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HBC to unlock deadlock in Namwamba team

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 24 – The House Business Committee was set to meet on Tuesday evening meet over the leadership wrangles that have paralysed the duties of the committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

Speaking during a youths\’ forum in Nairobi, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Mutula Kilonzo said the crisis threatened to derail the legislation of crucial Bills that need to be enacted ahead of next year\’s elections.

The crisis in the committee will likely delay debate on the nominees for Chief Justice, Deputy CJ and Director of Public Prosecutions since members have not met since last week as expected to draft a report before Wednesday.

When the names were tabled in Parliament a week ago, the committee was expected to scrutinise them and hand over their recommendations to MPs by May 25.

Ideally, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Bill as well as the Salaries and Remuneration Commission Bill should have gone through the said committee but an impasse saw them taken up by the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee.

The Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs chaired by Budalang\’i MP Ababu Namwamba has been embroiled in wrangles since late April when eight members demanded fresh elections arguing that they lost confidence in Mr Namwamba as their chairman.

Mr Kilonzo has however said the political differences in the committee needed to be resolved through leadership from President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga who are both leaders of the warring political parties – ODM and PNU.

"Don\’t think I idly open my mouth and challenge the President and Prime Minister to intervene because they both signed the National Accord; didn\’t they? Or was there someone else signing it? So it\’s a wrangle whose meaning has escaped me," he quipped.

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He expressed confidence that the leader of the HBC, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, and House Speaker Kenneth Marende would resolve the crisis facing the legal affairs committee.

"I hope that the HBC offers leadership this (Tuesday) evening and I would also suggest that you hold your questions and ask them to the Speaker or the Vice President after the meeting. I will also make my proposals but I don\’t want to pre-empt them," he added.

The Justice Minister added that he would move a procedural Motion seeking to reduce the number of days taken for the publication and referral of a Bill by departmental committees from 24 days to a maximum of three days.

He also proposed that the new Chief Justice and deputy Chief Justice be sworn in next Monday in order to kick off judicial reforms.

"There\’s actually no deadline but surely if there had been a Chief Justice someone would have been able to implore upon him to appoint a bench even on Sunday to hear the issue of the cancellation of the Kamukunji by election.  So the deadline is actually yesterday," Mr Kilonzo quipped.

Even though the country failed to meet the deadline for appointing the Chief Justice as stipulated in the Constitution, the Committee on the Implementation of the Constitution released a time-table indicating that the new CJ should be in office by the end of May

On Tuesday, Mr Kilonzo further criticised Justice Daniel Musinga for blocking the Kamukunji by election arguing that a court cannot nullify an election process after its scheduled date is announced by the electoral body.

He added that Justice Musinga should have waited for the outcome of the by election before allowing the petitioner to file his application.

"The Kamukunji ruling was a disaster and it makes no sense. All countries recognise that the only organ that can stop an election is the election body; not a judge," he said.

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"And even if the judge thinks I am in contempt of court, I dare him because I have to say this as the legal policy for this country," he added.

He also asked the Chief Public Prosecutor Keriako Tobiko to comply with the warrants of arrest placed on Nambale MP Chris Okemo and former Kenya Power and Lighting Cooperation Managing Director Samuel Gichuru, who are wanted in Britain over numerous allegations of fraud.

Mr Kilonzo also called for the resignation of Mr Okemo, who chairs the Parliamentary Committee on Finance, Planning and Trade, until the matter was resolved.

"This whole affair is very embarrassing for this country because this is an issue we should have investigated on our own. Mr Okemo should resign in line with Chapter Six of the Constitution. He ought to step down; I repeat he ought to step down!" he said.

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