Kenya’s assembly to decide judicial rowJambonews | Category: News
NAIROBI, Feb 7 (Reuters) – Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and his prime minister said on Monday they would accept parliament’s verdict on their dispute over Kibaki’s nominations of judicial figures, setting the stage for a showdown in the assembly.
Kibaki’s and Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s coalition cabinet has been feuding over Kibaki’s nominations of the officials, which Odinga rejected as unconstitutional, sparking a war of words that has polarised the country ahead of elections in 2012.
“On the issue of the nominations to fill state offices currently under consideration by parliament, the two principals (Kibaki and Odinga) agreed to respect the ongoing parliamentary process and its outcome,” a statement from the presidency said.
A court has declared Kibaki’s appointments unconstitutional, pending a case in which rights groups want the names rejected on the grounds that the president flouted the law, but this ruling is not binding on parliament, which could decide the matter.
The speaker of parliament, Kenneth Marende, last Thursday declined to rule on whether the appointments were legal or not, but instead asked two house committees to vet the nomination process and report to him in one week.
At the same time, he asked Kibaki and Odinga to find a solution during this period.
Analysts said the ball had bounced back to Marende.
“He can’t run away from it now, he has to rule one way or the other. He tried to buy time for the two leaders to agree, but they have failed to do so,” said independent political analyst Raphael Agung.
If Marende rules that the process was legal, the house will debate and vote to either endorse or reject the nominees. Should he find the nomination process was flouted, he will throw out the names and the leaders would have to start afresh.
The political storm has worried investors — who recall the country’s ethnic-based post-election violence after the 2007 elections when Odinga accused Kibaki of rigging the presidential vote — denting the currency and stock markets.
The country risks losing international goodwill, and possibly some financial support, if it fails to implement the constitution — backed by two-thirds of voters and promulgated in August — in a transparent manner.
Salim Lone, an adviser to the prime minister, said Odinga was confident parliament would throw the names out.
“The PM is confident that parliament will send back the nominations to the two principals. The President and the PM will then ensure that the constitutional requirements for the submission of such nominations is adhered to,” Lone said.
Some analysts said Odinga — who is facing a rebellion within his party — has lost his influence in parliament.
“If you look at the math, he president would have the numbers so if there is a vote, the nominees would go through. This would expose and humiliate Odinga, and show he cannot command a majority in the house,” Kwamchetsi Makokha said.
Kibaki named the judicial figures as part of his plan to delay the trials of post-election violence suspects, in order for them to be held in a local court, rather than at the International Criminal Court.
On Monday, the presidency said the two had agreed to ask the UN Security Council — which controls the mandate of the ICC — as well as the ICC itself, to defer the cases for a year to allow a local court to be set up to try the suspects.
Odinga has previously criticised Kibaki’s plan to defer the trials, saying they should be heard by the ICC at The Hague.
By James Macharia
Editing by Jon Hemming