Lamu MPs oppose plans to scrap off the two constituencies

Lamu East MP Athman Shariff and his Lamu West counterpart Stanley Muthama .Both legislators have opposed plans to scrap off the their constituencies over failing to meet the population requirements PHOTO COURTESY

Lamu, KENYA: Lamu MPs have opposed a plan by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission-IEBC to scrap the two constituencies in a possible review in the near future.

Lamu MPs strongly oppose plan to scrap their two constituencies. The legislators have termed the move as marginalization that will deny the Lamu people their rightful representation.

At least 27 constituencies among them Lamu East and Lamu West did not meet population quota set in the 2012 boundary review with the IEBC indicating that it will be open to change in the upcoming evaluation.

The 27 constituencies that were saved in 2012, but which face alterations in the next review are Lamu East, Lamu West, Mvita, Mwatate, Wundanyi, Voi, Bura, Galole, Ndaragwa, Tetu, Murkurweini, Othaya, Kangema, and Mathioya.

Others are Samburu East, Marakwet East, Keiyo North, Mogotio, Vihiga, Budalang’i, Isiolo South, Kilome, Laisamis, North Horr, Saku, and Mbeere North.

While the number of constituencies will still remain 290 as listed in the constitution, any alteration to constitutional boundaries will greatly change the political matrix ahead of the 2022 elections.

In a recent statement, IEBC chairperson Wafula Chebukati said the boundaries will be reviewed after the March 24-25, 2019 census so as to determine the population required for a constituency to maintain its status.

The population of a constituency must be higher or lower than its quota by 40 percent for cities and sparsely populated areas, and 30 percent for other areas.

The quota is arrived at by dividing the total population by the 290 constituencies.

During the last review, the population threshold had been set at 133,000 people.

Speaking in Lamu town on Monday however, Lamu West MP Stanley Muthama, his Lamu East counterpart Athman Shariff and women rep Ruweida Obbo said scraping the two constituencies for whichever reason would be fringing on the right of the Lamu people’s their right to proper representation and leadership.

The legislators also said the move would drive Lamu back into the dark ages where the region had been heavily marginalized by the government.

In trying to explain the low population of the constituencies,Muthama said due to the many challenges facing the region among them infrastructural, educational and security challenges, many locals have fled to other counties in the lacking amenities.

He said insecurity was the biggest reason why Lamu residents have been exiting the region in large numbers in pursuit of peace and calm elsewhere.

Muthama challenged the government to address all challenges raised by the Lamu people instead of rushing to scrap constituencies while the real situation is known.

“Since independence more than 50 years ago, Lamu hasn’t had even 5 kilometers of a tarmacked road. Not to mention the bad security here. Look at the education sector and the health sector which is almost non-functional in some areas. The government should look into improving all these instead of trying to cut out constituencies. Its irrational for anyone to do that and won’t let it happen,” said Muthama.

Lamu East MP Athman Shariff on his part a huge part of the county is covered by the Indian Ocean and that back during the 2009 census, many residents couldn’t be reached by the team that was conducting the census due to transport challenges then.

He said as such, it was improper for the IEBC to use the 2009 census results to determine whether or not Lamu constituencies ought to be scrapped.

“Lamu is huge. People live all over in places that couldn’t even have been reached by those who were conducting the 2009 census. How can someone say they want to use such information to scarp these constituencies. Unlike other counties out there which can be covered in a day, one needs at least a week to be able to cover an entire constituency here due to transport challenges. The two constituencies need to be left as they are,” said Sharif.

Lamu women rep Ruweida Obbo appealed to the IEBC  and the government to consider increasing the number of constituencies in Lamu from two so as to allow for even better representation of the people instead of scraping.

“We are just beginning to see the light and suddenly someone wants to pull us back into the darkness, we won’t let them. We should be talking of forming the Lamu Central constituency so as to give our people better services. That will even increase the annual budgetary allocation to Lamu,” said Obbo.