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KENYA, MUITE, ABSENCE OF TURMOIL AND WAR NOT EQUAL TO PEACE

What Kimunya did not tell you

Published on June 14, 2008, 12:00 am

By Gakuu Mathenge And Ben Agina

Finance Minister Amos Kimunya’s failure to allocate funds for the comprehensive constitutional reforms, which constitutes the bedrock of the National Accord, has sent tongues wagging.

Along with the absence of a clear-cut statement on the funding for the legal and political reforms, failure to outline the sources of funding for political parties through the Exchequer in line with the new law also ruffled feathers.

It is what was not in his Budget Speech, more than what was, that has raised the red flag on President Kibaki’s Government’s commitment to resolve the review stalemate that almost uprooted his Government in 2005.

The leading institutions targeted by the reforms include the Electoral Commission of Kenya, Judiciary, and the police, all of which were blamed for the flawed December presidential election.

The National Accord, which paved the way for power sharing between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga following post-election violence, triggered by disputed results, gave the two principals a year to give the country a new constitution.

Raila last month assured the country would have a new constitution by April. Kibaki’s hands, on this matter, are bound by the National Accord, which he signed.

Though the Ministry of Justice insists financing will be through the Consolidated Fund, a section of the nation’s polity is asking; “Where is the money?”

Lawyers smell mischief

Kimunya did not mention once or allocate a single coin to the much anticipated constitutional Review process or implementation of the Political Parties Act (2007).

The omission of legal and political reforms from Kimunya’s 138-item Budget is also a departure from what all the Party of National Unity, Orange Democratic Movement and ODM-Kenya promised in their manifestos last year.

Kimunya also did not mention the planned Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), or set aside any money for the purpose. A TJRC Bill has been tabled in parliament. The commission will try and address the issue of post-election violence and the underlying causes.

But on Friday, Assistant Minister for Justice William Cheptumo explained although there was no mention of constitutional matters in the Budget, those allocations will be provided for under the Consolidated Fund.

Cheptumo said they sought clarification from the Treasury following queries from MPs, and they have been assured that allocations for constitutional review, the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission will be provided under the same Consolidated Fund.

“There should be no worries at all. We are on course,” he added. He revealed the ministry has even presented the road map to a new constitution to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs and Administration of Justice.

But after the Law Society of Kenya expressed shock at Kimunya’s sidestepping of review agenda in the Budget read on Thursday, the relevant house committee followed suit.

Mandera Central MP, Abdikadir Mohammed (Safina) who chairs Parliamentary Committee on Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs, said he was disappointed.

“We need clarification on this matter. We will ask the Justice Minister (Ms Martha Karua) today why the issue was not in the budget,” he added.

He said the President promised Kenyans a new constitution in 12 months and he should not renege on the promise again.

There was need to see commitment on the part of the Government to the reform agenda, he added.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara said it was wrong for the minister to fail to touch on constitutional review, land reforms, and Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission that are the basis of the National Reconciliation Accord. “Priority number one should have been constitutional reforms to address deep-seated problems. Not a word or shilling was slotted for the cause. They are operating as if the Grand Coalition Government is the long term goal,” said Imanyara.

But Budalang’i MP Ababu Namwamba, who is a member of the House committee, said they met Karua, who explained to them why the money was not factored in the budget.

“The minister’s explanation to us made sense. As a committee we were satisfied with her explanation,” added Namwamba.

Nominated MP Mohammed Affey too had his worries, but he exclaimed: “I am assuming the minister has sufficient resources elsewhere to undertake that process.”

Constitutional, Legal and Political Reforms, the bulk of which constitute Agenda Four of Dr Koffi Anan’s talks, had been hailed as key to unlocking festering historical and ethnic tension.

Parties starved off cash

Up to Kimunya’s speech, the expectation was that from July 1, Electoral Commission would start cracking the whip on parties to comply with the Political Parties Act before they could be funded through the exchequer.

The Act requires that parties comply with the Act within six months from July 1, but now that no funding was set aside for the purpose or mention of what happens next, parties can rest easy.

Among others, the Act creates the office of the Registrar of Political Parties within the Electoral Commission of Kenya to enforce compliance with a new raft of regulations, among them filing of annual returns, maintenance of members register, list of elected officials and physical addresses. All parties are also required to account for their sources of funding and expenditures before they can qualify for state funds.

The parties constituting the Grand Coalition are yet to make public the sources of the billions of shillings they used in last year’s campaigns.

Section 28 of the Political Parties Act states, “There shall be a fund known as Political Parties Fund which shall be administered by the Registrar…”

Former Kanu Chief Whip Justin Muturi, who was among architects of the Political Parties Act, said the omission could be signal the ruling coalition may have changed tune on the reform agenda.

“It will cost the country dearly if this is the case. The Government has pledged these reforms to Kenyans, the African Union and the international community. We are very keen on what it portends, and what explanation it has for this,” Muturi said, on telephone.

Safina leader and immediate former head of the departmental committee Mr Paul Muite, said he was concerned that there was no allocation of even a single cent to jumpstart legal and political reforms.

“Even if there was no money due to competing and urgent needs, the Government should have made a modest allocations to jumpstart the process and show commitment to these reforms,” he said.

Muite warned the Government’s attempt to push economic reforms and neglect constitutional, legal and political reforms would be futile. The country, he said, needed to fix institutional instability through reforms, to lay a firm foundation for political stability.

“Economic growth without constitutional reforms is illusory. We are ‘postponing’ trouble if we do not reform the imperial presidency, and carry out legal reforms that deal with grand corruption. The recent violence resulted from the hopeless constitutional order we are in. The Government should give us an explanation,” he said.

Muite said absence of turmoil and war is not equal to peace, adding economic growth in unstable constitutional order was futile adding. “If the Government allocated Sh4 billion towards settlement of the Anglo Leasing promissory notes, it is not too much to demand a billion or two to implement Political Parties Act, and jumpstart constitutional reforms.”

The omission is a fundamental departure from the pillars of the National Accord and Reconciliation Act, in which coalition partners committed themselves to urgently institute legal, political and constitutional reforms to reduce simmering tension and suspicions among Kenyan ethnic groups and economic classes.

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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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