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I acted lawfully, insists Kibaki

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 18 – President Mwai Kibaki has dismissed Speaker Kenneth Marende\’s ruling that his recent nominations to four constitutional offices were illegal, and declared that only the court could interpret the Constitution.

At a rare press conference at his Harambee House office, the Head of State maintained that he acted within the law in nominating Justice Alnashir Visram as Chief Justice, Githu Muigai as Attorney General, Kioko Kilukumi as Director of Public Prosecutions and William Kirwa as Controller of Budget.

He said his actions had been vindicated by two parliamentary committees which after conducting hearings, had concluded that the nominations had been done within the law.

"The principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government on this important constitutional issue ought to have been respected. The interpretation of the Constitution ought to have been left to the Judiciary," said President Kibaki.

Read the President\’s full statement here.

The Head of State said he would await the final outcome of the constitutional court which issued interim orders declaring the nominations unlawful. The case is coming up for hearing on Monday before three judge bench consisting of Justices Kalpana Rawal, George Dulu and Luka Kimaru.

"Before we can conclude the nominations that we have embarked upon, the government will await the verdict of the constitutional court. In the meantime, we shall proceed with other aspects of implementing the Constitution," he said.

In his ruling on Thursday Mr Marende said President Kibaki did not carry out consultations with Prime Minister Raila Odinga as required by the Constitution and the National Accord in nominating the Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Controller of Budget.

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However the President in his statement on Friday scorned at this view.

"I also understand that there are those who urge that it is not enough to simply follow the provisions of the Constitution. However, our primary duty is to ensure we are guided by the Constitution and ordinary law as enacted so as to ensure the smooth and predictable running of our country," he said.

President Kibaki defended his leadership saying:  "In my actions as your President, I have at all times acted in accordance with the Constitution and the Laws of Kenya."

"I understood that given our past, fidelity to the rule of law is of utmost importance in the running of our national affairs," he said.

Earlier on Friday, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said Mr Marende\’s ruling in the row over the controversial nominations was a plus for the country\’s struggle to instil democratic practices in governance.

The PM told a rally in Bura town that neither of the feuding political forces could claim victory out of the impasse that had polarised the coalition government.

He said in the landmark ruling the Speaker of the National Assembly made was the best reward Kenyans could get for endorsing the new Constitution during last year\’s referendum.

"The ruling was not a victory for any individual or political outfit but for the Kenyans who stood for change and democracy," he said.

Mr Odinga promised to deliberate with President Mwai Kibaki at a later date to see that the exercise went through without hitches.

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In Friday morning, the President\’s Party of National Unity said it had considerable ground to challenge the ruling next Tuesday on the floor of the House.

Party officials said they would base their objection on the fact that the Speaker violated the Constitution by interfering with the work of the parliamentary committees that are empowered by the law to discuss any nominations.

"What we will be doing is to overturn the Speaker\’s ruling," Deputy Organizing Secretary Jeremiah Kioni said.

The party insisted that the Standing Orders which the Speaker relied on his ruling are subject to the Constitution.

Vice Chairman Jamleck Kamau added that the Speaker\’s ruling was not binding since it was done beyond the stipulated 6.30pm sitting deadline.

Mr Kioni argued that should the stalemate over the appointment of the appointment of the next CJ persist beyond the February 27 deadline, Justice Evan Gicheru would step in as the acting CJ.

"The Constitution provides that Justice Gicheru will be allowed to rejoin the Court of Appeal. Since he will be the senior most judge, there he will automatically take over," he said.

Narc Kenya Chairperson Martha Karua on the other hand cautioned that continued flouting of constitution by the President could lead to his impeachment.

Speaking to Capital News, she said that it was unfortunate that the President and his Party of National Unity were interpreting the law wrongly.

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"The President will be subverting the Constitution if he insists on pushing nominations that have not gone through the process. It is an offence for which he can be impeached," she said.

Ms Karua, a former Kibaki ally and one-time Constitutional Affairs Minister said that it was necessary for one to read the Sixth Schedule together with the whole Constitution and also look at the national values and principles and the process in which they can appoint.

"Look at the national values and principles and the process in which they can appoint, because the Schedule does not give the process; the process requires that the Judicial Service Commission first interviews competitively, and then gives them the names," said Ms Karua.

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