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Debate on judicial nominees kicks off May 26

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 18 – Parliament is set to commence debate on the nominees for Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Director of Public Prosecutions next Thursday.

The Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende on Wednesday directed the Parliamentary Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee to table recommendations on the three nominees by next Wednesday so that debate can begin the following day.

"I do direct the names of the nominees together with their Curriculum Vitae be referred to the relevant departmental committee for consideration. Due to the urgency of the matter the committee should table its recommendation by 25th May 2011," he said.

He acknowledged receiving a letter from the President listing Dr Willy Mutunga for the Chief Justice, Nancy Baraza for the Deputy Chief Justice and Keriako Tobiko for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

He urged the committee and Parliament to prioritise the issue in the House business since it was a crucial step in reforming the country\’s Judiciary.

On Tuesday, the President and the Prime Minister met and endorsed the three nominees.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga also urged Parliament not to focus on non issues when the debate on the nominees goes before the House.

He asked the MPs to be objective and look at the professionalism of the nominees irrespective of their tribes and their cultures.

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"Don\’t look at the cultures of other people, there are those who remove two lower teeth, we have those who remove six lower teeth…I urge members to look at Kenyans as Kenyans and not as representatives of their communities," he said.

He appealed to the leadership of the country including the public to unite and approach the issue of the nominees to the Judiciary with the seriousness it deserved to hasten the road to a reformed judicial system.

His remarks came in the wake of controversy surrounding Dr Mutunga\’s ear stud which has been criticised by the Church and a section of parliamentarians who have vowed to oppose his endorsement by Parliament.

On Tuesday, several groups from the civil society however defended Dr Mutunga saying he was nominated based on his capacity to deliver as a Chief Justice.

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) Commissioner Hassan Omar said it was ambiguous to focus on a stud to discredit him from a job that he is already qualified for.

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) also defended Dr Mutunga\’s nomination arguing that he was a reformist with a broad understanding of equality and therefore most suitable for the position of Chief Justice.

KHRC Executive Director Muthoni Wanyeki also argued that the Constitution prohibited any form of discrimination on the basis of dress code adding that Dr Mutunga was free to dress as he pleased.

Church Leaders on Monday rejected the nomination of Dr Mutunga and Nancy Baraza as the country\’s next Chief Justice and deputy Chief Justice, saying their characters were in conflict with Christian values and beliefs.

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