KENYA: D-day as Speaker makes big ruling

marende.jpgKenneth Marende All eyes will be on Mr Kenneth Marende on Tuesday as the House Speaker rules on the impasse that has paralysed both Government and Parliament.

Mr Marende is expected to give direction on that should end the tussle
Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Prime Minister Raila Odinga over who
takes the position of Leader of Government Business and chair of the
House Business Committee.

As the House convenes Tuesday morning with no business transacted since
the new Session was opened by President Kibaki last week, it was
apparent that Mr Marende's initiative to mediate a settlement between
the president and the prime minister had not borne fruit.

Instead the feuding PNU and ODM wings of the coalition government were both digging in their heels.

If Mr Marende makes a ruling declaring Mr Odinga the leader of
Government Business in the House and chair of the House Business
Committee, he risks being accused of bias by the PNU wing of the

On the other hand, if he rules in favour of the President, he may be branded a sellout by ODM.

There were a flurry of activities on Monday ahead of the pivotal ruling
from the Speaker. President Kibaki held meetings with Mr Musyoka,
Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta, Internal Security George Saitoti
and Communications minister Samuel Poghisio.

Then Prof Saitoti had lunch with Mr Odinga at the Nairobi Serena Hotel,
though it was not clear whether they discussed ways to break the

The ongoing tussle in Parliament masks a much more fundamental battle
for dominance between the principal partners in the coalition

Although it has come out as feud within the coalition over the position
of Leader of Government Business and chair of the House Business
Committee, that is only the opening salvo in what could be a long drawn
out battle as ODM seeks to assert itself as an equal partner to PNU in
the coalition; and the Prime Minister as an equal of the President.

Mr Odinga upped the stakes considerably over the weekend by calling for
fresh elections if the impasse in Parliament is not resolved, but such
a dramatic step is unlikely in the present situation.

The biggest fear at the moment seems to be that the deadlock may lead
to collapse of a coalition put together in order to end the violence
that broke out after the disputed presidential elections at the end of

Yet the scenario indicates that with neither side likely to formally
pull out of the coalition, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga
will remain locked in a hostile embrace for a considerable period.

Both have indicated that there is relenting on what amounts to a fight
between rival factions in government for control of the Legislature.

The latest fight within the coalition broke out barely a week after the
president and the prime minister met at Harambee House to resolve the
row that caused the Kilaguni Lodge meeting to abort.

After the Harambee House meeting there were indications that ODM
demands for the Prime Minister to be consulted on all government
decisions had been satisfied.

But immediately President Kibaki opened the new Session of Parliament
last week, a new fight broke out. President Kibaki, without consulting
Mr Odinga, had written to House Speaker Kenneth Marende nominating the
Vice President as leader of Government Business.

ODM responded by having the Prime Minister also write to the Speaker with his own nomination, placing the Chair in a quandary.

The fight within the coalition has put an extra burden the Speakers' shoulders.

Though it is not Mr Marende's responsibility to pick the Leader of
Government Business as he has pointed out last week all eyes will be
on him this afternoon to break the deadlock that has stalled House
business and caused disquiet over management of the grand coalition

The House is also yet to agree on names of the 21 MPs to sit in the
committee although debate on the proposed list had kicked off before
Parliament adjourned prematurely on Thursday, but without consensus.

However yesterday, a group of assistant minister and backbenchers from
both sides of the House declared that they will pass the list to
kick-start the stalled parliamentary business.

At a press conference addressed by Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto (ODM) and
assistant minister Cecily Mbarire (PNU), the decision on who the chair
the committee will be left to the members.

At the same time, 25 Catholic bishops challenged President Kibaki and Mr Odinga to provide leadership and break the stalemate.

But even as the nation awaits Mr Marende's all important ruling on the
contested positions, he has categorically stated that he would not
intervene in the political dispute involving Grand Coalition partners
PNU and ODM on how they should manage their issues.

And in an advertisement appearing elsewhere in this paper, PNU
dismissed claims by ODM that the National Accord was superior to the
Constitution and accused Mr Odinga of engaging in a dirty plot of
sustaining a campaign of wrangling.

In turn, ODM chairman Henry Kosgey accused PNU of systematically disowning the National accord.

They claimed that the move was similar to the 2003 when the President
reneged on a pre-election MoU leading the collapse of the National
Rainbow Coalition.

The standoff leaves Mr Marende with few options.

On Monday evening, indications were that the Speaker may go ahead with
the Motion on selection of the House Business Committee by asking MPs
to vote on the proposed names.

Traditionally, Whips from both sides of the House are supposed to agree
on the list of party representatives. By Thursday, they had not agreed
on a common list though both PNU and ODM had agreed on their

If the Whips would not have presented the common list, the Speaker can
admit the separate lists after which the House will vote for individual
MPs proposed.

The Daily Nation learnt last evening that some ODM leaders were
planning an amendment to remove Mr Musyoka's name from the list. If
this fails, they intend to move a substantive motion to discuss Mr
Musyoka with a view to locking him out the committee and pave way for
Mr Odinga.

Standing order No158 states that the chair of the committee shall be
nominated by the Governmentin this case the grand coalition founded on
the National Accord and Reconciliation Act 2008.

The other option would be for President Kibaki as Leader of Government
Business in the House to attend Parliament and personally table the
list given the tension and magnitude of the crisis.

The ODM argues that since Mr Odinga is President Kibaki's equal partner
in the coalition, he is the senior most government leader in Parliament
in the absence of the Head of State.

After a two hour meeting at the old chamber, backbenchers and assistant
ministers announced that they would support the house business
committee as agreed upon by the various parties.

We have met as MPs of both PNU and ODM and resolved that we shall pass
the list as agreed upon, Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto told journalists
after the meeting.

Daily Nation

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