Tuesday, October 14, 2008



OCTOBER 14 2008

By Isaac Ongiri and Kepher Otieno

Leaders from Nyanza have joined calls for review of constituency boundaries, with some asking for the creation of 25 more constituencies in the province to speed up economic growth.

Members of Parliament say the province has weathered decades of State neglect, adding that the Electoral Commission of Kenya has never given adequate attention to the region in boundary reviews.

"We need an additional constituency in each of the 21 elective areas in Nyanza. That is when the Government will be seen to be fair to the people who live here," Assistant Minister Prof Ayiecho Olweny said.

But the MPs are warning that suspicious political manoeuvres should not be given room in the calls for the reviews, adding that it was important that merit and need be considered.

Calls for creation of more constituencies have been confined to Central Province so far. Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta has called for a speedy review of boundaries to ensure fair representation.

Some have seen Mr Uhuru’s call as an attempt to have the region have more MPs that would enable him or leaders from the region win the Prime Minister’s post in future.

Last week, East African Assembly legislator Otieno Karan told The Standard that Nyanza, too, deserved more constituencies.

Suffered neglect

Karan said local leaders would push for additional 25 constituencies to give the area enough representation and an opportunity to benefit from national resources.

"We have suffered neglect for long, and it is time for us to demand our own share of the national resources. I think 25 additional constituencies will be good enough," the MP said.

Karan said Nyanza Province was vast compared to other regions and was over populated, but with less representation in the National Assembly.

Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga proposed that some of the constituencies in Luo Nyanza should be split three times to allow resources to reach the people.

"We need three constituencies out of Nyatike alone. This is one of the largest constituencies in the region and it is important that it is split to spread leadership to the grassroots," he said.

But he also warned that there were those clamouring for more constituencies as a way of capturing power. He stressed that regions earlier ignored in past reviews should be given priority.

"There are people looking for other things, not fair representation. They have become so political and power hungry that they mix people’s lives with politics of their survival. That cannot be accepted," Anyanga said.

Alego Usonga’s Edwin Yinda argued that Nyanza deserved more constituencies. He said his constituency, Ugenya and Gem have more than 950,000 people all bundled in the three constituencies.

"We need new constituencies badly. If there is anything that can hinder us from getting them, it is important that we deal with that thing," Yinda said.

Shot down

He called on MPs from other regions to embrace calls for review and told off Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua, asking her not to tie the matter to the Constitutional Review.

"This is something we can not tie to the review. It is something we must do immediately even if it means amending sections of the Constitution to do it. We must not be cheeky about it," he said.

Recently, Karua said the Government would not alter the boundaries of the 210 constituencies until the constitutional review is concluded next year. Karua said she had moved a Bill last year to have the boundaries reviewed, but it was shot down by MPs as elections approached.

The minister told Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu in Parliament that despite his constituency being the most populous, it could not be split until the ECK gives the go ahead.

Calls for the review of boundaries dominated public rallies organised by some MPs during the recent break, with concerns raised that the Sh10 billion CDF was not being distributed fairly.

"The Bill was brought before the House last year and it sought to allow the review of boundaries, but it was defeated and we now have to wait for the constitutional review to provide for it," Karua said in Parliament.

Karua’s remarks has triggered protests from Nyanza leaders and put her on a collision path with the lawmakers who argue that review of constituency boundaries was vital and should not be entangled with politics.

Mr Orwa Ojode, the MP for Ndhiwa who is also the assistant minister for Internal Security and Provincial Administration, argued that the ECK was behind schedule to undertake the exercise.

"The constituencies’ boundary reviews should be undertaken every 10 years as stipulated in the Constitution and it should not be delayed any further for selfish political expediency," Ojode said.

The MP argued that ECK had done the review and was ready with a list and it was therefore pointless to wait for a new Constitution because "millions of voters" were yearning for better services.

Acid innuendo

ECK proposed the creation of 60 additional constituencies in the fresh boundary review concluded last year.

Gwassi MP John Mbadi and his Migori counterpart Mr John Pesa echoed Ojode’s sentiments and vouched for new constituencies to ensure effective service delivery to the people.

Mr Mbadi told off Karua, saying she should not dictate to Kenyans on virtually everything, even what was clearly spelt out in law.

The legislators lashed out at the minister saying she responded to the pronouncements with "an acid innuendo" without weighing the pros and cons.

Rising costs

"It is high time Justice minister stopped squeezing milk out of a stone by making outrageous proposals which won’t work," Mbadi said.

"Who knows whether a new Constitution will be enacted or not going by the dissenting voices among leaders," he said.

Constituency boundaries were last re-drawn in 1997, but a spirited effort by the ECK team led by Chairman Samuel Kivuitu to have the exercise done before the last General Election hit a snag.

The law requires that Parliament vets and votes for new boundaries after every 10 years after receiving recommendations from ECK on constituencies deemed viable to be split.