NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 3 – The government is now planning to extend the tenure of the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) by one year and as automatically renew the term of the current commissioners through an Amendment Bill.
Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa told Capital FM News on Monday that the Bill had already been presented before the Cabinet and will likely come up for first reading in Parliament next week.
He pointed out that the time left to constitute a fresh team was too short and risked creating a vacuum given that the commission’s tenure expires on September 7.
“We know that during these times we have tension between communities where some regard others as ‘madoadoa’ and we have foul language. All these are matters that we need to guard against and the NCIC can help us prevent this kind of reckless talk,” he said.
He added that his ministry had also asked the House Business Committee to give the Bill prominence together with the Campaign Finance Bill and the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill that is seeking to address gender representation in Parliament.
“We have urged the House Business Committee to prioritise this Bill as a matter of necessity. But apart from that we will also have the two-thirds gender principle that will be covered by the Constitution Amendment Bill,” he explained.
Wamalwa further observed that the NCIC Commissioners would pick a vice-chairperson after the position was left vacant by the demise of the Mary Onyango.
“Mary Onyango will be replaced by the commissioners themselves. They were supposed to initiate this replacement process and they have already initiated it. Ours is to give them the necessary support in terms of policy and legislations,” he argued.
The minister was also quick to point out that future appointments at the commission would be facilitated by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
The National Cohesion and Integration Act does not provide for reappointment of the commissioners, and a move seeking to renew the NCIC’s term through a gazette notice by the President was rejected by Members of Parliament who insisted on being involved in the process.
“Parliament rejected our proposal by saying that there has to be public participation in terms of vetting so this Bill will accommodate their views and we will have the PSC recommend the names, then they will come to Parliament for approval and then the President will appoint,” he noted.
Wamalwa added that the government had consulted with the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) as well as the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to ensure that MPs were on board.
“We have talked to them and they are both in agreement that there is necessity for quick action so we are all reading from the same page to do the right thing for Kenyans,” he said.
The Amendment Bill will also address the shelf life for the future NCIC teams. If the current team’s timeline is extended by one year, they will have stayed in office for five years yet the establishing Act sets a four year timeline.
The Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) had also been pushing for a one year extension timeline for the NCIC.
Committee Chairman Abdikadir Mohammed argued that the process of setting up a new team risked getting stuck in political muck due to the current political undertones in the country.
“The commission is very critical for conducting peaceful elections and we believe that bringing into force a new commission at this time will not serve us very well,” he told journalists last month.