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Kenya’s national assembly Speaker didn’t say he would not approve bills coming out of unity report

A Facebook post claims Kenya’s national assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said he would not grant his approval for any bills resulting from a report of a taskforce set up to promote unity, stability and prosperity in the country.

The Building Bridges Initiative, or BBI, came out of the reconciliation between president Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga after the disputed 2017 elections. Odinga had controversially declared himself “the people’s president”.

The post reads: “I will not approve any BBI bill to be discussed in Parliament, wacha ikae na iamuliwe na wananchi huko’- Speaker Justin Muturi.” The Kiswahili translates as: “Let it stay (wherever it is), and let the people make their decision on it.”

But did the Speaker really say that any proposed new law arising from the report would not get his approval for parliamentary discussion? We checked.

Original video

We tracked the claim to a video on Kenya’s NTV channel in which Muturi discusses report. 

He says: “Ripoti ambayo imetoka kwa wazee, hiyo it belongs there. It has no way of coming to parliament. Wacha ikae pahali iko. Si unajua kuja Bunge … I must approve. Sasa, kama mimi nimeshawaambia haina njia, si mambo...” He throws his hands up. “Kwa hivyo ikae huko hiyo, na watu waendelee kuisoma, na kuichambua na wandelee kuangalia ni nini kizuri …” the Speaker said.

This translates as: “The report that has come from the elders belongs there. It has no way of coming to parliament. Let it stay where it is. You know, for it to come to parliament ... I must approve. Now, if I have told you that it has no way of coming to parliament, then it follows that things are…” He throws his hands up. “Therefore, let it stay where it is, let people continue to read and vet it, to see the good things in it.”

Muturi’s explanation

After the video was interpreted as a blow to one side in the political tussle between Kenya’s deputy president and his allies on one side, and the president and the opposition leader on the other, the Speaker came out to explain what he meant.

He said the report was too “embryonic” to be considered a “legislative document”.

“As it is now, even if there are those proposals in the report, they have not been reduced into anything that one can talk about legislation,” Muturi said.

“For anybody to start arguing that it can be brought to Parliament … How? What is it coming to do at parliament? Is it a white paper, is it a government policy document?”

House rules

Parliamentary standing orders only allow sessional papers, bills, petitions, reports of parliamentary committees, while Kenya’s constitution is prescriptive on the documents that the president can submit to parliament during his annual address.

We have seen no evidence that Muturi said he would not approve any bills arising from the BBI report. He was explicit that the report had to be reduced to a document prescribed by the parliamentary standing orders before parliamentarians could act on it.

The claim in the Facebook post that he “will not approve any BBI bill” is therefore incorrect. – Grace Gichuhi


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