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Kibaki to meet PM over nominees row

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 7 – President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga were due to meet on Monday for talks aimed at resolving the standoff caused by their disagreement over nominations to key constitutional offices.

The midday meeting was expected to look at the options available for the two principals to find an easy way out of the mess and lower simmering political hostility.

The President has already forwarded his list of four to Parliament for consideration and approval, while the PM has publicly rejected the nominees saying he was not properly consulted.

The Premier has written a protest letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende. Mr Marende in turn asked two parliamentary committees to evaluate the matter and establish whether the Constitution was breached.

The options for the two Principals include redrawing the list which will then be forwarded to Parliament for vetting. Another option is to renegotiate the position of Chief Justice, which appears to be the most contentious of the four jobs.   The other positions are that of the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Controller of Budget.

In their options, they will most likely be guided by a High Court ruling that declared the nominations unconstitutional since they failed to involve the Judicial Service Commission in the nomination of the CJ, while gender balance was also not met.

A successful meeting of the two Principals at the President\’s Harambee House Office could as well pre-empt the meetings of the Parliamentary committees scheduled for later on Monday afternoon. The meetings aim to begin the task of interrogating whether the nominations were constitutional.

The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee will meet over the nominations of the Chief Justice, Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions, while the committee on Finance and Trade will interrogate the nomination of the Controller of Budget.

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According to the agendas of the two committees posted on Parliament\’s website, the committees will hold preliminary closed door meetings to "adopt procedure of executing the task referred to the Committee by the Speaker and identify and adopt the procedures of executing their respective tasks."

The committees will also: "Identify and adopt reference materials and identify and adopt the list of persons/ institutions to be invited by the Committees."

The two committees which have until Thursday to complete their work will hold hearings over the matter before writing a report to be presented to the House for consideration.

The House Speaker however has said the court\’s decision did not affect his ruling as the two arms of government function separately.

The Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) has added that the said parliamentary committees were within the law to discuss the nominees despite the High Court ruling that rendered the list unconstitutional.

In a one-on-one interview with Capital News, CIC Chairman Charles Nyachae said the High Court ruling affected actual appointments and not approval by the House and so the committee could scrutinise the names as ruled by the Speaker.

Mr Nyachae added that the High Court didn\’t bar debate on the names but rather urged Parliament to ensure it does not endorse names that breach the Constitution and as such the committees would address the matter of constitutionality.

"The issue would come if Parliament goes ahead and processes the names and returns them approved.  Then, Justice Daniel Musinga\’s ruling would come up," he said.

He added:  "Don\’t forget (Mr) Marende has not yet made a ruling on the constitutionality of the matter and what Justice Musinga did was to bring to the attention of the Speaker to the interpretation of the Constitution."

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Mr Nyachae said the two rulings should give stakeholders time to consult and iron out the differing opinions on the list.

"They gave the country an opportunity for us (nation) including the principals to avoid the necessity to make a decision that would appear to polarise the country," he said.

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