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The good, bad and ugly of the august House

By | December 30th 2010 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

By PETER OPIYO

The fourth session of the Tenth Parliament was an eventful one. It impressed and shocked in equal measure.

The session would deserve more than a footnote in the history books for helping the country get a new Constitution, a document that has been elusive for close to two decades. On the other hand, it shocked many when MPs engaged in a flip-flop charade to endorse a Motion calling on the Government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto sponsored the Motion.

The latter came at a time public confidence on the institution waned with 56 per cent of respondents interviewed by a local pollster (Infotrak) saying they would not vote for the current crop of MPs. The House suffered a public backlash during the 2007 General Election.

Another pollster (Synovate Ltd) also found out that 60 per cent of its respondents disapproved the MPs’ desire to have suspected perpetrators of post-election upheavals tried locally, an indication that 2012 may not be rosy for the MPs.

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150 amendments

But even the endorsement of the new Constitution was characterised by drama, as MPs lined up more than 150 amendments, a move that would have severely mutilated the document were it not for a watertight Constitution of Kenya (Review) Act, 2008, that required at least 65 per cent (145 MPs) to pass any amendment.

Again it was Mr Ruto who attempted to spoil the party, arguing any amendment needed just a simple majority.

The 26-member Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review had earlier started off the year by striking a deal in Naivasha preferring a presidential system of governance with devolved 47 units. The document was then endorsed by Parliament and forwarded to the Attorney General for publication in readiness for the constitutional plebiscite.

Also on the Parliament’s plate was the swearing in of three new members following by-elections occasioned by petitions. Juja’s William Kabogo captured the seat edging out then Government Chief Whip George Thuo, while in Makadara Mike Mbuvi floored former Public Works Assistant minister Dick Wathika as Mohamed Sirat edged out Ali Hassan Abdirahman in Wajir South.

The session also witnessed by-elections in Matuga and Starehe constituencies, but the incumbents, Trade Minister Chirau Mwakwere (Matuga) and Housing Assistant Minister Margaret Wanjiru recaptured their seats.

It was also in this session that Moses Wetang’ula was forced to step aside as Foreign Affairs Minister under a cloud of allegations of shady embassy deals abroad. A report by the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations headed by Wajir West MP Adan Keynan recommended Wetang’ula step aside to pave the way for further investigation.

It was also a year that Parliament, under the leadership of Speaker Kenneth Marende and Clerk of the National Assembly Patrick Gichohi, initiated key reforms that would significantly change the way business is transacted in the House.

Expansion works

To this end, refurbishment and expansion works of Parliament’s new Chamber is ongoing. Started in April, the Sh800 million project will see Parliament accommodate between 350-400 Members, comfortably housing the 349 MPs expected with the implementation of the Constitution. If things go as planned, the new Chamber will be ready next April.

The old Chamber would also be remodelled to house the 67-member Senate in the bicameral Parliament.

The new Chamber’s remodelled look would spot a picturesque horseshoe design that will come with state-of-the-art technology, including a public address system, electronic voting system and computer monitors.

In an earlier interview, Mr Gichohi told The Standard that the horse-shoe design is borrowed from the German Bundestag and the Dodoma-based Tanzanian Parliament and would sport between 350 to 400 individualised seats for MPs, and 20 mobile seats to cater for any eventuality in case of arbitrary increase in the numbers of MPs. The seats would be numbered and labelled with MPs’ names.

"The model is like the German Bundestag (Parliament), which is closer to horse-shoe so that every member can get access to the Speaker," said Gichohi.

Political interests were also at play during the session, especially following the release of the report on the creation of 80 new electoral units by the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission.

This resulted to a standoff with MPs from Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza, Coast and North Eastern frustrating the formation of key constitutional commissions until the report was adopted.

A constitutional crisis stared in the face as the deadline for the establishment of the Constitutional Implementation Commission and the Commission on Revenue Allocation had expired. It took a day’s retreat at the Kenya Institute of Administration for the MPs to strike a deal. The report was later adopted paving way for the endorsement of the two commissions.

Judicial reform

Earlier, nominees to the Judicial Service Commission had been endorsed by MPs, jumpstarting the much-anticipated reform in the Judiciary.

Capping the end of the fourth session was the bombshell dropped by Internal Security Minister George Saitoti that four legislators were under investigation for alleged involvement in narcotics trade.

Under pressure from MPs, Saitoti gave out the names of then Assistant Minister for Trade John Harun Mwau, Kabogo, Kisauni MP Ali Hassan Joho and Mbuvi. They, however, have said they are innocent. Mr Mwau also resigned from the ministry to allow for investigation.

