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Carter Centre urges Kenya to act on two-thirds rule

Friday March 08 2019
By KEVIN J. KELLEY

NEW YORK,

Kenyan legislators have failed to respect constitutional and Supreme Court mandates to ensure gender equality in the National Assembly, a US-based NGO said in a legal brief issued in the run-up to International Women's Day on March 8.

The Carter Centre, an election monitoring group founded by former US President Jimmy Carter, urged lawmakers to pass enabling legislation required by Kenya’s Constitution.

The NGO also called on the Office of Registrar of Political Parties to enforce compliance with Article 27(8) of Kenya's 2010 Constitution.

That provision stipulates that no more than two-thirds of members elected or appointed by public bodies shall be of the same gender.

Kenya's Supreme Court affirmed that requirement in 2012, ruling that the National Assembly should enact legislation to implement the gender rule within five years of the Constitution's adoption.

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Failure to act, the Supreme Court said subsequently, violates the Constitution's guarantee of the rights of women to equality and freedom from discrimination.

“The court signaled a real possibility that the Parliament could be dissolved on this basis,” the Carter Centre's legal brief recounts.

“The assembly has failed repeatedly to meet the court's direction,” the brief adds.

It notes that a bill to enforce the two-thirds rule was re-introduced last month but the National Assembly did not achieve a quorum to hold a vote on the measure.

If the assembly does pass the pending legislation, the gender rule could not be enforced until the next General Election which is scheduled for 2022.

In the 2017 election, women won 23 of the 290 National Assembly seats elected directly by voters. Another 47 women were elected on county-level women's lists, while six more were nominated by political parties represented in the assembly.

The total of 76 female parliamentarians falls 41 short of the number needed to satisfy the gender rule.

In the Senate, three women were elected, 16 were nominated by the political parties, one was nominated to represent youth and another to represent persons with disabilities, bringing the total to 21. This fell short of meeting the one-third gender quota by two female members.

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