Thursday, September 17, 2009



By Standard Team

President Kibaki’s unilateral decision to reappoint Justice Aaron Ringera as Kenya Anti Corruption Commission (KACC) boss hit the brickwall in Parliament Wednesday, when MPs voted overwhelmingly to demand he annuls his action.

So powerful was the message to the President on bypassing Parliament in the appointment that Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta immediately withdrew the next business of the House, which would have afforded MPs to either cut off Ringera’s emoluments and those of his two deputies, or severe KACC’s lifeline.

It is now left to the President to either lobby the House to a compromise favourable to his side, and ts own interests, or carry on and hope Parliament’s hostility to his decision would dissipate.

The President could also bank on a political settlement, which was inferred by Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o, when he said in situations of a ceasefire, disregard of the rules could provoke a fresh war in the coalition.

However, there was a school of thought last evening that Parliament’s action has thrown the ball back to Kibaki and he could, if he chooses, ask Ringera to step aside.

Alternatively, the KACC Advisory Board can now argue Parliament has revoked Ringera’s appointment and begin its own process of filling the post. Kibaki had not only bypassed Parliament, but the KACC board as well.

With Parliament having gone on recess last night, the President appeared left with one more option — to reconsider Ringera’s reappointment if he expects KACC to get funding from Parliament or prepare for a ping-pong game with the House.

Clear message

Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi, who moved an adjournment Motion until November, said the message to the President was loud and clear on the importance of respecting the rule of law. "If we make the laws it is important to adhere to those laws," he said.

"Parliament is no longer a rubberstamp and conscience does not allow one to obey a bad law,’’ said Nyong’o.

Trade Minister, Amos Kimunya, said the events of the day were welcome, as they would serve as a political safety valve.

"Even in cooking there is a moment you have to lower the temperature of the kettle to allow the food to cook nicely, that is where we are. We need a break to correct ourselves where we went wrong,’’ he said.

The debate on Ringera reappointment has inspired passions of ethnic loyalties and political affiliations, and is a study in how fractured the Grand Coalition Government is.

‘Truth’ and ‘conscience’ were invoked, as well as patriotism and the need to take care of posterity. But though the language and fire of spirit appeared the same, the meanings were as different as the number of contributors.

Members fought hammers and tongs, the Bible and Quran, as well as English dictionaries and law books were referred to. So were the traditions of the British and American legislatures.

But till late at night the cat-and-mouse games in the House were still on, by way of amendment bids, interruptions, mixed interpretations, and clashes of opinions, the House was yet to confront the question of the day.

This was whether the House should adopt a report of joint committees of the House rejecting the re-appointment of Justice Ringera and asking the President to annul his Gazette Notice or brace for Parliament’s severance of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission’s budget.

Aaron Ringera

In the first bout of voting on amendments suggested by the Kibaki side, through MP Jeremiah Kioni, aimed at watering down the report of the two committees — Delegated Legislation and Administration of Justice — was won by the ‘No’ side by 86 votes against 45 ‘Yes’.

One of big guns that had been pulling strings in their political powerhouses in Ringera’s favour, Agriculture Minister William Ruto, and Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, was not in the House, as were many Rift Valley MPs.

Barter trade

The two were reported to have done a barter trade in which Uhuru would marshal PNU to support Ruto’s stand on Mau Forest evictions. In return the Eldoret North MP would support the reappointment of Ringera.

A minister said Parliament was not a House of ‘fools’ and ‘idiots’ and he should therefore not be expected to support the President’s action blindly, without weighing in his own conscience.

"Collective responsibility presupposes I was must have been consulted on the appointments … my allegiance is to the Constitution, I swore to advise the President truthfully but my advice was not sought. That is why I will vote with my conscience,’’ said Lands Minister James Orengo.

Former Justice Minister Martha Karua accused those on the President’s side led by her successor Mutula Kilonzo of deploying their education and mastery of law to hoodwink Kenyans on a matter, which she argued, was black and white.

"It is not right to intimidate the loyal servants of this country,’’ she said, and argued, using the dictionary definition of reappointment as ‘to appoint again’. She said the President breached the law and was misadvised.

A surprise voice from ODM-Kenya, David Musila captured the attention of the House, when he said he was supporting the Motion on the basis of four questions he asked himself and all of which drew the answer ‘no’.

His questions, that summed up the arguments of those who lambasted the President and the Executive were:

*Was Ringera successful in his first term?

*Will Ringera’s reappointment help war against corruption?

*Does Ringera’s reappointment have the confidence, support and faith of Kenyans?

*What is the national mood? Do the people want to see Ringera back?

Kioni was the face of opposition to the report as were a host of MPs from the Mt Kenya region, including Tigania East MP Peter Munya. He argued the war was between the Executive and Parliament and the Judiciary — which is the third arm of government — was the natural arbiter.

‘Ringera will not get justice here. Parliament is an interested party and it is overreaching itself. This is a case where we are asking the monkey to make a decision on forests where it lives. The monkey will always decide in favour of the forest,’’ said Mr Munya.

Imperial presidency

Orengo said: "The era of imperial presidency when the mention of the President was like God the Almighty had landed, has returned… but some of us who have fought so long against it will not be part of it."

Chepalungu MP said the "indiscipline in the Executive was playing out in Parliament" and asked ministers to what extent they should be bound by collective responsibility out of the House.

At one point Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim who had been insisting the ministers should respect the dictate of collective responsibility, said it did not matter much to him how the ministers took it because the Chief Executive (President) could still sack those who defied it.

Immigration Minister Otieno Kajwang’ argued: "Collective responsibility does not mean that if I do something wrong then all the ministers will support me. It would be an absurdity!"