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MPs okay Lichuma appointment

NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 17- The National Assembly on Thursday unanimously approved the appointment of Winfred Lichuma as the proposed Chairperson of the Gender and Equality Commission.

The House rejected to approve the report of Labour and Welfare Committee which had recommended the rejection of Lichuma on grounds that the process used to nominate her was faulty.

Committee Vice Chairman who is also the Siakago MP Lenny Kivuti said the reasons given in rejecting the top candidates were based on misleading information.

The committee described the nomination process as ‘flawed’ and asked the appointing authorities to rescind their decision.

“If we are doing regional balancing, let us be honest with ourselves by giving the country the face of Kenya not that of individuals,” he said.

MPs have however, described the process led by an independent panel as fair, transparent and inclusive.

Lichuma will now have to wait for the determination of a case pending in court before she would be confirmed to head the gender commission.

The High Court on Wednesday barred the President and the Chief Justice from appointing and swearing in Winfred Lichuma as the chairperson of the Gender and Equality Commission. The restraining orders were issued following an application by nine women lobby groups opposed to her nomination.

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President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga have been put on the spot over the appointment after some MPs and Committee members claimed the two engaged in horse trading while choosing Kenyans picked to the new offices created by the Constitution.

Lichuma was nominated for the job although she had been placed fourth by the interviewing panel.

University lecturers Maria Nzomo and Jane Dwasi were rated number one and two respectively, while retired Justice Violet Mavisi, a former vice chair of the human rights body emerged third but were disqualified on grounds of “regional balance.”

Lichuma is a lawyer and a commissioner with the Kenya National Human Rights and Equality Commission.

A letter from the Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, to Parliament stated that the former ambassador Nzomo is a Kikuyu and so are two of the commission’s three members.

The letter addressed to National Assembly Clerk Patrick Gichohi said, although Maria Wambui Nzomo was the top ranked performer in the interview, her nomination would not conform to the requirements of Article 232 of the Constitution and that of the National Gender and Equality Commission.

The Constitution requires that positions to the commissions and public offices be balanced along ethnic, regional and gender lines.

However, the MPs in a report before the House, noted that contrary to Muthaura’s position, Nzomo was born of a Kikuyu mother and Kamba father and should therefore be considered a Kamba.

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