Kibaki signs law to create
Published on March 19, 2008, 12:00 am
By Patrick Wachira
It is now official. Kenya will have the position of executive Prime minister. This was after President Kibaki last night assented to a Bill passed by Parliament creating the post.
Mr Raila Odinga is waiting to step into the office, becoming only its second holder after its was scrapped in 1964 by the nation’s founding father, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
The Cabinet could now be named anytime from today.
The unity of purpose demonstrated on the steps of Harambee House in the milestone handshake between President Kibaki and Raila, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), was on Tuesday replicated in Parliament after members unanimously passed two crucial peace Bills.
The august House was the scene of unfolding historic developments as MPs sat late into the night to enact the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill.
By the time of going to press, the President had assented to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, giving it the force of law and effectively creating the position of PM and two deputies, even as MPs unanimously passed the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill before adjourning.
On Tuesday, President Kibaki and Raila spoke passionately about rebuilding Kenya and giving citizens hope that the violent chapter that rattled Kenya for the first two months of the year was a thing of the past and that the passage of the two bills was the start of a new dawn.
The first Bill entrenched into law the newly created positions of PM and two deputies. The posts will now be officially filled within days.
It was the first time that a sitting Head of State attended parliamentary proceedings strictly as an MP.
President Kibaki walked into the Chambers shortly after 3pm as member for Othaya and went on to contribute to debate from the floor of the House, rather than from the Chair of State. He sat on the position reserved for the Leader of Government Business on the front bench, to the right of the Speaker.
The green Chair of State remained unoccupied for the entire duration of parliamentary business.
Tuesday was also unique in that debate was transmitted live, which has not happened before during normal business of the House, outside the State Opening or Budget speech functions.
House Speaker Kenneth Marende reminded Kenyans that the only other time this rule was waived was when Nobel laureate, Prof Wangari Maathai, was filmed while making contributions in the House before she received her prize.
When members started the business of the day, speaker after speaker stressed on the need to rebuild a new Kenya in which everyone was free to settle anywhere in the country.
Just before President Kibaki arrived, there were hushed consultations between Chief Government Whip, George Thuo, the Speaker and Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua as well as Raila, who had arrived earlier.
Shortly after, Thuo left and returned a few minutes later, escorted by the Serjeant-at-Arms and orderlies to officially usher in the President at precisely 3.41pm.
Mvita MP Najib Balala, who was on the floor contributing to debate on the Constitutional Amendment Bill, appeared taken aback and interrupted his speech in honour of the President.
Balala emphasised the significance of the occasion and told Parliament: “This is a historic day when the President is with us and will vote with us!” as MPs applauded the Head of State.
And as soon as Kibaki sat, Raila entered the Chamber from one of the lobbies and proceeded to greet the President with as much reverence as warmth.
Thereafter, Attorney-General Amos Wako consulted briefly with the President.
The President was obviously in a jovial mood as members made to greet him with gusto and wide smiles. It was clear the House was in a reconciliation mood and the atmosphere was relaxed.
And the Chamber was the scene of a mixed seating by MPs, symbolically a mosaic of the Kenyan nation, now that there is no official opposition in Parliament.
For instance, Kanu nominated MP Amina Abdallah sat, perhaps for the first time since her first term, on what was until last October the government side. It was the same case for Ikolomani MP Dr Bonny Khalwale.
By the same token, Gachoka MP the Rev Mutava Musyimi sat on what would have been the opposition side and mingled with members who would have been his rivals had the opposition been in existence.
Kibaki sat next to Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and next to them were MPs Danson Mungatana, Karua, AG Wako and Internal Security Minister, Prof George Saitoti.
The camaraderie was extended even further when Kalonzo crossed over to the other side to greet and consult with former VP Musalia Mudavadi and Eldoret North MP William Ruto.
Interestinglly, Kitui Central MP Charity Ngilu, who sat just next, wore a bemused face but made out she was listening keenly to Mbita member, Otieno Kajwang, who was contributing to debate on the Bill.
It was Karua, while tabling the Bills, who set the tone for the rest of the speakers when she said that while lawyers had expressed doubt on the fidelity to legal jurisprudence in having the two Bills introduced to Parliament, the argument that this would open a floodgate of similar Bills was unfounded.
She said the two Bills were well designed and were being implemented to meet special circumstances in the country.
The pieces of legislation, she observed, would not be used as precedence because they were crafted and designed for an exigency.
And the minister was eloquent and elaborate in justifying the need to pass the two Bills, quoting famous Tanzanian Paschal Mihio, who said: “The law is an ass and an idiot. We’ve got to flog it to make it work for us”.
Karua electrified the House with her knowledge and sure-footedness of matters legal when she said that if laws were found inadequate to serve the needs of man, they could be amended because “the law was made to serve man not the other way round”.
She described the new Bills as being not of “very good jurisprudence but they are here for absolute political necessity”.
Saying that when the accord was signed there was a national semblance of normalcy in the country, which had greatly improved, save for a few people who are still IDPs, she posed: “Does anyone of us here have a right to deny Kenyans normalcy?”
Karua said the move to legislate the two Bills was necessary “for our own lives. It is time to make some hard choices for our country”.
And she had no soft words for foreign states, which she said issued “threats” to Kenya before the accord was signed, saying they should have demonstrated friendship. “A friend is a friend not a slave master!” she quipped.
She also paid glowing tribute to President Kibaki for what she termed as his foresight in appointing only half the Cabinet, which left many leaders wondering why he did this.
Raila thanked the European Union, the United States of America, Tanzania and other states for supporting Kenya at her time of need.
He said when negotiations were suspended and Annan dealt with the principals, “there was gloom. Kenyans were in a state of despair”.
He thanked the team of eight from PNU and ODM who took part in the negotiations, saying they demonstrated skills and a spirit of give and take.
Raila was applauded with prolonged foot-thumping when he told the House that Kenyans were waiting with bated breath “for white smoke” from Harambee House, which culminated in the now famous hand-shake and subsequent accord.
Other reforms were needed, he said, so that Kenyans could enjoy real change in their lives.
People should be allowed to own land anywhere in the country, he said, and observed that legal reforms could entrench this requirement so that the events of the last two months were not witnessed again.
There was need, he stressed, “to face this ugly animal called ethnicity head-on” and called for a National Ethnicity Conference, in which members of all the tribes would speak in the spirit of reconciliation and healing.
“We should see what we are doing not as an end but as a means to an end. There is a serious need to combine efforts in developing our country,” he said.
And Kibaki took the cue, saying some “primitive” people thought they owned land where others could not. Some people inherited land but wanted to keep others from their perceived areas, he said and quipped: “Your father may have left you that land but who said he left you the whole country? That’s crazy! Ask him, he will tell you which piece is yours, I am sure!”
He lamented that violence took centre stage and quipped: “God did not mean that Kenya degenerates to that level”.
“We must find a way of working together. We must succeed. We are going to find solutions to our problems. I am sure we shall overcome them”.
Time and again, he termed as “terrible” the events that followed the polls and expressed hope that permanent solutions would prevent a recurrence so that the gains made were not reversed.
The President said a new Constitution was possible in 12 months and caused laughter when he told the House that even lawyer Orengo, the MP for Ugenya, could write it single-handedly.
Kibaki also expressed optimism that the economy would grow by the projected 10 per cent in the next three years, noting that Kenyans were resilient people who had overcome great odds to be where the country was.