Our award-winning reporting has moved

Context provides news and analysis on three of the world’s most critical issues:

climate change, the impact of technology on society, and inclusive economies.

Kenya High Court suspends move to dissolve parliament over lack of women

by Nita Bhalla | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 24 September 2020 18:25 GMT

FILE PHOTO: A civilian dressed in national colours reacts as she arrives for the viewing the body of late former Kenya's President Daniel Arap Moi, lying in state at the Parliament Buildings in Nairobi, Kenya February 8, 2020. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Image Caption and Rights Information

A panel of judges will be appointed to decide on whether parliament should be dissolved over the lack of women lawmakers, said Kenya's High Court

By Nita Bhalla

NAIROBI, Sept 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Kenya's High Court on Thursday suspended any move to dissolve parliament after the country's top judge said it was necessary as neither of the legislative houses had enough women lawmakers.

Chief Justice David Maraga on Monday advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve parliament, saying lawmakers had failed to meet a 2010 constitutional provision which allows for one third of seats to be occupied by women.

The chief justice's move upset many male parliamentarians, including the speaker of the house, who said it was unlawful, ill-advised and premature and would plunge the East African nation into a constitutional crisis.

Under Kenyan law, once parliament is dissolved, elections must take place within 90 days.

In response to a petition challenging Maraga's advisory, the High Court suspended any move to dissolve parliament pending a full hearing on the case.

"I have carefully considered the petition and find that it raises substantial questions of law," wrote High Court Justice Weldon Korir in his judgment, ordering a hearing.

Women hold 22% of seats in the country's lower house of parliament, and 31% in the upper house. Kenya's 2010 constitution states no more than two-thirds of any elected or appointed body can be of the same gender.

Court rulings in Kenya have directed parliament to pass legislation to enforce the rule or risk being dissolved, but previous attempts have failed with female MPs accusing male lawmakers of deliberately blocking efforts.

In the advisory to Kenyatta, Maraga said the failure to enact the legislation was clear testimony of lawmakers' "lackadaisical attitude and conduct" in relation to the two-thirds gender rule.

A panel of appointed judges will hear the petition on Oct. 7.

Related stories:

Kenya's top judge advises parliament to dissolve over lack of women

Kenya's parliament to challenge dissolution bid over lack of women

MPs: Kenya must pass women's representation bill or risk constitutional crisis

(Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.