Odinga urges President Uhuru to consult over Parliament dissolution call

Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga attended the thanksgiving celebration for Rosemary Chepkorir Sossion in Bomet on September 19, 2020. He has asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to strike a middle ground in the advisory by Chief Justice David Maraga to dissolve Parliament for failure to enact Gender Bill. [Emmanuel Wanson, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga has broken the silence and urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to consult widely on Chief Justice David Maraga’s call to dissolve Parliament.

In a statement sent newsrooms on Wednesday evening, the former premier painted a picture that the country could find itself in a fragile situation, where divergent opinions must be heard, and multiple interests satisfied in the matter.

In this respect, the ODM leader argued that the President could still pull the country out of the impending legal mess if he engages positive legal pieces of advice.

“The country has been thrown into this situation because of failure by Parliament to enact the two-third gender rule as provided for in the Constitution,” he said.

“I appeal to the President to consult as widely as possible before taking any action on this matter and ensure that the overall interests of the people are served by any action he finally decides to take,” Odinga added.

With leaders taking sides over the matter and giving reasons over their stands; Mr Odinga had however chosen a middle ground.

He appreciated the need to enact the two-thirds gender rule and the urgency that comes with it. But at the same time, expressed uncertainty as to whether dissolving the Parliament could be the long-lasting remedy.

“… it remains unclear how the dissolution of Parliament would resolve the problem,” he said.

Legal pundits have argued that dissolving Parliament could prove to be a reactionary rather than an accurate solution to the deadlock. This is on the postulation that there would be no guarantee that a fresh parliamentary election would assure adherence to the dictates of the two-thirds gender rule.

For example, Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu had this opinion when Justice Maraga issued the advisory on Monday.

“However the reality is that until there is a structure of how to ensure that a universal suffrage election results in a situation where 30 per cent of all elected leaders are of an alternate gender, it will be hard to achieve,” said Wambugu.

MPs opposition

The advisory has attracted criticism from the Parliamentary Service Commission that said it is immature and possibly counterproductive. Yesterday, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi announced legal action against the advisory.

“PSC has resolved to engage counsels to proceed to the high court to challenge the unlawful and unconstitutional action taken by the Chief Justice. The PSC is convinced that the present matter shall be resolved lawfully and calls for calm and sobriety to avert national anxiety and despondency that the action by CJ could elicit,” Muturi stated, in a press conference in Nairobi.

Joining the PSC is Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) that has vowed similar legal action to challenge the advisory citing possible economic disruption should the President dissolve the Parliament.

“Knut has instructed its lawyers to pursue the matter, and accordingly enjoin the union in the application by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to challenge Chief Justice David Maraga’s advice to the Head of State to dissolve Parliament,” Knut said in a statement released on Wednesday evening.

The advisory that pits the legislature and the judiciary in a tug of war however enjoys the backing of various leaders mostly female legislators.

On Monday, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua hailed the move by Chief Justice saying it was a step in the right direction to enact the elusive rule.

She then called on President Uhuru to dissolve the parliament.

“This is a timely and long overdue decision. The law doesn’t leave room for the President not to act otherwise. He should be on the good side of the law and dissolve Parliament,” she said.  

Maraga made the decision after six petitioners moved to the court to have him fulfil his constitutional duty to punish the lawmakers for failing to live to the expectations.

Last year in March, High Court Judge John Mativo allowed members of the public in a landmark ruling to petition the Chief Justice to dissolve the Parliament for failure to pass the Gender bill. This opened a floodgate of petitions as seven people moved to court pursuant to the ruling.

The onus is now on the President to act as legislators wait with crossed fingers to know their fate in the 12th Parliament.