, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 11 – The Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende is this year’s Jurist of the Year.
The Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) gave Mr Marende the coveted award for ‘his outstanding performance in leading Parliament and enabling it achieve a high sense of independence from the Executive.’
While announcing the award on Thursday evening, the newly elected ICJ Kenya Chairman Albert Kamunde said Mr Marende had displayed leadership in various crucial decisions and actions he has taken.
“His stewardship in the body has seen the revolution of that institution from being a rubber stamp of Executive actions to one that effectively performs its oversight role over the Executive,” he said.
“Our eminent jurist has steered the institution in a non-partisan, pragmatic, objective and mature way that has enabled the body to effectively carry its role.”
Mr Marende was elected Speaker last year at a time when the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement were haggling with each other over an alleged ‘stolen election.’ He stood out in the way he handled the swearing in of the Members of Parliament without favouring any side.
The Speaker also got the admiration of many during a landmark ruling on who should be the Leader of Government Business in the House and Chairman of the House Business Committee (HBC) after he received two different letters from President Mwai Kibaki and the Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the position. The President had nominated Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka while the Premier wanted to be the head.
In is ruling Mr Marende ordered the Executive to ‘sort out its mess’ and instead temporarily appointed himself as the chair of the HBC.
“He has managed to win the confidence of members across the political divide,” Mr Kamunde said in the citation.
In his acceptance speech Mr Marende lauded the August House for supporting his work.
“Human rights work demonstrates patriotism as it entails protection of fellow citizens particularly the most vulnerable,” he said. “Let us not let the opportunity to pick ourselves up and our beloved nation pass by.”
Mr Marende took the opportunity to hit out at politicians who have been giving ultimatums to the Committee of Experts on Constitution demanding that their views be prioritised. He warned his colleagues that their statements and actions could easily compromise the enactment of the new law.