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Kenya Parliament’s unfinished business

Saturday November 7 2009

A past parliamentary session. Photo/FILE

A past Parliamentary session. Photo/FILE 

By CAROLINE WAFULA

Parliament reconvenes on Tuesday afternoon after a month’s break with a renewed push to establish a local tribunal to try post-election violence suspects.

This will be the second time the House will be attempting to create a special court to try those implicated in the 2008 violence at home. But this time the MPs seem to have no option left, especially after last week’s two-day visit by International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo, who left Kenya on Saturday, with the message that a local tribunal was inevitable.

The House is expected to toe the line and give the Special Tribunal Bill, drafted and privately sponsored by Central Imenti MP Gitobu Imanyara, more serious attention. The first attempt to form a local tribunal in February this year flopped even with the backing of President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

The government could not muster the two-thirds majority (145 votes) necessary for a constitutional amendment. Only 101 out of the present 195 MPs voted for the bill, dimming any hopes of beating the initial end of February deadline to establish the local tribunal.

Efforts by the government to revive the initiative failed again when the Cabinet in July rejected two draft bills on the local tribunal presented by Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo. MPs who support the new initiative by Mr Imanyara have vowed to lobby their colleagues to garner the required two-thirds majority vote.

The tribunal was recommended by the Justice Philip Waki-chaired commission of inquiry which was established after mediation talks chaired by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.

Mr Imanyara’s Bill proposes that those who caused the chaos be punished locally while those who organised and financed the violence go to the ICC. Mr Kilonzo indicated that the government could adopt the Bill but “tailor it to international standards”.

Two other key bills are also on Parliament’s priority list and are scheduled for the first reading next week. Finance minister will be introducing in the House the Appropriations Bill which seeks authority for the government to draw from the Consolidated Fund to finance the 2009/2010 budget. The House went on recess before starting deliberations on the bill.

The new controversy surrounding the purchase of 120 VW Passat cars for ministers is also expected to feature prominently in the debate on the bill as the Finance minister faces questions on where he got the money to buy them. Already, the PAC and the Finance committee have scheduled meetings with the minister.

Garsen MP Danson Mungatana’s Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes (Repeal) Bill, 2009 proposes to repeal the 2003 Act which establishes KACC. The Bill slated for the first reading comes two months after Parliament asserted its authority and revoked the reappointment of Justice Aaron Ringera as KACC director and his two deputies Smokin Wanjala and Fatuma Sichale terming it illegal.

Matters of the boundaries commission will also be high up on the agenda, coming against the backdrop of sharp divisions on how constituency boundaries should be mapped out.