Stalemate over Article 59 commissions

August 6, 2011 12:53 pm

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 6 – Three Bills that had been drafted on the article 59 Commissions have been suspended pending stakeholder discussions that are currently underway in Mombasa.

Bills on the National Gender Commission, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission as well as the Ombudsman Commission had already been drafted but had to be suspended after differences emerged among the stakeholders concerning their merger.

While the former Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) wants one commission formed, the National Gender and Equalities Commission (NGEC) wants the commissions split.

The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) raised these issues last month arguing that there was a need to sort them out before the facilitative legislations were enacted.

Through an advisory sent on July 28, the CIC also noted that Parliament had not yet decided on the number of commissions to be established under article 59.

The advisory was sent to House Speaker Kenneth Marende, Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) Chairman Abdikadir Mohammed, Committee on Equal Opportunities Chairman Mohammed Afey and National Assembly Clerk Patrick Gichohi.

It was also copied to Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo, Attorney General Amos Wako, Gender Minister Naomi Shaban and Kenya Law Reform Commission Chairman Kathurima M’Inoti.

Mr Mohammed also reiterated the argument by the CIC saying the bills have to be streamlined and the concerns raised by each of the stakeholders addressed before further discussions could proceed.

“The Bills that were brought under article 59 have been suspended until the stakeholders conclude their discussions. But we have other deadlines which we must focus on and ensure that we meet,” he said.

A commissioner with the now defunct Committee of Experts Atsango Chesoni had argued that the Bills were pre-mature as Parliament had not yet decided whether or not to merge these commissions.

Ms Chesoni said that there was need to first test the productivity of one joint commission before deciding on their separation.

“That power to restructure the commissions is not intended to water any of them down. We will need to first of all have the Kenya National Human Rights and Equalities Commission (KNHREC) work as it is set up, which is as one commission, see whether it is working and then split it,” she argued.

The KNHREC became operational when the Constitution was promulgated on August 27 last year. Article 26 of the sixth schedule states, that the KNCHR and the NGEC, shall form the KNHREC pending Parliament’s decision on the number of commissions.

However the KNCHR argues that human rights are interdependent and it will therefore be easier to have one commission. It is also of the view that it will be less expensive for the tax payers if the human rights commissions are merged. It also argues that there will be a risk of duplicating of roles if the commissions are split.

The NGEC, on its part, feels that human rights abuses on gender will be sidelined if the commissions are merged arguing that there is a risk of putting all human rights issues under one house. The gender commission has also refuted the costs argument saying that a lean and efficient approach can be adopted.

Meanwhile CIC Chairman Charles Nyachae has also raised concerns with the CIOC accusing it of disregarding timelines set by other implementation stakeholders. The CIC wants the CIOC to plan and schedule its meetings with the implementation actors in advance for purposes of better planning.


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