NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 8 – Parliament is to reconvene on January 20, two months ahead of schedule to fast-track crucial reforms in the country.,
In a special Gazzette notice on Thursday, National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende said the MPs had been recalled to continue with the business of the second session of the 10th Parliament.
Analysts had predicted that President Mwai Kibaki would have the House recalled this month to pass laws setting up the Special Tribunal for Kenya to try perpetrators of the post-election violence.
“Notice is given that in accordance with the Constitution of Kenya and Standing Order 7 (I) of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly, the Speaker of the National Assembly, on request from the Government has appointed Tuesday, 20th January, 2009 as the day on which the National Assembly shall re-convene to continue with the business of the Second Session of the Tenth Parliament,” the statement read.
The move would ensure suspected architects of the post-election violence are tried locally as opposed to the International Criminal Court at The Hague in Netherlands.
President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga signed a pact to set up the tribunal in December last year.
The deadline to set up the Tribunal and to have it operational was set by the Justice Waki Commission in a bid to ensure those behind the post election violence are prosecuted.
The Government has less than one month to ensure all laws that the Special Tribunal for Kenya requires to operate are enacted.
Apart from the commitment by the two principals, Parliament also passed a key Bill for the work of the Special Tribunal – the International Crimes Bill – before taking the Christmas break.
Signing of the pact and passage of the International Crimes Bill are part of a list of activities that the Government has to undertake between now and March 1, when the Special Tribunal is expected to start work.
Parliament also reconvenes early to discuss the contentious Kenya Communications Act which the media fraternity and the civil society have criticised for its oppressive provisions which threaten to deter press freedom.
Members of Parliament will be expected to debate amendments on the new law.
Parliament will also return amid growing mistrust between the coalition partners with the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) making fresh demands on claims that it was being undermined by its partner, the Party of National Unity.
Among its demands was to have the office of the Government Spokesman placed under the Prime Minister’s Office and the transfer of the role of the Head of Civil Service to the Premier’s Permanent Secretary.
On Wednesday, ODM lawmakers appealed for Parliament to be convened early to speed up the constitutional process especially the formation of the Independent Interim Electoral Commission (IIEC)
The Prime Minister and Head of Civil Service Francis Muthaura have sharply differed over the fate of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, which has led to ODM’s demands after MPs claimed that the Secretary to the Cabinet was undermining Mr Odinga.
The second session of the 10th Parliament is also expected to implement amended Standing Orders.