Nairobi, Kenya – Kenya officially launched AWEPA’s Strategic Partnership Programme with the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD), funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on 26 April at the Hotel Intercontinental in Nairobi.
The launch was attended by the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya, Hon. Justin Bedan Nyoka Muturi, who gave the keynote speech. Also present was the Majority Leader of the National Assembly, Hon. Aden Duale, as well as various representatives of about 20 political parties.
Present from AWEPA were Mr. Johan Van Hecke, Political Coordinator for Kenya, Ms. Kris Debref, Director of Bilateral Programmes and Ms. Anne Nyambura, Programme Manager.
Other attendees included the Clerk of the National Assembly of Kenya; the Chair and members of the Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD); members of various caucuses including the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA); and representatives from the Netherlands Embassy, the Office of the Majority and Minority Leaders, the Center for Parliamentary Studies and Training, the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, the Kenya Law Reform Commission, the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal, academia, CSO aligned to parliamentary and governance issues, and media houses.
The launch provided an opportunity to present the Strategic Partnership Programme, and allow participants to better understand the goals of the five-year partnership in order to encourage support and participation.
During his keynote speech, Hon. Muturi particularly welcomed the Strategic Partnership’s role in facilitating public participation in the legislative affairs of the nation, as stipulated in Article 118 part 1, a) and b) of the Constitution of Kenya.
The occasion also provided an audience for both the Speaker and the Majority Leader of the National Assembly to champion the two-thirds gender rule, Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) (No. 4) Bill of 2015. The launch took place only two days before this bill went through a second reading in Parliament on 28 April 2016.
Following the event, AWEPA was involved in facilitating an interparty dialogue among parliamentarians on the topic of the bill. Present was the Chair of KEWOPA, Hon. Cecily Mbarire, who facilitated the meeting.
Unfortunately, the bill did not garner the right number of votes on 28 April. The Speaker ruled on the vote and provided for a second vote on 5 May 2016.
AWEPA will continue to push for gender equity through the Strategic Partnership through support for the KEWOPA County Chapters in 22 of the country’s counties.
Background info: The two-thirds gender rule
In Article 81 (b), which refers to the general principles of Kenya’s electoral system, the Constitution of Kenya states ‘the electoral system shall comply with the following principle – (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.’
Article 27 goes further to obligate the Government to develop and pass policies and laws, including affirmative action programmes and policies to address the past discrimination that women have faced. The Government is required to develop policies and laws to ensure that not more than two-thirds of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same sex.
Despite Article 177 ensuring that Articles 81(b) and 27 (8) of the Constitution are complied with at the County level through the nomination of special seat members, the same is not guaranteed at the National Assembly and the Senate.
The operationalisation of the gender bill, if passed, will commence after the 2017 elections. The bill is necessary to avoid a constitutional crisis after 2017 if one gender exceeds the two-thirds gender limit. This particular legislation has a timeline set by the Supreme Court, and the Parliament is therefore under obligation to have a framework on the realisation of the two-thirds gender rule by 27 August 2015.
Parliament voted to extend the deadline by one year. This explains the urgency and criticality of the bill as Parliament goes on recess on 5 May and therefore has less than 120 days to the deadline of 27 August. The bill is yet to go to the 3rd reading before it is passed to the Senate.