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Raila Odinga to President Uhuru Kenyatta: Judiciary not extension of the Executive

COUNTIES
By OSCAR OBONYO and JACOB NG’ETICH | February 23rd 2014
             President Uhuru Kenyatta joins students of Sosiot Secondary School in a dance during  Belgut Women Empowerment Organisation thanksgiving in Kericho County on Friday. [PHOTO: FILE/ STANDARD]

By OSCAR OBONYO and JACOB NG’ETICH

Nairobi, Kenya: A day after President Uhuru Kenyatta reprimanded the Judiciary for allegedly interfering with the Legislature, former Prime Minister Raila Odinga has asked the President to keep off the courts.

Raila demanded respect for separation of powers and the rule of law, as ODM MPs joined him in faulting the President and his allies for an alleged assault on devolution.

Stating Kenya was going through “a willful, premeditated, deliberate and shameless corruption of the system of justice”, the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) principal accused the highest ranks of the Jubilee Government of supporting the assault on law and order.

“We are witnessing unilateral and illegal decisions and statements that show disregard for the separation of powers and a taste for the old ways in which the Judiciary was an extension of the presidency and a tool of the ruling political elite,” said Raila, who challenged Kenyatta for presidency in last year’s polls.

In response to the accusations, State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu dismissed Raila’s statement claiming it showed him to be misguided about the law he purports to defend. “He alleges that an injunction staying the impeachment of the Governor of Embu was unlawfully ignored by the Senate. He is deeply mistaken,” said Esipisu.

Evolving drama

He argued that under Article 95(3) of the Constitution, the Senate oversees national revenues allocated to county governments.

And under Article 125(1), he said, “the Senate has the right to call any person to testify before it, while Article 125(2) gives the Senate the same powers as the High Court”.

He further stated that Article 181(2) allows the Senate to pass legislation for the removal of a county governor, while Parliament’s standing order no 65 specifies the procedure. Former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who is a CORD co-principal, supported Raila’s position terming as “very unfortunate and in bad taste” the attack on the Judiciary by the Head of State. The move, he warned, would create a bad precedent in the country.

“There should be clear separation of power between the arms of Government and each should respect the other. For the President to attack the Judiciary was in bad taste,” said Kalonzo.

In a media release, Raila claimed the Jubilee Government was determined to bring an end to all autonomous institutions in the country. “What is being attempted is to establish a country of Presidential and Legislative tyranny, and where no other institution in and out of the Government will be allowed a voice,” said Raila. The former Prime Minister termed the onslaught unfortunate and told Uhuru that he has now explicitly and publicly endorsed the charade against governors. He was reacting to the President’s speech on Friday in Kericho Town during the annual general meeting of Belgut Women Empowerment organisation, where the latter asked judges to stop preventing the Senate and National Assembly from executing their constitutional mandate.

“Separation of powers does not mean we are independent from each other. The Executive alone cannot serve Kenyans, the Legislature alone cannot serve Kenyans and the Judiciary on its own cannot serve Kenyans either. We are interdependent,” said Uhuru.

The comments followed debate in Parliament spearheaded by Speaker Justin Muturi and Majority Leader Aden Duale, where governors came under sharp criticism and vitriolic tongue-lashing.

The fast evolving drama started last Thursday after the impeachment of the Governor of Embu County Martin Wambora by the Senate and his reinstatement by the Judiciary.

Legislators from the Senate and National Assembly ganged up after the High Court decision claiming it disregarded the Legislature – a position that the President has endorsed. 

Yesterday, Raila argued that the understanding among all democratic nations was that the Legislature makes laws, the Judiciary interprets and the Executive executes the law.

Once Parliament makes a law, he observed, the only option for citizens unhappy with it is to go to court.

According to Raila, once the court interprets the law, it is final and the only option is execution. “We are entering a dangerous terrain and I am appealing to the President of Kenya and all the arms of Government, to decide whether we are going to be governed by the tule of law or the law of the jungle. That is why I want to appeal for an immediate end to the mob lynching of the courts,” he said.

Supporting Raila’s sentiments, six ODM MPs accused their senate counterparts of allowing the House to be misused by the Jubilee Government to scuttle devolution. Speaking in Homabay, Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo, Silvance Osele (Kabondo Kasipul), Agostino Neto (Ndhiwa) George Oner (Rangwe) Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem) and David Ochieng’ (Ugenya) raised concerns over the Government’s alleged schemes to kill devolution.

“It is not the mandate of senators to summon governors because they can only be summoned by Members of County Assemblies (MCAs),” said Odhiambo. She told Kenyans and CORD supporters to be vigilant because “there is a plan to sabotage devolution” which Kenyans have struggled for so long to attain.

Kalonzo separately warned of a wider scheme by the Jubilee Government to kill devolution claiming its leaders were angry with the Judiciary for doing their work effectively by restoring sanity.

On Friday, co-principal and Leader of Minority, Moses Wetangula, led a team of legislators alongside Senate colleague, Leader of Majority Prof Kithure Kindiki and Leader of Majority in National Assembly Aden Duale in castigating and issuing threats to the Judiciary. 

Enemies of Kenyans

Wetangula slammed judges for “generously dishing out” court orders as if they were cakes from a cake-shop.

His National Assembly colleague from CORD, Leader of Minority Francis Nyenze, was present at the press conference. But yesterday, Wetangula changed tune and appeared to side with his CORD ally Raila, when he said those fighting devolution were enemies of Kenyans and CORD,  and vowed to stop such efforts.

“We believe devolution is the only way to bring development to counties. Those planning to fight devolution will be enemies of wananchi and CORD,” he said in Kakamega.

Yesterday, Duale dismissed Raila’s sentiments pointing out that CORD minority leaders in both houses were unanimous that the Judiciary was overstepping its mandate.

“Who is Raila talking for? He must be talking on his own behalf because honourables Wetangula and Nyenze, who are the CORD leaders, recognised by the standing orders, had given their verdict on the Judiciary. The former PM is simply trying to get cheap political mileage out of this, because he does not speak for anybody.”

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi also dug in, accusing the Judiciary of turning rogue and activist. Muturi claimed the judges were misusing the privilege accorded to them by the Constitution.

Westlands MP Tim Wanyonyi, a lawyer, supported Duale’s views, insisting that the Judiciary was over-stepping its mandate and that it was responsible for creating the current constitutional confusion.

Senior Counsel Ahmednassir Abdulahi advised politicians to keep off the courts. “The Judiciary is not a player but an arbiter in all these situations, including in the feud between the Senate and governors,” he cautioned.

Accountability

Yesterday ODM held a retreat for leaders of the majority and minority from ODM strongholds in Naivasha, where it was agreed that MCAs support governors to protect devolution. Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale vowed to ensure that the Senate does not spare governors implicated in misuse of funds.

“Accountability must be upheld by all public officers and the Senate won’t relent in fighting corruption at counties,’’ said Khalwale. Lagdera MP Mohamed Shindiye said the President was in order to advise the Judiciary that it was overstepping its mandate.

“The courts are undermining the Executive and the Legislature, and therefore we support the President’s statement for the Judiciary to be cautious,” said Shidiye. Kigumo MP Jamleck Kamau said the President was perfectly in order to give direction on how the country should move forward.

“The President clearly stated that there’s need for each arm to respect the other, otherwise action taken by courts will only work against them as people will begin to disrespect them,” said the former minister.

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