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Speaker was on point, says US envoy

NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 18 – US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger has backed the ruling made in Parliament by House Speaker Kenneth Marende on nominations to key constitutional offices, saying it paves the way for a transparent hiring process.

In an interview with Capital News on Friday afternoon, Mr Ranneberger said there was need for thorough consultations and transparency in the process of nominating key officials in the Judiciary as outlined in the Constitution.

He said the Speaker had made a "courageous, learned and objective ruling which reflects the letter and spirit of the new Constitution and which paves the way now for a more open and transparent process."

"The important thing about the Speaker\’s ruling is that he was above party lines, above politics, and ruled based on principle," he said during an interview at his Muthaiga residence in Nairobi.

He called on President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to consult transparently in carrying out the nominations now that they had been termed as "unconstitutional" by Parliament.

"Now that the Speaker has ruled it is very important for the process to be carried out in a transparent manner that is open," he said.

"They should make sure that those people are properly vetted, let the President and the Prime Minister ensure they consult closely, so we are certainly strongly encouraged that the process be carried out in a more transparent and open way."

He observed that the Speaker\’s ruling did not favour any political party as claimed by Members of Parliament allied to the Party of National Unity.

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The ruling made on Thursday afternoon has sparked mixed reactions from across the political divide, with some MPs accusing him of acting from political influence.

In his ruling, Mr Marende told Parliament President Kibaki did not act within the law because he failed to carry out proper consultations with the Prime Minister as outlined in the National Accord which is part of the Constitution.

President Mwai Kibaki addressed a rare press conference on Friday afternoon, and maintained that he stood with his list of nominations because "I acted constitutionally."

Some MPs have vowed to challenge the ruling in Parliament once it resumes its sittings on Tuesday next week.

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