Kenyan AG warns of constitutional crisis

February 15, 2010 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 15 – Kenya’s Attorney General has said the country is on the verge of a Constitutional crisis following disagreements between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga over the ‘suspension’ of two Cabinet ministers.

Mr Amos Wako said the law and the National Accord were very clear on what should be done in the event that a Cabinet Minister should be removed from office.

He however observed that while the Prime Minister announced that he had consulted his Coalition partner before making the controversial suspensions, the President had denied knowledge of the whole issue, making it difficult to know who was telling the truth.

“The Prime Minister has spoken, the President has also spoken.  It is a weighty issue,” he said. It is an issue on which we can very easily move into a Constitutional crisis, it is just an issue of the facts.”

He said while the law clearly stated that suspensions and sackings can only be done after “total consultations,” it was difficult to tell who was stating the truth.

“What are the facts here in the sense that one says he consulted and another says he did not consult,” he said when questioned by reporters on the sidelines of the launch of a business process management system at the Office of the Public Trustee.

He added: “One (Prime Minister) has said he consulted which means he knows that that is the basis of the National Accord, the other one (President) says he was not consulted, really the issue here is all about facts,” he said and added he would issue a comprehensive statement on Monday afternoon or early Tuesday.

National Accord

“The basis of the national accord is total consultation and concurrence particularly between the two principals.  Of course again in the Accord there is the issue where the President can also confer such other powers or functions as he may want to the Prime Minister, so to me really it is an issue of facts rather than what the law is.”

There have been mixed reactions since Sunday when the Prime Minister announced the ‘suspension’ of Agriculture Minister William Ruto and his Education counterpart Prof Sam Ongeri to facilitate investigations on the maize and Free Primary Education (FPE) scandals in which billion of shillings have been embezzled.

Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri had insisted they would not vacate office and vowed to continue with their official ministerial duties before President Kibaki asked them to stay put.

On Monday, the two defiant Ministers reported to their offices as usual and vowed to continue discharging their duties.

The issue has once again stirred the country’s political climate, with some legislators allied to President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) calling on the Prime Minister to resign.

The controversy began on Sunday after Mr Odinga announced that he was suspending Mr Ruto and Prof Ongeri after consultations with the President.

Hours later, the Presidential Press Service (PPS) dispatched a statement which said President Kibaki had quashed the Prime Minister’s decision “because there were no prior consultations.”

It read in part: “There has been no consultation between H.E. the President and the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister on the suspension of Hon. William Ruto, Minister for Agriculture and Hon. Prof. Sam Ongeri, Minister for Education, as announced by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister today (Sunday) at a Press Conference.”

The President added: “The legal provisions, on which the Prime Minister acted, do not confer him the authority to cause a minister to vacate his or her office.”

In a quick rejoinder to the President’s stand, the Prime Minister told the British Broadcasting Corporation that the President “had overstepped his mandate.”

"I think that what I\’ve done actually has been within my constitutional powers, and that the president does not have the powers to countermand what I have done," he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.


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