Tribunal debate hits a bumpy stretch in Parliament

Published on 03/02/2009

By Peter Opiyo and David Ochami

Fears of establishing the Special Tribunal to try post-election suspects played out again as some MPs disapproved the court.

Nairobi Metropolitan Development Minister Mutula Kilonzo, sensing the House’s mood, proposed that President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga take part in the debate.

Mutula spoke after Medical Services Assistant Minister Danson Mungatana opposed the Constitution of Kenya (Ammendment) Bill, that seeks to entrench the Tribunal in the Constitution.

Mungatana argued that the Tribunal does not have a clause that would force public office holders to relinquish their positions while under investigation.

President, PM missing

Said Mutula: “The President should have been here to move this Bill and the PM to second it since the offences committed relate to them.”

Earlier, Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim threw out an attempt by Gitobu Imanyara (Imenti-Central, CCU) to block debate on the Bill and the Special Tribunal for Kenya Bill, which establishes the tribunal.

Imanyara, who blocked fast-tracking debate on the two Bills last Thursday, sprang a new challenge to Justice Minister Martha Karua’s bid to initiate debate on them at Second Reading.

He argued it would be unconstitutional and a breach of Parliament’s Standing Orders to debate the Bills following the expiry last Friday of the timetable set by Justice Phillip Waki to establish the tribunal.

But Karua dismissed his argument as mere ‘playing to the gallery’.

She said the Bills were before the House and it was upon MPs to decide their (Bills) fate but not blocking debate on them.

Karua got support from Mutula, who said: “The Bills are already the property of this House, 37 million Kenyans and those yet to be born.”

Invoking Section 30 of the Constitution, he said the legislative authority rests with Parliament.

Lands Minister James Orengo said Waki’s recommendations were just proposals, adding: “We can choose to comply with or reject them”.

But Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford-K) said Waki’s recommendations were cast in stone, given that the Cabinet and Parliament adopted them without ammendments.

“The Bill is not properly before the House. You had all the time to beat the deadline. We would be taking Parliament for granted if this Bill is discussed,” said Khalwale.

Acting in futility

Olago-Aluoch (Kisumu Town West, ODM) said the House would be acting in futility if it debated the two Bills.

But Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on the Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs Abdikadir Mohammed dismissed the argument, saying the Waki Report contained recommendations only and could not determine House business.

Though Farah ruled in Karua and her supporters’ favour, some MPs openly objected the tribunal, with Peter Mwathi (Limuru, PNU) declaring that he would vote against it when it comes up for voting.

Cyrus Jirongo (Lugari, Kaddu) in opposing the Bill said the country lacks the capacity to handle the Waki Report.

He accused Kibaki and Raila of sitting pretty and forgetting to carry out reforms. “I would urge minister (Karua) to withdraw this Bill and let people go to The Hague,” said Jirongo.

Mwathi took issue with the precedents arguing past commissions’ recommendations had failed to exercise justice to victims of injustice and saw Waki’s as no exception.

Though the debate on the Bill was not concluded yesterday, the trend taken by MPs is a pointer to fears that the tribunal may be a pipe dream given that it requires 148 MPs to enact the Bills into law.

Sources said the MPs were lobbying to deny the House the necessary quorum to pass the Bills in retaliation to Kibaki’s insensitivity to Parliament by reinstating Trade Minister Amos Kimunya.

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