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MPs force Kenya into constitutional crisis

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 26 – Kenya faced an unprecedented constitutional crisis on Thursday after Members of Parliament frustrated the adoption of nominees to the Commission for the Implementation of the new Constitution and the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA).

The lawmakers, who had earlier threatened to block adoption of the names to the crucial committees, argued that the composition did not portray proper regional representation.

The Motion was won after the House went into division, where MPs who were supportive of the adjournment Motion garnered 91 votes against 44 while there were eight abstentions.

Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale moved for the adjournment Motion on the debate to approve the nominees to CRA after the members disagreed on the committee’s decision to drop Amina Ahmed on the basis that ‘she could not defend documents supporting her CV’.

Mr Khalwale said: “Since the committee has called for the replacement of the Ms Ahmed by the appointing political party, her absence would defeat gender balance and also propagate the myth that people from the Coast are often ignored when it comes to national matters.”

The decision by MPs to block passage of the names placed the life of the very same Parliament in danger since a member of the public can go to court to challenge its legality.
Before debate on the adoption of the names kicked off at 7pm, a section of MPs had vowed to reject the nominees arguing that they wanted the equally important boundaries review row resolved.

The end of the tenure of the boundaries review commission coincided with the deadline set for adoption of the nominees to the two commissions as set out in the new Constitution.

The stance by the MPs placed the implementation in jeopardy, since clear time-lines were set out after Promulgation of the new Constitution.

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The Constitution stipulates that the two commissions needed to be in place 90 days after the President signed the new Constitution into law.

Before the special debate kicked off, a group of MPs led by Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim threatened to frustrate the proceedings, claiming that the government was undermining the independence of the Interim Independent Boundaries Commission by interfering with its work.

Parliament had earlier in the afternoon accepted a government request to hold a special Parliamentary session in a bid to beat the deadline for the formation of the committees which expires on Saturday.

Parliamentary sessions end on Thursday, meaning that there was not more time left.

Nominated MP Amina Abdalla tabled the list for the Implementation Commission after they vetted the nominees on Thursday morning.

Finance Committee Chairman Chris Okemo tabled the nomination of the CRA chairman Micah Cheserem who appeared before the committee on Thursday morning.

The Parliamentary committee on Justice and Legal Affairs scrutinised the nine CIC nominees who were picked on Wednesday by the President and the Prime Minister.

During his vetting session, Charles Nyachae who has been proposed to chair the CIC expressed confidence in leading the implementation process.

"If I am confirmed, it will be crucial that I will be courting the active support and participation of the parliamentary committee and the Executive stakeholders where the Bills will be originating from," he said.

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He added: "With goodwill, we can navigate through any political and partisan challenges that may arise and I\’m confident that we can achieve the constitutional goals in a shorter period than the five years given under the new Constitution."

The MPs also vetted Professor Peter Wanyande, where they expressed concern that his involvement in politics as a member of the Yes Secretariat may affect his work at the commission.

But the Political Science professor at the University of Nairobi said: "My training is such that one is able to put aside his values, his interests (for) national interests; I am aware that the implementation of the Constitution is a national exercise that must be done as objectively as possible. I am committed to the implementation of this Constitution having participated in different capacities."

Separately, the Committee on Finance met with Mr Cheserem who has been nominated to head the Revenue Commission.

Mr Cheserem said he would be stepping down from chairing the board of the Capital Markets Authority if his nomination is successful.

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