Judges vetting Bill faces hurdles

February 9, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 9 – Members of Parliament have disapproved the Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Bill and given notice that they will seek major amendments.

Lands Minister James Orengo who seconded the Bill launched the criticism and questioned a clause that gives the President powers to nominate a person to the vetting board who does not go through a competitive recruitment process.

Mr Orengo urged Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo who has prepared the Bill to remove the clause to ensure that public participation is respected.

"I am not confident that this should be part of the Bill.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara joined the chorus and castigated the Minister for ignoring the advice of the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution.

"This proposal offends the spirit of the constitution and compromises some of the national values and leadership values set out in the constitution.

The CIC has objected to the clause saying it negates the spirit of the constitution that calls for transparency and public participation.

The Bill creates a vetting board to be made up of nine members; three lawyers, three non-lawyers and three foreigners. It will be responsible for vetting all judges and magistrates as provided by the new constitution.

The recruiting committee will include officials from the Offices of the President, Prime Minister and the Attorney General\’s chambers. Others are the ministries of Public Service; Justice and Constitutional Affairs and the Public Service Commission.

Garsen MP Danson Mungatana wanted a clause that clearly demands gender and regional representation included.

"They must know that we Pokomos exist in this country and we belong to this country. A practice is now emerging that if you want regional representation give the four big tribes and you satisfy them," he complained.

MPs Peter Kenneth and John Mbadi demanded that there be a clear process of consultations between the President and the Prime Minister to avoid a spat similar to the current one where the two principals have disagreed over appointment of four constitutional office holders.

"We do not want to see the same disagreements we are seeing now," said Mr Kenneth.

Mr Mbadi also called for a clear definition of the circumstances under which a member of the vetting board can be removed for incompatible behavior.

"What behaviour will be considered incompatible with the functions of the board?" posed Mr Mbadi.

The legislators however hailed most parts of the Bill saying it could help bring back the eroded confidence with the judiciary.

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