to be met. They have now set their eyes on August, as it would not be feasible to have a referendum less than 12 months to the General Election. 

If the MPs manage to steer through the current issues, the Bill’s proponents would have barely three months to get the machinery for the referendum going. 

As they work their way around that, the status quo, the relevant calm in the political situation, which often affects the economic, remains. 

Time to place their bets  

Two big decisions are around the corner. 

The first, which has been slowed down by a court case, is the appointment of the next Chief Justice, while the second is the recruitment of commissioners to fill four vacant slots at the electoral commission. 

Both decisions will be closely watched by political observers as they directly affect the next General Election. 

On the side of those who support the Handshake, the changes should extend beyond filling the current vacancies and go all the way to the top, suggesting that the chairman and the two commissioners should undergo some form of vetting. They argue that going by Wafula Chebukati’s past behavior, they can’t trust him with a referendum and then a General Election. 

In addition to the electoral commission’s present issues are the procurement wars that usually accompany procurement of election management systems, which comes with attendant issues. 

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