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Hostile MPs await debate on chaos trials

BUSINESS
By | July 21st 2009

By Peter Opiyo and Maseme Machuka

Parliament reopens this afternoon against a backdrop of the unending debate on the trial of post-election violence masterminds.

After the 25-day-break, MPs are expected to debate a crucial Bill that seeks to establish a special local tribunal, should the Cabinet endorse the proposed law.

However, it seems bleak for the draft law as a hostile Parliament awaits a decision from the Executive on the best way to try those responsible for last year’s mayhem.

Most MPs seem not keen on rescinding their decision they made in February, when they thwarted attempts to establish a local tribunal.

Last week, as well as yesterday, the Cabinet failed to agree on whether to go the International Criminal Court (ICC) way or the local tribunal, even as the September deadline, for showing commitment to deal with the suspects, approaches.

May escape punishment

Now MPs reiterate their position on The Hague, saying it is the only sure way of getting justice. They argue a local process could be abused and some perpetrators may escape punishment.

MPs Simon Mbugua (Kamukunji) and Omondi Anyanga (Nyatike) said the House was ready to address national issues that have torn the country apart.

Mr Mbugua said Parliament has decided on the post-election violence issues saying: "Whether the Cabinet agrees on a local tribunal or not, it is a waste of time. Parliament has decided on how to deal with the issues and is not going to relent."

Mr Anyanga wants the ICC to take up the matter as soon as possible for Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo to carry out independent investigations.

"We are for the Hague option because it is the only credible institution that can bring the real perpetrators to book. A local process could also be used to settle scores and fix opponents politically," he says.

Trade Assistant Minister Omingo Magara says he expects the House to give priority to the Hague or local tribunal debate once and for all.

Mr Magara says this would put "the issue to rest so that Kenyans can concentrate on other matters of national importance."

"The country is at a crossroads and until as a House we decide on what we want for the country, then the country will head to oblivion. We need to address issues of hunger, drought and other urgent matters before us,’ he adds.

Tight schedule

Parliament will also have a busy schedule, given its enhanced oversight role in preparing the Budget.

The new Standing Orders and the recently enacted Fiscal Management Act ensure that budgets for all ministries are scrutinised by relevant departmental committees before the House can approve them.

Departmental committees have 21 days, from the date the estimates are tabled in Parliament, to go through the ministries’ budgets and compile reports for debate.

During the break, various committees have been scrutinising these budgets ready for presentation to the House.

But as the House reopens, MPs have maintained a hostile stand to the Special Tribunal Bill, dimming hopes of ever establishing a local court.

Either way, The Hague option reality is inching closer with the international community piling more pressure on Kenya to establish a local court or lose donor support.

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