, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 23 – President Mwai Kibaki maintained on Thursday that his principal deputy, Kalonzo Musyoka, was to chair the crucial House Business Committee in Parliament.
In a statement from State House, Nairobi, the Presidential Press Services (PPS) said Mr Kibaki nominated the Vice President on Tuesday, in accordance with new Parliamentary Standing Orders.
“The President, in his capacity as Head of Government also nominated the Vice President as Chairman of the House Business Committee,” the statement said.
PPS also announced that President Kibaki had called off a Cabinet meeting scheduled for Thursday “to allow for consultations in support of efforts to complete formation of the House Business Committee.”
This follows Wednesday’s acrimony in Parliament that saw the House adjourned following disagreements over composition of the committee that determines Parliament’s agenda.
It later emerged that the real problem on Wednesday was occasioned by a power struggle between Mr Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga whose Orange Democratic Party was pushing to have installed as chairman of the House Business Committee.
Traditionally, that position is held by the Leader of Government Business who is nominated by the President.
During Wednesday’s abortive session, lawmakers rejected the list that was presented by the VP saying that it was not representative, since there were only four women out of the 21 names.
“I don’t think adequate consultations have been made on this. There is a lot of acrimony… we should adjourn the proceedings so that we come with a list that will enjoy the confidence of the whole House,” Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim and Agriculture Minister William Ruto said during the second failed attempt to reach consensus in the afternoon.
Gwasi MP John Mbandi said the level at which the consultations were done was not inclusive saying there was a party that was left out.
Parliament had been forced to adjourn its proceedings in the morning session after Cabinet Ministers and backbenchers joined hands to reject the list following claims that women had been short-changed while some parties had been deliberately locked out.
When Parliament resumed its afternoon session, Mr Musyoka presented a fresh list which was similarly rejected forcing the Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende to adjourn the proceedings of the National Assembly to Thursday afternoon.
In the list that was tabled in the afternoon, Public Health Minister Beth Mugo and Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua had been included to counter the complaints over the sidelining of women and Party of National Unity affiliate parties. The two had led rejection of the list that was tabled in the morning session.
Lands Minister James Orengo (ODM – Ugenya) disowned the Motion alleging that the Vice President did not also consult the government.
“I am not aware that the government had agreed on a Motion as put by him (VP), and for that reason I am advising you that PNU is not the government of Kenya, no broad and firm consultations have been done,” he said.
Kuria MP Wilfred Machage asked MPs to stop the debate asking members to demonstrate leadership. “The country is looking to this House for leadership. Stop trivialising issues and stop arguing on small issues, let us adjourn and resolve this issue.”
Housing Minister Soita Shitanda joined in the foray saying the outcome was a sideshow of MPs jostling for positions.
“Some of the members calling for consultations have been in the former HBC and never attended the meetings, as we retreat for so called consultations I urge my colleagues to give a chance to new members. These are not consultations, they are just jostling for positions,” he said.
He said if the formation of the first committee was so troublesome, it meant reconstituting the rest of the other standing committees of Parliament would take years to complete.
“We have about 28 other committees to reconstitute, and if this is a pointer of what will happen to the committees, then we will be here for three years just constituting committees,” he said.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende asked Mr Musyoka to consult political parties widely and come up with an acceptable list.
He warned him against tabling the list without a consensus since if the MPs would vote against it the Motion could not be introduced until after six months as per the Standing Orders.
The Speaker urged the lawmakers to consult soberly saying Kenyans were crying for leadership from the House.