Storm in Parliament over judicial nominees

February 1, 2011 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 1 – The row over the controversial nomination of three key judicial office holders took centre stage in Parliament after the House re-opened on Tuesday afternoon.

MPs were divided down in the middle over the nominations with those supporting President Mwai Kibaki supporting the move while those allied to Prime Minister Raila Odinga protested against the list.

Tempers and emotions flared in the House over whether President Kibaki consulted Prime Minister Raila Odinga on the nomination of Justice Alnashir Visram as Chief Justice, Kioko Kilukumi as the Director of Public Prosecutions and Professor Githu Muigai to be the Attorney General.

National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende is later in the week expected to rule whether Parliament will continue and vet the names as required by law.

“This is a matter of national importance and I will make a ruling on Thursday at 2.30pm,” said Mr Marende.

MPs Danson Mungatana and Farah Maalim kicked off the debate which was initiated by Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara who had requested for a ruling on the thorny issue.

"The only issue for this House to consider is whether there was any consultation between the President and the PM, consultation is not information, consultation is concurrence," said Mr Maalim.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo challenged the coalition principals to apply the rule of law when making such appointments to ensure their actions do not precipitate unnecessarily political tensions in the country.

“It is my argument that we request the two principals to apply and demonstrate respect to the public,” said Mr Kilonzo.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka gave a chronology of the consultations between the two coalition partners to a hushed House.

Mr Musyoka told Parliament that Mr Odinga held the last meeting on the issue last month.

He said the last attempt by President Kibaki to have the final agreement on the names was done when Mr Odinga was in Addis Ababa for the AU meeting.

“It’s for the country to decide who between the President and the PM is telling the truth,” said the VP

He said Mr Odinga had suggested a foreign Chief Justice, a proposal that was shot down by President Kibaki who argued that Kenya has enough local talent and the was likely to send the wrong message to the legal fraternity

Mr Musyoka said Mr Odinga had no problem with Prof Githu Muigai as Attorney General but insisted on Justice Riaga Omollo being nominated as Chief Justice.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga who was in the House during the debate admitted to having held consultations with President Kibaki over the judicial appointments but maintained that they were not exhaustive.

He disclosed that the inconclusive consultations had agreed on Justice Kihara Kariuki for CJ, Fred Ojiambo as AG and Kioko Kilukumi as DPP.

While responding to minutes of the meetings presented by Leader of the Government business in the House Kalonzo Musyoka, he said the information was not correct.

"I have no objection against these individuals who were nominated; my only problem is that there was no competitiveness. I insist this process was unconstitutional, needs to be nullified and start afresh,” said the Premier.

Mr Odinga refuted claims that he suggested the name of Justice Riaga Omollo to be the Chief Justice as indicated by Mr Kalonzo.

He said the names of Judge Vishram and Prof Muigai did not appear during the meeting and so he was not consulted.

Gichugu MP Martha Karua has told Parliament that the argument indicates that there was no agreement between the two leaders.

"The President must not tire to consult, from what Leader of Government Business has said I conclude that consultations were not complete," she said.

Ms Karua said the names should originate from the Judicial Service Commission before being tabled in Parliament for approval.

“We must have persons who don’t get tired and can actually burn the midnight oil to lead the country; you cannot sit as a CJ who is not vetted, and start vetting the judges,” she said.

She said the appointments should reflect the regional and gender balance.

Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee Chairman Mohamed Abdikadir asked the leaders ensure that the process is transparent.

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