Keywords: august House; Parliament; German Bundestag;

 

The good, bad and ugly of the august House

 

By PETER OPIYO

 

The fourth session of the Tenth Parliament was an eventful one. It impressed and shocked in equal measure.

The session would deserve more than a footnote in the history books for helping the country get a new Constitution, a document that has been elusive for close to two decades. On the other hand, it shocked many when MPs engaged in a flip-flop charade to endorse a Motion calling on the Government to withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto sponsored the Motion.

The latter came at a time public confidence on the institution waned with 56 per cent of respondents interviewed by a local pollster (Infotrak) saying they would not vote for the current crop of MPs. The House suffered a public backlash during the 2007 General Election.

Another pollster (Synovate Ltd) also found out that 60 per cent of its respondents disapproved the MPs’ desire to have suspected perpetrators of post-election upheavals tried locally, an indication that 2012 may not be rosy for the MPs.

150 amendments

But even the endorsement of the new Constitution was characterised by drama, as MPs lined up more than 150 amendments, a move that would have severely mutilated the document were it not for a watertight Constitution of Kenya (Review) Act, 2008, that required at least 65 per cent (145 MPs) to pass any amendment.

Again it was Mr Ruto who attempted to spoil the party, arguing any amendment needed just a simple majority.

The 26-member Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review had earlier started off the year by striking a deal in Naivasha preferring a presidential system of governance with devolved 47 units. The document was then endorsed by Parliament and forwarded to the Attorney General for publication in readiness for the constitutional plebiscite.

Also on the Parliament’s plate was the swearing in of three new members following by-elections occasioned by petitions. Juja’s William Kabogo captured the seat edging out then Government Chief Whip George Thuo, while in Makadara Mike Mbuvi floored former Public Works Assistant minister Dick Wathika as Mohamed Sirat edged out Ali Hassan Abdirahman in Wajir South.

The session also witnessed by-elections in Matuga and Starehe constituencies, but the incumbents, Trade Minister Chirau Mwakwere (Matuga) and Housing Assistant Minister Margaret Wanjiru recaptured their seats.

It was also in this session that Moses Wetang’ula was forced to step aside as Foreign Affairs Minister under a cloud of allegations of shady embassy deals abroad. A report by the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Relations headed by Wajir West MP Adan Keynan recommended Wetang’ula step aside to pave the way for further investigation.

It was also a year that Parliament, under the leadership of Speaker Kenneth Marende and Clerk of the National Assembly Patrick Gichohi, initiated key reforms that would significantly change the way business is transacted in the House.

Expansion works

To this end, refurbishment and expansion works of Parliament’s new Chamber is ongoing. Started in April, the Sh800 million project will see Parliament accommodate between 350-400 Members, comfortably housing the 349 MPs expected with the implementation of the Constitution. If things go as planned, the new Chamber will be ready next April.

The old Chamber would also be remodelled to house the 67-member Senate in the bicameral Parliament.

The new Chamber’s remodelled look would spot a picturesque horseshoe design that will come with state-of-the-art technology, including a public address system, electronic voting system and computer monitors.

In an earlier interview, Mr Gichohi told The Standard that the horse-shoe design is borrowed from the German Bundestag and the Dodoma-based Tanzanian Parliament and would sport between 350 to 400 individualised seats for MPs, and 20 mobile seats to cater for any eventuality in case of arbitrary increase in the numbers of MPs. The seats would be numbered and labelled with MPs’ names.

"The model is like the German Bundestag (Parliament), which is closer to horse-shoe so that every member can get access to the Speaker," said Gichohi.

Political interests were also at play during the session, especially following the release of the report on the creation of 80 new electoral units by the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission.

This resulted to a standoff with MPs from Rift Valley, Western, Nyanza, Coast and North Eastern frustrating the formation of key constitutional commissions until the report was adopted.

A constitutional crisis stared in the face as the deadline for the establishment of the Constitutional Implementation Commission and the Commission on Revenue Allocation had expired. It took a day’s retreat at the Kenya Institute of Administration for the MPs to strike a deal. The report was later adopted paving way for the endorsement of the two commissions.

Judicial reform

Earlier, nominees to the Judicial Service Commission had been endorsed by MPs, jumpstarting the much-anticipated reform in the Judiciary.

Capping the end of the fourth session was the bombshell dropped by Internal Security Minister George Saitoti that four legislators were under investigation for alleged involvement in narcotics trade.

Under pressure from MPs, Saitoti gave out the names of then Assistant Minister for Trade John Harun Mwau, Kabogo, Kisauni MP Ali Hassan Joho and Mbuvi. They, however, have said they are innocent. Mr Mwau also resigned from the ministry to allow for investigation.


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