Kenya: Approved coalition government bills published

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Two proposed laws to legalise the recently-mooted grand coalition government in Kenya – the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill 2008 and the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2008 – were published Thursday in readiness for debate next Tuesday when the house reconvenes.

The publication of the two bills by chief government legal advisor, Attorney-General Amos Wako, was seen as a critical step in legalising the agreement reached between President Mwai Kibaki and opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga last week to restructure the government and pave the way for power sharing. Parliament would break from tradition next week to debate the two proposed laws.

The move to defer discussion on the presidential speech during the opening of the 10th session of parliament Thursday was agreed during a joint parliamentary group meeting on the same day to whip legislators from either side into supporting the bills when they come up for debate.

Traditionally, Kenyan parliament devotes one week to debate the presidential address ahead any other business but President Kibaki’s address will be debated after the two bills are passed into law.

Under the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill, parliament will amend the constitution to provide for the positions of prime minister and two deputies to enable the two parties that had been locked in an election dispute over who won the 27 December 2007 presidential poll share power.

The bill spells out the responsibilities of the prime minister and the two deputies.

The prime minister, a position expected to go to Mr. Odinga, will be picked from the party with the majority in parliament.

The premier enjoys tenure of office as he cannot be sacked by the president.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill will entrench the agreement between the two Kenyan leaders into the constitution.

However, the law will lapse at the expiration of the terms of the current parliament, which can occur at the end of five years or if one party walks out of the coalition.

The ‘marriage’ between the two parties can also be terminated by mutual agreements in which case it must be followed by a general election.

Two other bills – Ethnic Relations Bill and Truth and Justice Commission Bill – which President Kibaki wanted fast-tracked were not published, as the two items are still under discussion in the ongoing UN-sponsored mediation talks.

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