A petition has been submitted to the Senate, urging amendments to the Constitution and relevant laws pertaining to the election of the Deputy President and deputy governors in Kenya.
The petitioner, Taratisio Ireri Kawe, is seeking changes that would mandate a by-election for the office of Deputy President when the incumbent Deputy President assumes the presidency.
Similarly, he calls for a by-election for the office of deputy governor when the elected deputy governor becomes the governor.
Kawe argues that these amendments are necessary to establish a democratic process that allows citizens to elect officials for these positions, preventing non-elected and potentially unpopular leaders from taking office.
“There is a need to amend the Constitution and other relevant laws to allow for a democratic process where citizens are given an opportunity to elect office holders in the position of the Deputy President and deputy governor in order to protect them from being led by non-elected and unpopular leaders,” he explains.
Specifically, he suggests that the President should have the authority to appoint a Cabinet Secretary to serve as Deputy President temporarily in the event of a vacancy, until a new Deputy President is elected.
Likewise, a governor should have the power to appoint the county secretary as deputy governor temporarily for six months until a new deputy governor is elected in case of a vacancy.
Kawe points out that the current provisions of the Constitution regarding these positions can result in non-elected or unpopular leaders taking up these roles, which may not align with the principles of democracy.
“The aforementioned provisions of the Constitution on the nomination of a Deputy President and filling of a vacancy in which office of a county governor by the deputy governor; and subsequent nomination of a deputy governor by the new governor, give rise to a situation where, these positions are taken up by non-elected and in some cases unpopular leaders,” Kawe states.
The Constitution outlines the process for filling the positions of Deputy President and deputy governor in case of a vacancy, involving nominations by the President and county bosses, respectively, followed by approval by the relevant legislative bodies.
Senator Ledama Olekina expressed support for the petition, emphasizing its importance in addressing challenges that arose in the past, such as the situation in Nairobi City County when Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko was impeached.
“A few years ago, we had a very interesting situation in this country, Nairobi City County, when the former Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko was impeached by this House. In fact, I will go on record and say I did not vote to impeach him,” he stated.
He noted that there was a lack of legal provisions to address the vacancy of the deputy governor in such cases.
“There was no law that could address that lacuna. However, we referred back to the law and asked ourselves what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they said that a person to be elected as a governor had to choose a running mate,” he added.
Senator Dan Maanzo echoed these sentiments, highlighting the complexity of the process for filling vacancies and the need for constitutional amendments to clarify these procedures.
“The way the two systems work is that the county assembly has now to elect a new deputy and in case of a Deputy President, the Parliament has to elect a new Deputy President. I think that does not go back to the people, but to the representatives of the people,” he added.
Senator Godfrey Osotsi called for a thorough review of the Constitution, suggesting that deputy governors may not be necessary, and people should go through elections when a governor’s office becomes vacant.
“For example, this idea of deputy governors, if you ask me, I would say that governors do not really need a deputy governor,” he said.
“We should not have a scenario where someone comes into office as a deputy governor and when something happens to the governor, then he becomes the governor and yet he has not been elected by the people,” he added.
Senator Wakili Sigei acknowledged that the proposed amendments would require a constitutional referendum, emphasizing the significance of the petition’s request for change.