Word from DP Ruto’s hideout is that he was surprised with publishing of the Referendum Bill 2020 in the Kenya Gazette, this officially kicks off the process for a referendum that is expected to be held in 2021 to mainly change the governance structure just on time before 2020.
Here below Frendrick Okengo breaks down what the Bill is all about.
THE REFERENDUM BILL, 2020
Yesterday in the Gazette Notice Supplement no .71 under the
National Assembly bills, 2020 was published Referendum bill 2020
This has elicited all sorts of reactions from Kenyans, with some people alleging that the referendum is coming and this is the BBI referendum Bill. The answer is a BIG NO.
Let me take you through a fact sheet of how LAWS are made in Kenya, but before that let us remember that we currently dont have a referendum law.
Referendum Law is necessary so that it can address any procedural issues that would arise from referendum processes.
The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 only provides for two routes of amending the constitution; Parliamentary initiative in Article 256 or Popular initiative in Article 257. In other enabling laws or statutes, Election Act only touches on the referenda arising from a parliamentary initiative with very little on the procedure of a popular initiative.
Both the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and the Elections Act do not address major issues that would arise from a popular initiative, for example in the event of several popular initiatives with conflicting proposals presented to IEBC at the same time or several popular initiatives with competing propositions.
We have seen before Punguza Mizigo,Ugatuzi and now BBI. What would happen if IEBC was to approve all of them to proceed to the County Assemblies as per Article 257?
The popular initiative provisions in Article 257 are limited, it only says that if a popular initiative bill is approved by majority of the County Assemblies then it shall be subjected to a referendum organized by IEBC. It doesn’t give the approval limits by the County Assemblies and leaves no room for any amendment of the Bill if need be.
Additionally, Article 257 does not give timelines for the approval of a popular initiative Bill by Parliament once it is approved by majority of the County Assemblies and introduced in parliament.This means that parliament can decide to sit on it for several months depending on politics of the day.
The other challenges are how to approve the referendum question(s) and how to petition the conduct, results and validity of the referendum in popular initiative.
These are the challenges that we face today with the Constitution amendment through a popular initiative and therefore, there has been an urgent need for Parliament to pass a referendum law that will address all these challenges.
In that regard, IEBC shared with the relevant house Committee of the National Assembly; Justice and Legal Affairs Committee a Referendum Bill 2020 in 2019.This was meant to start the process of making a LAW that would prevent a referendum process from hitting a brick wall should any of the popular initiatives go through and end up in a popular vote at the referendum.
How Laws Are Made (National Assembly, 2017)
1. The Bill originates from Parliamentary party, Executive, individual member or a Committee of the house ( in this case JLAC)
2.The legislative proposal called a Bill through its sponsor is then introduced by a member of the Committee of the house by submitting it to the speaker.
3.The Bill is then processed depending whether it is a money Bill or Non Money Bill ( in this case the Referendum Bill 2020 is a Non- Money Bill) and the speaker approves its publication into a Bill.
4.Upon Publication the Bill follows the stages of 1st, 2nd,Committee stage, Report stage, Third Reading and finally Presidential Asssent.
5. If the president assents to a bill then it now becomes a law called an Act of Parliament.
6. Under The Constitution of Kenya, 2010 a Bill passed by Parliament and assented to by the President shall be published in the Gazette as an Act of Parliament within seven days after assent.
7. The Act of Parliament then comes into force on the fourteenth day after its publication in the Gazette.
That is the procedure and it is important to note that the Gazetted Referendum Bill, 2020 did follow that process.
Be ready for a referendum. It is coming.
Fredrick T. Okango
Thirdway Alliance Kenya