Wednesday, September 9, 2009



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
September 9, 2009

Did Kibaki deny Parliament another round of horse-trading on the floor of the house?
Aaron Ringera’s second term as KACC chief executive has raised a wild storm. Almost every imaginable activist, ranging from the cabinet to the church has blasted Kibaki for renewing Ringera’s contract. Some of us, who have been watching on the sidelines, have been wondering what the noise has been all about.

The interesting bit about this debate is that some of Kibaki’s loudest critics are the same people who fought tooth and nail way back in 2004 to ensure Ringera got the job. There are even rumors that money changed hands within the precincts of Parliament to marshal enough votes to secure the job for the good Justice Aaron Ringera. Yet this was the man expected to fight graft in our society!

Kenyans may remember that way back before there was a regime change in Kenya in 2003, such appointments were the prerogative of the President who would hire and fire at will. It was this reckless behavior of the President that made Parliament to amend laws to give Parliament more teeth to clip excesses of the Executive.

When Parliament started playing a role in these appointments, we Kenyans believed that it would be civilized about it and exercise this new role along the lines of established traditions of the American Congress. We believed that in so exercising its new authority, Parliament would not contemplate usurping powers of the Executive let alone intimidating the Executive into surrendering its genuine constitutional authority.

In civilized democracies, Parliament is not allowed to run amok or go wild in its attempt to curb Executive authority. It is supposed to do that with a lot of finesse.
To cite the American example again; all nominations to constitutional office must come from the President before they are vetted in a public congressional hearing.

Only those who meet the standards set by Congress are approved for presidential appointment. However, once a candidate is endorsed by Congress and appointed to a position, Congress or any other authority has no powers to revoke or contest there appointment. If the Executive chooses to extend the term of such office holder, no other arm of government or body should challenge such appointment.

However, in Kenya, the situation is intriguing. Parliament wants to do everything. It wants to advertise jobs, select nominees, vet them and take their preferred candidate to the President for hiring. In other words, they want the President to rubberstamp the appointment of their cronies and compromise candidates. Merit and fairness do not seem to be part of Parliament in the scheme of things. It is all about political horse trading on the floor.

In the Ringera case, two issues have emerged. Contestants on both sides have blurred the line between the legality of the President’s action and the moral obligation of such an appointee to the public office.

In law, Kibaki is right to extend Ringera’s term because there is no clause in the act that explicitly directs that should the President choose to extend Ringera’s term, such an extension can only take place after Ringera repeats the 2004 process with the Oversight Board and Parliament.

On the other hand, the only reason Ringera himself could have opted not to seek a second term was if he was guided by his conscience. In this regard, he would have listened to his inner voice telling him to quit because in the last five years of his first term, public perception of his performance has not been favorable.

The reason Aaron Ringera has not resigned is because in this country called Kenya, the nation’s conscience dissipated a long time ago. All our public leaders lost it a long time ago and to date have no idea what conscience is all about. If our leaders were to be ruled by conscience, if they were capable of feeling guilty and sensitive to public opinion, many of them would today not be in their offices. Such leaders are five cabinet ministers, Attorney General, Police Commissioner and the Chief Justice. These are the individuals that have decided to stay put despite public outrage against their performance from time to time.

If you want to know that the nation has lost its soul to materialism and the trappings of power, just look at the behavior of members of the KACC Oversight Board within 24 hours of Kibaki reappointing Ringera. On day one, they were breathing fire and castigating the President for having “illegally” reappointed Ringera. The next morning, they had the audacity to call a press conference to announce that they would seek audience with the President to seek an amicable solution to the issue before proceeding for lunch with Ringera!

In civilized societies where men and women mind about their image and integrity, the Board would have resigned in protest if indeed it felt that it had been slighted.