NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 10 – Kenya is edging closer to establishing a new body to replace the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights after the Bill establishing the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) passed the critical 2nd reading in Parliament on Wednesday afternoon.
The Bill, which was tabled by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Mutula Kilonzo and seconded by Lands Minister James Orengo, received massive support from the legislators among them Rachael Shebesh (nominated), Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani) and Adan Duale (Dujis).
Mr Kilonzo remained optimistic that the implementation actors would beat the August 27 deadline noting that the Bill was among those required by the fast approaching cutoff date.
The Bill seeks to establish a commission that will monitor and investigate any human rights violations in order to safeguard them.
“The country has gone through an enormous debate for the last 20 years on human rights violations and people have started reporting these issues to the Courts. This Bill therefore provides an important milestone in our efforts to protect and promote human rights,” he said.
He also expressed confidence that the National Gender and Equality Commission Bill would go through the second reading once it was tabled in Parliament for debate on Thursday.
Mr Orengo further said that the Bill would ensure that Kenyans incorporated the respect of human rights into their democracy and culture.
Although Ms Shebesh supported the Bill she raised critical issues surrounding it terming it ‘shallow’. Ms Shebesh added that the Bill was currently being scrutinised by the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) before recommendations for its amendments are proposed.
“The feeling among many members, me included, is that it is kind of shallow and as the CIOC we will be bringing substantive amendments to it. However the lack of substance does not negate it and so I support it,” she said.
Mr Kilonzo further explained that MPs who wished to introduce amendments to the KNHRC Bill would still get a chance to do that during the 3rd reading when it will be tabled before the Committee of the Whole House.
The CIOC is also scheduled to hold a meeting on Thursday where it will announce the next course of action with regard to the implementation of 12 other Bills that are pending.
On Tuesday morning the CIOC divided three Bills, including the KNHRC Bill, the Gender Bill and the Treaties and Ratification Bill, among three of its subcommittees. The Bills were supposed to be analysed and recommendations made ahead of its Thursday meeting.
The committee also demanded that Mr Kilonzo submits all the pending Bills, as they were, saying that they would also divide them among the sub committees for review.
By Tuesday evening the committee had received the Independent Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission Bill, the Commission on Revenue Allocation Bill, the Police Service Bill, the Police Service Commission Bill and the Independent Policing Oversight Authority Bill.
Others are the Employment and Labor Relations Bill, the Elections Bill, the Kenya Citizenship and Immigration Bill, the Kenya Citizens and Foreign National Management Service Bill, the Urban Areas and Cities Bill, the Environment and Land Court Bill and the Power of Mercy Bill.
Kenneth Marende is also scheduled to hold a Speaker’s Kamukunji on August 11 although the agenda was not disclosed.
The Article 59 Commission Bills had been suspended pending stakeholder discussions in Mombasa last Saturday. Although there were issues on whether to merge the KNHRC and the gender commission, the CIOC as well as Mr Mutula thought it would be better to separate them and allow them to operate independently.
The current Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) had pushed for the formation of one commission while the Gender Commission wanted them split.
The Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) had also raised these issues last month arguing that there was a need to iron them out before the facilitative legislations were enacted.