By Joy Mdivo
A while back I wrote a blog post on an issue that is proving to be thorny. In case you missed it, read it here. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 in Article 81 introduced an interesting concept in this East African nation: Gender Parity by Law. This meant that society did not have the luxury of time in deciding to accept women as capable leaders. They did not have the option of giving women a chance and seeing them prove themselves so that they can get another chance. They were told, that from August 27th 2010 henceforth, no appointive or elective office shall be occupied by more than two thirds of the same gender. When it comes to appointed posts, achieving this is easy since the appointing authority just has to remember their mathematics class on fractions and division. However, elective posts are more tricky since they depend on the adult suffrage to make this decision, and not all of them are good mathematicians. Therefore there is need a formula to ensure that even when the public do their math, it adds up to the principle of not more than two thirds of one gender being elected. The members of the 10th parliament were so keen on consolidating their position that while they provided for mechanism to ensure this is achieved in the Senate and in the County Assemblies, they left the National Assembly open.
Chapter 8 of the Constitution establishes our Bi-Cameral House. Article 97 sets out that we shall elect 290 MPs, 47 Women, 12 Special interest nominees and the Speaker. This week a meeting between the Commissions responsible for implementing the Constitution as well as the Parliamentary Committee agreed on a "formula" that we proceed as put in the constitution, and if we fail to make the numbers, then parties should be allowed to nominate more women to make up the difference. The net result is that we have potential to have a lower House of more than 500 members. This plan was rejected by Members of Parliament in their Speaker's Kamukunji, but the stalemate remains, what do we do about this?
My suggestion to get out of this quagmire is simply this. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to scrap ALL constituencies. If we will have Wards each with a Representative in the County Assembly, the bread and butter issues of the Citizens will be dealt with closer to home in the County Assembly. Therefore the role of the Constituency is not as central as it was before. Since Governors and Senators will be seeking mandate from the whole County, so too should Members of Parliament. Each County therefore should produce one Male and one Female Member of Parliament, and we still retain the 12 special interest seats. That way, not only is the Constitutional Provision preserved, we will have a House with a total of 107 members. Not only can we better afford 107 members, as compared to 350 members the playing field will be leveled for all persons seeking elective posts, since they will have Countywide support.
Given the vast powers that the National Assembly will have, it is vital for the people going there to have the widest base possible as is with the Senators. Each Party only has to nominate one man and one woman to go on the ballot, and each stand equal chance of being elected. It is time for the Members of the 10th Parliament to wake up and smell the coffee. We did not get rid of dictatorship by the President to swap it with dictatorship by Parliament. We are not interested if some of them "lose" their seats since they are not theirs to keep, but ours to give to whom we please. Time has come for them to put Kenya ahead of their own selfish interests and make the right decision for Kenya. Let us go 50-50, one man one woman. And save us some money in the process, we need to pay the teachers, and doctors, and nurses, and lecturers and civil servants.....