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Kenya MPs bid to overstep President

NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 18 – Central Imenti MP Gitobu Imanyara now says a Bill seeking to establish a Tribunal to try post-poll violence suspects will not necessarily require presidential assent once passed by Parliament.

Mr Imanyara on Tuesday claimed that the parliamentary legal office had approved a clause that provides for the Bill to become law even if the President fails to give his assent.

He said the backbenchers fronting the Bill had reached a compromise with the Legal office that requires the President to sign it within three days and if he doesn’t it automatically becomes law.

“It is not a completely new concept because it is in Section 46 of our constitution. It is an area that we had differed with the legal office but we are now happy to have resolved it and we are sure we are not overstepping the mandate of the Executive,” he said.

The Law Society of Kenya Chairman Okong’o Omogeni told Capital News that it was possible to by-pass the Presidential assent but then the House would have to amend the Constitution.

“Currently any Bill that is passed in the House must be assented to by the President for it to become law. The house will therefore have to amend the Constitution to preclude the powers of the President before the Bill on the tribunal is passed,” he said.

Mr Imanyara said the Bill, which is to be published this week, already enjoys the support of 83 parliamentarians and is upbeat it will attain the required 145 votes for constitutional amendments before it is tabled in Parliament next Tuesday.

The Bill has received support from the civil society and within government. Parliament – led by the same backbenchers – in February rejected an earlier Bill by former Justice Minister Martha Karua vouching for local trials through a special court. They then argued that such a process would be interfered with by the powerful people behind the mayhem.

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The new bid comes less than a month after the Cabinet rejected a similar Tribunal Bill by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo and chose to use the local justice system as well as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission to deal with the violence. Interestingly a number of Ministers have backed the new bid disagreeing with a Cabinet resolution.

The Bill seeks a double faceted approach to the violence. While the International Criminal Court (ICC) will be left to deal with the main suspects, a Special Tribunal for Kenya will handle the rest of the suspects.

The ICC is currently holding onto a list of suspects perceived to be the main people behind the violence. According to an agreement Mr Kilonzo signed with the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo in July the government will officially hand over the Kenyan case to the court within a year if it fails to deal with the matter conclusively itself.

Mr Imanyara also denied claims that the backbenchers are being used by certain individuals for political reasons.

“The fact that the Prime Minister and I were in a function together is of no relevance, but we are grateful that the PM has supported us,” he said.

Parliament is due to go on recess next week Thursday but the backbenchers say they will petition the Speaker to recall the House specifically to discuss the Bill.


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