There was an uproar yesterday following an announcement by the electoral agency that the upcoming review of boundaries could lead to the merging, reduction or increase in the sizes of 27 constituencies.
Though it will not change the number of the constituencies, which must remain 290 unless Kenyans change it in a referendum, the review of boundaries — almost a year and a half away — is already causing political ripples with those affected demanding that it be shelved.
Others who spoke to the Saturday Nation said some constituencies were created to address issues of marginalisation in counties with minority groups, and reversing that, they argue, will deny the people in those constituencies the right to representation.
Boundary reviews are usually very emotive issues, with sometimes almost instant political ramifications.
Some current members of parliament who had battled for ages with old, more experienced politicians got a lifeline after the review of boundaries in 2012 created a constituency where they could thrive without the shadow of the older, more-moneyed MP.
On Friday, MPs from constituencies, which will be affected by the review were asking residents to show up in large numbers for the national census — an important exercise that will inform whether or not the 27 have met the population quota required to remain a constituency.
In Taita Taveta County, for example, all the four constituencies of Voi, Taveta, Wundanyi, and Mwatate are on the radar as they did not meet the quota, and with 155,000 voters, the county can only make a single constituency.
“I call upon all our brothers and sisters who relate with Budalang’i to return home ahead of the census. I understand we have residents who were forced out of Budalang’i by floods and bought land elsewhere while some are in diaspora. This is the time to stand out and be counted,” Budalang’i MP Raphael Wanjala said.
In Mukurweini, MP Gathiaka Kiai said “each constituency in our region must maintain its identity”, and that there will be a “total resistance” if they change the boundaries.
“We are telling people to participate in the census and be counted back at rural areas. This will ensure the government resources are rewarded according to the number of residents,” said Mr Kiai.
30 PER CENT
The census will be done on March 24 and 25, next year, after which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will then review the population quota.
The population of a constituency must be greater or lesser than the quota — arrived at by dividing Kenya’s total population with the 290 constituencies — by 40 per cent for cities, and 30 per cent for rural areas.
During the last boundaries review, the population quota was set at 133,138 for rural areas and 186,393 for constituencies in cities of Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.
In central Kenya, those that risk of being scrapped are Kangema, Ndaragwa, Mathioya, Tetu, Mukurweini, and Othaya.
Other constituencies on the IEBC’s radar are Lamu East, Lamu West, Mvita, Mwatate, Taveta, Wundanyi, Voi, Bura, Galole, at the Coast, and Samburu East, Marakwet East, Mogotio, and Keiyo North in Rift Valley.
The others are Vihiga, Budalang’i, Isiolo South, Kilome, Laisamis, North Horr, Saku, and Mbeere North.
The 27 constituencies did not meet the quota, and were protected by an Act of Parliament — a protection that will not be available when the Chebukati-led team goes out to review the boundaries.
The review should be done at intervals of not less than eight years and not more than 12 years, but should be completed at least 12 months before a General Election.
There are those who say IEBC should use the upper limit of 2024 to undertake the review, after the 2022 polls.
But while other central Kenya MPs protested against the planned review, Kangema MP Muturi Kigano said he supports the review, and even called for a reduction of the number of constituencies “because we are too many”.
“The neighbouring Kiharu constituency is bigger than Kangema and Mathioya combined,” noted Mr Kigano.
In Busia, residents urged Mr Wanjala to join forces with the other 26 colleagues and table a Bill in parliament that will ensure only new constituencies are repealed.
The seven Busia County constituencies are occupied by sub tribes. The Iteso are dominant in Teso North and Teso South Constituencies, Matayos and Nambale have Bakhayos, Butula (Marachi), Funyula (Samia) and Budalang’i (Banyala).
“Where will we fit if the constituency is scrapped off?” Mr John Okomba, a resident, lamented.
By Patrick Lang’at, Gaitano Pessa, Derick Luvega, Kazungu Samuel, Lucy Mkanyika, and Joseph Wangui