Concern over reported threats to Speaker

February 2, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 2 – The Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende is reported to have received threats ahead of the crucial ruling he is expected to make on Thursday on the controversy surrounding nominations to the offices of Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Controller of Budget.

The Speaker has reportedly been threatened with impeachment should his ruling not be in accordance with expectations of one side of the political divide, according to a letter from the International Commission of Jurists to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

"Unfortunately the threats to the Speaker are a continuation of an intolerant political stance that the country has faced since the announcement in December 2010 by the ICC of the names of six individuals against whom the court has applied for summonses against," the letter by ICJ Executive Director George Kegoro says.

"The actions by Members of Parliament in relation to the Speaker are an attack on the independence of the Legislature and constitute a threat to the political stability of the country," Mr Kegoro in the letter which asks the two Principals to give the Speaker protection.

Mr Marende, through his Media Liaison Officer confirmed that there was such a letter, but added that the Speaker had not received any threats directly, but through a third party and viewed the threat as "veiled.”

Mr Marende is expected to rule on Thursday in a dispute over nominations of top judicial positions which have pitted the Prime Minister Raila Odinga against President Mwai Kibaki.

Mr Odinga, along with some ministers from his side of the coalition and rights groups, have dismissed the nominees list saying it was against the spirit of the new Constitution after the officials were named without consultations as required by the new basic law.

The PNU side argues the nominations are legitimate and are meant to improve public confidence in the Judiciary and boost Kenya\’s case to hold any trials of people suspected of involvement in the post-election violence rather than at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.

Mr Marende will rule whether MPs should debate and vote on judicial list named by the President.

"I have jurisdiction to decide on this matter.  I will give directions one way or the other on Thursday afternoon," Mr Marende told the MPs after a heated debate on Tuesday. "The matter which has been canvassed in this House this afternoon is a matter of national importance."

The Speaker said he was formally notified of the nominations through the Head of Civil Service but also received a letter from Mr Odinga\’s office urging him to defer debate on the issue due to the raging conflict.

Should the Speaker rule against a vote, this would be a slap in the face of President Kibaki, whereas allowing the vote could make Mr Odinga\’s role in government appear even more impotent as he wants to have an equal role in making nominations.

Mr Odinga has declared the nominations "null and void" but President Kibaki\’s allies insist consultations with Mr Odinga did take place.

The Constitution says Parliament must vote either to endorse or reject top state officials before they can take office, unlike in the past when it was the President\’s prerogative to appoint them.
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