Absent ministers anger Kenya MPs

July 30, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 30 – Business in Parliament was paralysed during Question Time on Thursday afternoon, as Cabinet Ministers were held up at a lengthy meeting at State House Nairobi.

Members of Parliament accused the government of undermining Parliament by failing to run the business of the House properly.

"This Parliament does not function at the whims of the Executive.  Ministers are taking Parliament for a ride," said Igembe North MP Mithika Linturi.

Mutito MP Kiema Kilonzo also expressed his dissatisfaction saying: "Ministers are not taking the business of the House seriously. We need to elect a leader of government business since the government has failed to do so."

The Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende was equally dismayed at the absence of Cabinet Ministers in the House.

His displeasure worsened after Assistant Ministers who were in the House failed to respond to any of the questions as expected in the absence of Cabinet Ministers.

"Cabinet Ministers are absent, there are also Assistant Ministers absent, and Assistant Ministers who are present are unable to discharge their duties.  It is not just physical presence that counts, it is the output," he observed.

He continued: "If you apply the doctrine of collective responsibility you have no business saying you are unable to do what you have been appointed to do."

Ministers reported late to Parliament following the Cabinet talks which started at 10.30am and went on past 3.30pm when Question Time ends.

The meeting was expected to largely focus on seeking consensus on how to set up a Special Tribunal that would deal with perpetrators of the 2008 post-election violence.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo was expected to table two draft Bills – that have been rejected twice before – for discussion and adoption.  It was however unclear if this would be successful since he had declined to make any amendments to the proposed laws.

Among the contentious proposals is the plan to strip the President’s immunity from prosecution which he argued was necessary to give any local tribunal the credibility demanded by international law.

"The President in December assented to the International Crimes Act and agreed no one would be given immunity no matter who they are," he said.

According to the proposals by Mr Kilonzo, the President must also be stripped of powers to pardon suspects convicted by the tribunal. 

Also proposed is a decision to deny the Attorney General powers to take over and terminate any prosecutions which he can do under the current Constitution.

Last week, Mr Kilonzo said the Task Force working on the Special Local Tribunal Bill had ensured that the court would be insulated from manipulation.

He further said he was prepared to defend the Bill in Parliament as soon as the Cabinet approved it.

"If the Cabinet allows me… personally I accept the views of those legislators saying they will shoot the Bill down, but I will still go and present them and explain to them," he said.

He said the team had done all its best to address all concerns raised by MPs who voted against the Bill when it was first presented in Parliament by former Justice Minister Martha Karua.

Thursday’s meeting was the third after previous failed attempts to convince the Cabinet Ministers to accept the local tribunal option.

Mr Kilonzo has maintained that referring the Kenyan issue to The Hague meant that Kenya was a failed State.

He has asserted that the country is capable to form the Special Tribunal and ensure justice succeeds all vested interests to protect any powerful individuals.

He has however admitted that it will be a heavy task ahead to push the Bill through owing to it that some cabinet members and MPs were still against a local tribunal.


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