NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 10 – The government was spared from possible humiliation on Tuesday after a vote to create a Special Tribunal to try leaders linked to the post-election violence was postponed to Tuesday next week.,
Cabinet Ministers and Members of Parliament (MPs) allied to the government breathed a sigh of relief after Parliament failed to garner the requisite 145 MPs for the vote to proceed.
Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim rejected attempts by Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka to stop the vote, by withdrawing the Bill from the Order Paper, and directed parliamentary staff to determine how many MPs were present.
“If the House Business Committee was serious it would have withdrawn the Constitutional Amendment Bill earlier. I therefore direct that the business of the House continue as it appears. We are now proceeding on division,” Mr Maalim ruled.
The government however survived the bid to put the matter to vote by a whisker after it emerged that only 119 MPs were present in the chamber.
“Honourable members, the count is short of the mandatory threshold. The Chair directs that the other division be on Tuesday next week,” Mr Maalim told the House.
There had been fears that the Amendment Bill would be defeated if it was put to vote and the government had been lobbying MPs to support it.
Being a Constitutional Bill it requires the support of at least 148 of the 222 MPs to sail through. If blocked, it can only be reintroduced after a six-month lapse.
Earlier on Tuesday, President Mwai Kibaki chaired a meeting of Cabinet Ministers and their assistants to lobby support for the Bill.
Ministers at the meeting said concerns that had been raised over the Constitutional Amendment and Special Tribunal for Kenya Bills should be taken into account before the legislations were passed by Parliament.
"The legal committee of Parliament along with the mediation team will give audience to all MPs who want to propose amendments. The whole idea here is to ensure that we have a tribunal that has broad ownership of all Kenyans," Internal Security Minister George Saitoti told journalists after the meeting.
Mr Saitoti said that they’d be pushing for the establishment of a Local Tribunal to try post election suspects.
"I think Kenya should be able to demonstrate to the whole world that indeed we can face up to our own challenges and deal with them effectively," he said.
However, some Assistant Ministers were said to be adamant that perpetrators of the violence should be tried at The Hague, because a local court would be prone to political manipulation.
Roads Assistant Minister Wilfred Machage and his Youth Affairs counterpart Kabando wa Kabando were reportedly among those who stood their ground at the meeting, maintaining that they were still opposed to the Bill in its current form.