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New roadblock for Uhuru, Ruto

BUSINESS
By | February 24th 2012

By Athman Amran

The Leadership and Integrity Bill that may force Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto out of the presidential race is ready for public debate. Though it is meant to remove the ambiguity on the constitutional test for integrity and eligibility for public office, and not directed at Uhuru and Ruto, the end result is that it would bar them from running for president until cleared of crimes against humanity at The Hague.

The new Bill seeks to introduce a new mechanism or forum through which those seeking public offices will be vetted for integrity, and the views of the public taken and considered, and in the end issued with certificates of clearance to run.

The two are facing charges of crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court and have already appealed the charges against them by outgoing Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo and confirmed by Pre-Trial Chamber II.

However, Cabinet or Parliament may still make changes to the Bill, if either or both deem it fit, to exempt those whose court cases have not been determined.

There has been uncertainty over how to implement the Chapter practically, which the new Bill now seeks to address. The Bill seeks to explicitly define what several clauses of the Chapter mean, and what is expected of those holding for aspiring to public office.

Eldoret North MP William Ruto (left), former Speaker Francis ole Kaparo and Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta during the launch of the United Republican Party E-Membership Registration at the party offices in Nairobi, Thursday. [PHOTO: GOVEDI ASUTSA/STANDARD]

Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo said the standards of integrity set out in Chapter Six of the Constitution are clear, and require that Uhuru and Ruto should not run. However, some Cabinet members, including the Vice- President, Kalonzo Musyoka, who was berated by Ruto and Uhuru for not censuring Mutula, are of the opinion so long us the case against them has not been concluded, they can run.

It was for the conflicting positions between Mutula and Kalonzo that the VP faced pressure from the two to initiate the exit of the Justice minister from Cabinet, or is kept out of the budding G7 Alliance.

Though Kalonzo later made peace with Uhuru and Ruto, while saying he did not write to the President to sack him, he made specific conditions for the return to the alliance whose two key meetings he had skipped.

Kalonzo task

Now interestingly, the Bill originates from Mutula’s ministry, and if Cabinet approves it, and it goes to the House, the burden of pushing it through will fall on the shoulders of Kalonzo by virtue of his position as the Leader of Government Business in Parliament.

That could further strain relations between Kalonzo and the members of G7 Alliance, who will predictably fight to defeat the Bill. That is unless Kalonzo plays the ball the other way, which would raise other issues related to Cabinet’s collective responsibility.

"The public will discuss the Bill for one week before it is forwarded to the Constitution Implementation Commission (CIC), then Cabinet, and finally to Parliament for debate," acting Permanent Secretary Justice Gichira Kibara said Thursday.

A public notice by the Ministry of Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs, which Mutula heads, inviting the public to submit comments on the draft Leadership and Integrity Bill (2012) runs in the papers today.

"The Bill is being developed pursuant to the provisions of Article 80 of the Constitution," the public notice reads, in part.

The draft Bill was released after Mutula officiated at the signing of performance contracts for departmental heads in his ministry at its Co-operative Plaza offices, Thursday.

Kibara said the Bill seeks to put in place mechanisms to identify what is good leadership.

"It is looking for servant leadership. We have created mechanisms for vetting those seeking leadership on the national and county levels," Kibara explained.

He said the Bill seeks to disqualify those not fulfilling the requirements of Chapter Six and Article 10 of the Constitution on integrity, personal conduct, and national values.

Main issues

Chapter Six of the Constitution requires, among other standards, that State officers must not have behaved in a manner, "demeaning the office the officer holds", must bring ‘honour to the nation and dignity to the office", and his or her taking over, "promotes public confidence in the integrity of the office."

Clause 35 of the proposed Bill states: "A person seeking to be appointed or elected as a State officer may not be eligible for appointment or to stand for election to such office if that person has, as a State officer, contravened the Leadership and Integrity Code under this Act or while serving as a public officer, has contravened a Code of Ethics and Integrity applicable to that officer".

The draft Bill also gives the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission powers to bar those seeking to be elected or appointed to office if they have contravened the law.

Clause 43(1) of the Bill reads: "The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the responsible commission may, on application by any person, issue a certificate to that person or any other interested person or institution, confirming that a particular State officer is compliant or not compliant with some or all of the provisions of Chapter Six of the Constitution or this Act."

The publishing of the Bill comes follows public debate on the eligibility of Uhuru and Ruto to vie for president on the strength of Chapter Six of the Constitution.

At the same time, Patrick Njuguna, Augustino Neto, Charles Omanga, the Kenya Youth Parliament, and Kenya Youth League are in court seeking to bar the two from running for president.

This led to the stopping of the debate on whether Uhuru and Ruto can vie by High Court judge, Justice Isaac Lenaola.

"In view of the fact that this court is now ceased of the question whether Uhuru and Ruto are qualified or not to run for upcoming presidential election, the issue is now sub judice and all persons and authorities enjoined are not to discuss the matter in public. Failure to which the court may take action," he said.

However, the High Court later set aside orders barring debate after the parties in the case entered consent.

Through their advocate, Anthony Oluoch, the petitioners contend that allowing Uhuru and Ruto to run for public office would perpetuate impunity.

Further, they want the court to determine whether presumption of innocence in favour of Uhuru and Ruto overrides public interest to ensure protection and upholding the principles of the Constitution.

They also want the court to declare that presumption of innocence of the two does not override the public interest.

The petitioners are also seeking orders to bar IEBC from accepting nomination or election of any candidate accused of committing serious offences under the international law or Kenyan law until they are cleared.

They also want the court to declare that allowing the two to vie for president is a threat to the Constitution, and a recipe for chaos.

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