Wednesday, February 11, 2009




Parliament was thrown into panic Tuesday night after the Speaker called MPs to vote on the crucial Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2009.

This caught the Government flat-footed, as it is understood President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga had failed to marshal all ministers to their side, leading to the adjournment of the vote to Thursday.

But Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim ruled that a supplementary order to defer the vote had not been filed appropriately by Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, so there was nothing to bar the House from proceeding.

Lack of quorum saved the day as only 119 MPs were present instead of the requisite 145 needed for such constitutional amendments.

Threats of sacking

Earlier in the day, a meeting to rally the ministers and their assistants behind the Government was characterised by arm-twisting and threats of sacking.

Some threatened to resign as one minister, angered by the open defiance, urged Kibaki and Raila to sack the rebels. "Those not speaking the Government language should be sacked,’’ said the minister.

Kibaki and Raila bowed to pressure and agreed to allow amendments to the Bill setting up a local tribunal to try post-election violence offenders. The amendments proposed by the Law Society of Kenya, civil society and private individuals would also be included when the Bill is tabled in Parliament on Thursday.

The Serena team as well as the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs and Administration of Justice were mandated to incorporate the suggestions. Although Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, who briefed the media after the meeting, said they had agreed on a local tribunal, it emerged, not everyone was in agreement.

Many assistant ministers said they would resign if the proposed amendments were not included.

In his address, and which was later sent to newsrooms by the Presidential Press Service, the President asked the ministers and their assistants to support a local tribunal.

"As members of the Government, we stand together and demonstrate our commitment to implementation of the Grand Coalition Accord," the Head of State was reported as saying at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi, meeting.

The PM reminded the ministers and their assistants that they would be judged collectively and not individually if the Grand Coalition Government failed on any national issue. "It reflects badly on us if Ministers and Assistant Ministers contradict each other in public," said Raila.

It was agreed that with proper amendments to the Special Tribunal for Kenya Bill, including the protection of witnesses, a local tribunal would address issues related to post-election violence better.

The meeting cautioned that wananchi should not be misled into thinking that the International Criminal Court was in the best interests of Kenya.

It was noted that The Hague was overwhelmed with cases from other countries and that cases at the court took long to be determined.

Environment Minister John Michuki told the meeting that ministers mentioned in the Waki List should resign immediately.

Assistant minister Wilfred Machage said he was ready to resign unless a clause giving immunity to the two principals was included in the proposed amendments.

Relevant amendments

Local Government Assistant Minister Njeru Githae said he preferred a local tribunal but the relevant amendments must be put in place.

Cabinet ministers Mutula Kilonzo told the meeting that The Hague had not helped countries like Congo and Sierra Leone where it has been applied. Assistant Minister Kabando wa Kabando reportedly threatened to resign unless the Government dropped its support for a local tribunal.

Lands Minister James Orengo said issues raised by those opposed to a local tribunal must be addressed to the satisfaction of all.