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Kenya Speaker allows MPs to discuss Ringera

NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 10 – Speaker Kenneth Marende on Thursday allowed Parliament to discuss the annulment of Justice Aaron Ringera’s re-appointment, despite two cases pending in court on the same matter.

Mr Marende ruled out claims by Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo that discussions of a report by a joint parliamentary committee would amount to sub-judice saying that the House had already started discussions on the matter before two cases against the re-appointments were filed.

“The House will not give jurisdiction of the matter easily because some litigation has commenced on the matter. To hold otherwise would be to invite every person apprehensive on the action the government might make on any matter to head to court and derail the House,” he said.

“A presumption should exist in favour of allowing debate in the House as opposed to suppressing debate.”

The Speaker however warned that members should be careful in their discussions not to follow a “domain that is outside what is legitimately the province of the House.”

Mr Marende is expected to give directions on Parliament’s mandate to discuss issues that are before court, in the face of the existing rule which bars such action.
“In such a case the chair will call them back to line,” he said.

However attempts by two legislators to allow the House to immediately embark debate on the matter were ruled out by the Speaker. Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto and his Kisumu West counterpart Olago Aluoch had requested the Speaker to by-pass debate on the Mau forest report to instead discuss the report on Justice Ringera.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo on Tuesday challenged debate on a report that was tabled in the House rejecting Justice Ringera’s appointment, saying it would prejudice the cases which are pending before the High Court. The report concluded that President Mwai Kibaki violated the law when he by-passed Parliament and the Kenya Anti Corruption Commission’s Advisory Board on the appointment.

Besides annulling the re-appointment the House plans to withhold salaries of Justice Ringera and his two deputies Smokin Wanjala and Fatuma Sichale.  The chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs committee Abdikadir Mohammed has already given a notice of a Motion of amendments to the Appropriations Bill to block salaries of the three directors.

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On Wednesday, the Justice Minister stood by Justice Ringera, arguing that MPs were protesting the re-appointment since they are under investigation by the KACC. He tabled a list of seven Ministers, eight MPs and other top government officials under investigations in a bid to defend Mr Ringera’s credibility.

The law requires that anyone appointed as Director or Assistant Director be selected by the KACC Advisory Board and approved by Parliament before appointment by the Head of State.  Whereas the law allows for re-appointment for another term it fails to state whether the same person should be subjected to the entire process.

Mr Kilonzo had argued that the President had powers to re-appoint the director without the usual vetting, whereas MPs maintain that appointments or re-appointments should follow the same criteria by undergoing vetting by the National Assembly and the Advisory Board.

The two cases have now been set for hearing on September 15.


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