NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 9 – House Speaker Kenneth Marende on Tuesday barred Parliament from debating the suitability of six nominees to the Judges and Magistrates Vetting Board, until the Office of the President (OP) nominates three other members who must be foreigners.
The House Speaker however said that the six candidates would undergo vetting as planned by the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee but that he would not permit tabling of the names in Parliament for debate.
In a statement in Parliament, Mr Marende explained that the board would be unconstitutional and incomplete without the three non-Kenyans.
The Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) had earlier announced that it would vet the six Kenyan nominees, as they were, and table their names to Parliament in an attempt to beat the constitutional deadlines.
Speaking after its constitutional review meeting under the leadership of nominated MP Millie Odhiambo, the committee said it would start vetting the six on August 12.
Ms Odhiambo said that Parliament would not be held liable for holding back the process simply because the President’s Office had not nominated the three.
“We will proceed with the vetting because the law allows us to do that. Parliament is not going to be the hitch so if OP wants to be the hitch then it is up to it. We just want to do our work,” she explained.
The Vetting of Judges and Magistrates Act states that there shall be nine members to the Vetting Board; six will be Kenyans and three shall be non Kenyans who have either served as Chief Justice or judges of a superior Court in the Commonwealth.
Last week the President and Prime Minister nominated Sharad Rao, for the position of chairperson to the board, alongside Justus Maithya, Roseline Odhiambo, Prof Ngotho wa Kariuki, Meuludi Mabruki and Abdirashid Abdullahi.
Mr Marende further asked the President and Prime Minister to hasten the nomination of the three foreign board members in order to fast track their appointment.
Ms Odhiambo also called on members of the public to submit any memoranda or concerns they might have on the six Kenyans between August 10 and 11 so that their vetting kicks off as scheduled.
“We were just waiting for the Speaker to communicate which committee would be dealing with the vetting of the Judges and Magistrates’ panel so we are calling on the public to give us any information that they have on the nominees,” she explained.
The CIOC also maintained that it unanimously endorsed Samuel Kobia’s appointment to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) regardless of the questions surrounding his qualifications after his PhD came into doubt with some sections of the public claiming that it is from a non-existent university.
Dr Kobia replaces Bishop Anthony Muheria who resigned from the JSC citing religious duties.
The CIOC members agreed that they would let fellow MPs decide whether or not the concerns were unsettling enough to lock Dr Kobia out of the JSC.
“Since this matter is on the floor of the House we should not bring it back to the committee and it should be dealt with on the floor of the House,” assistant minister office of the Prime Minister, Alfred Khang’ati said.
“That matter as far as we are concerned is concluded. Other arising issues should be discussed on the floor of the House. We stand by the candidate,” said David Ngugi (Kinangop MP).
However nominated MP Amina Abdalla said that it would be better to consider the question on schools attended by individuals, who might appear before the CIOC for vetting, to avoid such occurrences.
“As a lesson learnt that’s a question that we should consider and add to the questionnaires that we give the interviewees. We also need to ask them whether they have been involved in any controversies,” she proposed.
Mr Ngugi had also asked the CIOC to devise a way through which Parliament can be protected from the accusations of impeding the constitutional implementation process. His views were however disputed with members arguing that it would be counter productive.