Kenya parliament speaker to rule on judicial crisis

Wed Feb 2, 2011 5:43am GMT
 

By James Macharia

NAIROBI (Reuters) - The speaker of Kenya's parliament will rule on Thursday in a dispute over appointing top judicial figures which has pitted the nation's prime minister against President Mwai Kibaki.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, along with some ministers and rights groups, has accused Kibaki of acting against a new constitution by naming the officials without consulting Odinga as required by the new basic law.

The ruling by speaker Kenneth Marende is seen as a test of whether Kenya can begin to make a clean break with the past -- marred by violence following elections in 2007 -- and shine a light on how the government operates under the new charter backed by two-thirds of voters and launched last August.

Marende said on Tuesday he would rule on whether members of parliament should decide in a vote on whether to endorse the judicial figures named by the president.

"I have jurisdiction to decide on this matter. I will give directions one way or the other on Thursday afternoon," Marende told lawmakers after a heated debate on the issue that has polarised Kenya. "The matter which has been canvassed in this house this afternoon is a matter of national importance."

The nominations are meant to improve public confidence in the judiciary and boost Kenya's case to hold any trials of people suspected of involvement in the post-election violence rather than at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

TUG-OF-WAR

Marende said he was formally notified of the nominations by the presidency and also received a letter from Odinga's office urging him to prevent a vote on them -- a sign of the tug-of-war in cabinet over an issue that has poisoned Kenya's politics.   Continued...

<p>Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki (R) address the media during the announcement of his cabinet as Prime Minister Raila Odinga looks on at state House Nairobi April 13, 2008. REUTERS/Antony Njuguna</p>
 
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