Parties to rule on role of ‘No’ MPs in review

Monday August 16 2010

Hezron Njoroge | NATION Higher Education minister William Ruto meets Prime Minister Raila Odinga before the Parliamentary Group meeting on Monday. President Kibaki said all leaders should be involved in implementing the new Constitution.

Hezron Njoroge | NATION Higher Education minister William Ruto meets Prime Minister Raila Odinga before the Parliamentary Group meeting on Monday. President Kibaki said all leaders should be involved in implementing the new Constitution. 

By PETER LEFTIE [email protected] AND CAROLINE WAFULA [email protected]

The decision on whether MPs who opposed the new Constitution will be involved in bringing it into force has been left to individual parties.

The issue was key on the agenda of a joint parliamentary group meeting chaired by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Monday.

It was the first face-to-face gathering of coalition government MPs since the split over the new Constitution. Leaders from both sides of the coalition government have been divided over the issue.

Higher Education minister William Ruto led MPs opposed to the new law in pushing for their inclusion in the Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee.

Supported by Mr Odinga and suspended assistant minister Wilfred Machage, Mr Ruto argued that MPs who opposed the new Constitution had a right to sit in the committee just like their colleagues who campaigned for its passing during the referendum.

But the proposal was met with stiff resistance from most of those who attended the joint Parliamentary Group meeting bringing together MPs from the Party of National Unity (PNU) and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre.

The meeting resolved that the committee would comprise only 15 MPs and would be chaired by Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohammed and deputised by Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba.

The 13 other members will be nominated by political parties based on their strength in Parliament.

Mr Mohammed and Mr Namwamba were proposed by Dr Boni Khalwale and endorsed by a majority of the MPs in the meeting. Mr Mohammed chaired the Parliamentary Select Committee on the new Constitution and was deputised by Mr Namwamba.

The Oversight Committee will oversee the work of the nine-member Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution.

According to the new law, Parliament must first set up the oversight committee before the implementation commission is formed. House Speaker Kenneth Marende has already indicated that the committee will be in place within 30 days of the promulgation of the new Constitution.

The new Constitution specifies that the implementation commission must be set up within 90 days of its promulgation and must wind up after five years or upon when the document is in full force, whichever comes first.

At the end of the meeting, it was not clear whether the ‘No’ MPs will be allowed to sit on the committee even though the resolutions read to the press by Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta suggested that it would be all-inclusive.

“Members of Parliament have emphasised that the Constitution is for all Kenyans irrespective of how they voted at the referendum,” said Mr Kenyatta.

The meeting also resolved that Cabinet ministers and their assistants would take their new oaths of office in accordance with the new Constitution immediately after President Kibaki promulgates it on August 27.

And for the first time in the history of Kenya’s Parliament, MPs will take their new oaths on Saturday, August 28 during a special session of Parliament.

A motion to hold the special session on a day other than the normal sitting days will be moved in Parliament this week.

Many of the MPs at the meeting also opposed demands that amendments be moved to resolve contentious issues in the new Constitution.

Opposition to the proposal made by Dr Machage was led by Water minister Charity Ngilu.