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Hitch emerges in vetting of judicial nominees

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 23 – It is now emerging that Parliament has not made any headway in scrutinising nominees for the offices of Chief Justice, Deputy CJ and Director of Public Prosecutions due to wrangles in the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee.

When the names were tabled in Parliament last week, the Speaker directed that the matter "be referred to the relevant committee" (in this case the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee) which was to report back to Parliament this Wednesday as required by the Standing Orders.

Parliament has once in the past by-passed the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee when the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Bill was introduced in the House and instead sent it to the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee.

On Monday, the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) urged the Speaker of the National Assembly Kenneth Marende to unlock the deadlock.

However, the committee is technically disbanded due to lack of quorum following the withdrawal of seven members by their sponsoring party, ODM.

LSK Chairman Kenneth Akide, however, said on Monday that the names of Dr Willy Mutunga (Chief Justice) Nancy Baraza (deputy CJ) and Keriako Tobiko (DPP) should just be forwarded straight to the floor of Parliament and by-pass the committee stage.

"We are asking Parliament to take its rightful place – look at these candidates, debate them and give us a verdict," he told a media conference.

The Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs chaired by Budalangi 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.

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Last week the House Liaison Committee called for the disbandment of the embattled committee which is charged with, among other tasks, summoning the nominees for interviews before drafting its report for the House.

Meanwhile, the lawyer\’s organisation said they had launched a probe into what they term as \’"varied insinuations, innuendos and allegations" against the nominees.

"Some of the allegations are unsubstantiated or non-factual while the rest are out rightly irrelevant to the suitability of the candidates concerned. Furthermore it is self-evident that some of them are actuated by personal, sectoral, religious or political considerations as is always the case in Kenya," he said.

Mr Akide also welcomed the nomination of Keriako Tobiko for the position of Director of Public Prosecutions saying the panel of five of which he was a member had done a thorough vetting job.

The five member panel headed by COTU Secretary General Francis Atwoli had nominated current DPP Keriako Tobiko, and lawyers Dorcas Oduor and Patrick Kiage.

Mr Akide argues Mr Tobiko was capable of the carrying out the major reforms in the Office of DPP into an independent and efficient institution as envisaged in the Constitution.

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