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MPs divided over Bill as lobbying steps up



Lobbying for and against the proposed Two-Thirds Gender Bill has gained momentum ahead of Wednesday’s sitting when MPs are expected to cast their votes.

Both President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party and the Raila Odinga-led Nasa coalition are expected to separately hold Parliamentary Group meetings to rally their MPs to support the bill.

The bill requires a two-thirds majority, or 233 of the 349 MPs in the National Assembly, to amend Article 97 of the Constitution and pave way for additional nomination slots for women other than the current 12.

Jubilee has 140 MPs followed by ODM with 62.

Currently, there are 76 women in the National Assembly — 23 elected MPs, 47 woman representatives and six nominated MPs. The Senate has 21 women senators who include 19 nominated and three elected members. The National Assembly has 349 members while the Senate has 67.

Across the political divide are both male and female MPs who do not support the bill which they have described as “designed to benefit political party bosses”.

Some are under pressure from their constituents to reject the bill on grounds it will increase the wage bill. Others argue that women who are already in positions of leadership have done little to justify the need for extra free seats for women.

Despite frantic efforts by the top leadership of political parties including Uhuru, Deputy President William Ruto, Nasa leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi uncertainty still clouds the mood in Parliament.

Read: Uhuru urges MPs to pass the two-thirds gender Bill tomorrow

“Some are just supporting it on the floor of the House, including me, but in reality when these people meet they act opposite. Some women MPs are also unhappy with lobbying,” said one MP who spoke to the Star anonymously yesterday.

But will the MPs defy their party leaders? During the vote on the controversial Finance Bill which was supported by both Uhuru, Ruto and Raila, MPs from across the board had promised to defeat the pressure from their leaders but eventually caved in.

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita said he will vote against the bill because women are the majority of voters and therefore should be able to get many women in political positions.

“We need to encourage women to be politically aggressive without putting the burden on tax payers by ensuring they use their numbers in voting,” Nyamita said.

Buret MP Japheth Mutai expressed pessimism that the gender rule which has failed more than two times in the previous Parliament will succeed this time.

The MP who sits in the Justice and Legal Affairs committee said the mood of the majority of the legislators is not for creation of more positions due to the hard economic times. He said it will be a difficult task to pass the amendment.

Mutai, a former Speaker of Kericho county assembly, observed that the country is going through difficult economic times due to the already bloated wage bill and it would be insensitive to add more positions when Kenyans are in fact calling for scrapping of existing ones.

“My constituents have already told me they want services aimed at transforming their lives but not creation of more leadership positions that will increase the wage bill. So I am with my people,” the MP said.

He called on female MPs and those in leadership positions to sensitive their fellow women to fight for the leadership positions but not to wait to be given on silver platter.

Read: Two-Thirds Gender Bill will bring lazy slay queens to Parliament – Didmus Barasa

“It is high time women in leadership positions embark on a serious women sensitization programmes among their fellow women at the grassroots so that they back those seeking leadership positions. I am sure this will ensure more women are elected to serve in various elective posts and address the gender parity we have been having as a country,” said the MP.

Kimilili MP Didmus Barasa insisted that the bill is open to manipulation by party leaders as the proposed law does not have a formula for filling the slots.

“There should be clear guidelines on this because as we know such loopholes will be manipulated by those who own the parties,” he said.

His attempt to raise amendments to the bill were shot down last week by Speaker Justin Muturi who said it was impractical as all constitutional proposals must be subjected to public participation and the 90-day period in the constitution.

Proponents of the Bill insist that creation of the slots is crucial to achieve the Constitutional requirement, which is not applicable to women but both genders, and men too could be beneficiaries.

Suna West MP Peter Masara said he will vote for the bill come Wednesday.

“It is madness for society to shun women by rejecting the bill. We need to support women for what they have done to society and the economy,” he said.

Nominated MP Wilson Sossion said he supports the bill.

Sossion told the Star that “gender equality is a global agenda that Kenya cannot be left out.”

“Even in education, we need role models. They are needed at all levels. We have met the two-third gender rule at the Kenya National Union of Teachers,” he said.

The KNUT Secretary General challenged Members of Parliament to be “progressive and vote for the bill,” adding that there should be strong guidelines to parties with minimum standards on how they should nominate women.

Sossion said the nominations should reflect the mosaic of the nation.

“More women from trade unions, those living with disability and youth should be nominated through the same process. With criteria, the narrative of slay queens will not arise,” he noted.

See: Day of reckoning as more MPs oppose two-thirds gender Bill

Kibwezi East MP Jessica Mbalu said despite being a woman who has been elected twice, more women should be given a chance through nominations.

“We don’t want our colleagues to look away as women can be elected despite the nominations on the bill,” Mbalo said.

Former nominated Senator Daisy Nyongesa urged male members of Parliament to attend the House and participate in the gender debate.

Nyongesa who represented the youth in the last Senate said MPs are known for their tactics of leaving the House when voting is about to start or excusing themselves on the voting day.

“We know their tactics of taking advantage of quorum to deny women their rights. This time round we are going to observe you,” she said.

Meanwhile the Independent Candidates Caucus has vowed to challenge the bill in court if it is passed.

Chairperson Stephen Owoko said the bill does not provide slots for independent candidates hence in sharing out the slots, hence it is discriminatory.

“We are heading to court when this bill passes. We need a bill that does not discriminate against some people,” he told the Star.

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