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MPs differ on locking out 'No' from key House team

BUSINESS
By | August 10th 2010

By MARTIN MUTUA and DAVID OCHAMI

The reopening of Parliament on Tuesday afternoon may be overshadowed by acrimony over who should sit in a key committee that will oversee implementation of the new constitution.

The Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) will wield plenty of clout. Yesterday, it appeared the Justice Ministry and political parties, especially ODM, were reading from different scripts over the modalities of constituting the committee.

After President Kibaki officially reopens Parliament this afternoon, Members are expected to move fast and constitute relevant committees to oversee the implementation of the new constitution. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo said his ministry would prefer the original members of the current Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review, led by Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohamed to be co-opted into the new committee. That committee’s mandate expired with the publication of the Proposed Constitution.

But ODM Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo yesterday appeared intent on blocking certain ODM members of the PSC from taking positions in the yet to be formed CIOC.

Midiwo said his party would block some MPs from becoming members of the new team, and added that he expected PNU to follow suit.

Mutula said he would have preferred to have the Abdikadir Committee take over the same mandate because of what he termed "institutional memory".

He said the PSC on Constitutional Review did not vote on the content of the document. "In fact William Ruto, who was the leader of ‘NO’ never raised any objection to the document and we even resolved any disputes that came our way so well," he said.

Kenyans have spoken

However, Mutula said his suggestion was not binding, as he was giving his proposal as head of the ministry overseeing the process, saying he did not expect even those opposed to the constitution to block its implementation, as Kenyans had spoken.

But Mr Midiwo insisted ODM MPs who opposed the new constitution must be sidelined. Together with PNU Chief Whip Johnstone Muthama, Midiwo will be responsible in picking members of this crucial committee that will oversee the implementation of the new document.

The two are expected to forward the names of members of the committee to the House Business Committee, before tabling them for adoption in the House.

He further noted the President and the Prime Minister must fire ministers William Ruto, Samuel Poghisio, Naomi Shaban and assistant ministers who opposed new constitution.

Must go

"We cannot have people who opposed the new constitution sitting in Cabinet where Bills that are supposed to operationalise the same will be emanating. They have to go," he added.

Midiwo said it would be counterproductive and illogical for the House Business Committee to appoint MPs who opposed the new constitution adding that he was opposed to extending the new mandate to the Abdikadir led PSC.

"We will form a totally different committee, because the Kenyan public expects MPs who have integrity and who are pro-reform in this committee, and they obviously will be interested to see people who are not tainted with corruption," he added.

The Gem MP said ODM had learnt a bitter lesson from rebel MPs, following their appointment to the outgoing PSC and the House Business Committee in 2008.

"The circumstances under which they were named to these committees in 2008 were different. Some of them have come out in the open in their true colours." he added.

But on his part, Mr Muthama said membership of the committee would be from the political parties based on their representation in the House.

Muthama said with the new constitution having been voted for by Kenyans, they did not expect to marshal MPs to pass laws to implement the same. "It is our expectation that MPs will take their cue from the adoption of the new constitution by Kenyans to move the process forward without having to be bulldozed," he added.

Leaner membership

Muthama said he was in agreement with those calling for a leaner membership of the committee, so that decisions could be taken easily and faster.

But MPs Mithika Linturi and Kiema Kilonzo, who were among the leading ‘No’ campaigners, said they expected to be included in the implementation committee.

The two, in separate interviews, said the campaign period was gone and that the issue of implementation was not in contention since Kenyans had adopted the new law.

As Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday afternoon, there is growing division over who will sit in the CIOC. It is also not clear when and who will constitute the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), a body outside Parliament that will co-ordinate and oversee the timely and efficient implementation of the new charter following its promulgation on August 27.

Mandera Central MP Mohamed Abdikadir said his committee would "hold one or two more meetings and compile a report for Parliament."

He noted that Parliament would determine the nature and composition of the CIOC.

The soon to be dissolved PSC included Higher Education minister William Ruto and Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto, both of whom later campaigned against the new constitution, despite adopting it at committee level, and on the floor of Parliament.

Retreat

Mutula disclosed that top officials from his ministry would from today begin weeklong retreat on the implementation of the new constitution.

Former Justice minister Martha Karua said she expected men and women of integrity to serve in various commissions established under the new constitution.

Some MPs and the public suggested that MPs who opposed the new charter could not be trusted to support its implementation or, genuinely liaise with the Commission on its implementation.

"Technically, every MP has a right and is entitled to be a member [of the Oversight Committee]", said Abdikadir, adding this should include members of the outgoing PSC.

He said there have been suggestions that the new committee should be leaner than the one he chaired, but added Parliament would decide."

He said the CIOC would be constituted to accommodate varying political shades of opinions and interests.

Gauge reform credentials

Nominated MP Muhamad Abdi Affey argued that no MP should be denied an opportunity to serve in the proposed committee. "It is not easy to gauge reform credentials and block opponents of the new charter."

"We should not marginalise any opinions in Parliament," said Affey, who argued that the CIOC should reflect all the political shades of opinion in Parliament.

As regards the CIC, Abdikadir said there were those who believed the President and the Prime Minister, with the approval of Parliament, could appoint the members.

"There is another school of opinion that legislation by Parliament will decide when the CIC team will be appointed." But he acknowledged the latter option could take longer.

He said there was legal legroom to extend implementation timelines for at-least a year, when need arises, but said he expected the 10th Parliament to observe the [implementation] timetable because "majority of MPs support the document."

— Additional reporting by Beauttah Omanga

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Why date changed
President Kibaki has chosen August 27 as the date to promulgate the new constitution after advice from lawyers.
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