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Cabinet tasks team to unlock deadlock

By | December 1st 2010

By Martin Mutua

It is a case of who blinks first in the standoff between the Executive and Parliament, as disagreement over the new list of voting areas continued to take its toll on Government.

On Tuesday, the Executive appeared to extend an olive branch to MPs who are literally holding the Constitution implementation hostage.

To get an easy way out of the impasse, President Kibaki called a crisis Cabinet meeting in which a sub-committee was tasked to sweet-talk MPs.

On Tuesday, most MPs unhappy with the underhand moves that blocked the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission from gazetting 80 new constituencies, walked out of Parliament just as important Bills were coming up for discussions.

Last week, two Motions seeking to adopt nominees to two key commissions meant to operationalise the new Constitution were adjourned without debate.

The protest by MPs is expected to continue this morning, as the Executive attempts to reach out to the Legislature.

MPs walked out after question time soon after two Bills that are meant to reform the Judiciary –The Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Bill and the Judicial Service Bill – went through the procedural first reading.

When it was time to debate a report by a departmental committee on Agriculture, MPs walked out in silent protest, and when the bell was rung, the House failed to meet the threshold of the requisite 30 MPs to proceed with business.

Kibaki called the crisis meeting on Tuesday before he leaves for Arusha on Wednesday, for the East African Heads of State Summit.

Political solution

At the meeting, sources said it was resolved a Cabinet sub-committee on implementation of the new Constitution takes up the matter and engages MPs to find a political solution to the crisis.

The sub-committee is chaired by PM Raila, while other members are Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, the two Deputy Prime Ministers Musalia Mudavadi and Uhuru Kenyatta, ministers George Saitoti, Elmi Mohammed, Sally Kosgei, Beth Mugo, Otieno Kajwang’, Amason Kingi, James Orengo, Njeru Githae, Mutula Kilonzo, and the Attorney General Amos Wako.

On Tuesday, a Cabinet minister who attended the session, but prefers anonymity told The Standard the Cabinet agreed that the only way out of the crisis was a political solution.

And the minister disclosed that whereas the Ligale-led IIBRC rushed to have the names of new political boundaries gazetted, the report should first have been forwarded to Parliament for a solution to be found.

The Constitution Amendment that created the IIBRC, states in Article 41 b and c that, "the commission is supposed to forward its report to Parliament, and not to gazette the new constituencies and boundaries," added the minister.

The chairman of the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee in Parliament Abdikadir Mohammed told The Standard he had heard about the Cabinet resolution, and his team was ready to engage MPs.

Mr Abdikadir disclosed he had convened a meeting today of his committee, and that Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, which MP Ababu Namwamba chairs, to unlock the stalemate.

"There is need to have all the committees meet together so that we shall be speaking and approaching the problem from one avenue," he added. The Mandera Central MP noted that as soon as he receives an official communication from the Cabinet sub-committee, he would ask all the three committees to strike a common position.

He pointed out that the Cabinet was alive to the fact that there has been a precedent to the current situation that was solved by political means.

"When the new Constitution was being put in place, it was envisaged that such a scenario could take place, and that is why it was recommended in the Act that once the IIBRC concludes its work, they forward it to Parliament," added the minister.

Forwarded report

The sources further noted that the IIBRC had forwarded its report to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, and it was from that point all the forces will converge to find a solution.

Abdikadir confirmed his committee would be inviting the parliamentary caucus led by Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto, and his Ndaragwa counterpart Jeremiah Kioni, as part of the team that will also seek to resolve the crisis.

"Once we have all these people together, a way to proceed will be found and a report tabled in the House for adoption," he added.

But Parliament could suffer another hurdle, that of the absence of the Attorney General, Amos Wako, who is recovering after undergoing treatment abroad.

Wako flew to London for treatment for an unknown ailment, and was to have returned this week.

His absence is unprecedented because he has no substantive deputy, yet his role is crucial before he bows out in the next three months as required by the new Constitution.

Abdikadir downplayed Wako’s absence, saying the most critical part was first to find a solution to current stalemate, and the rest would fall into place.

Members of the Cabinet sub-committee on implementation of the Constitution include ministers Mutula Kilonzo (Justice), James Orengo (Lands) and Robinson Githae (Nairobi Metropolitan).

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