Should Parliament fail to resume its sittings this week as expected, there will be six sitting days left within which MPs are supposed to pass six critical Bills pertaining land and devolution.

The Bills are among those facing delay in Parliament. Land and devolution are some of the most crucial issues in the current Constitution that have been blamed for conflicts since independence.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo

“The country needs to deal with land problems as stipulated under Agenda Four in the national accord. But there is real danger of these laws not being operationalised,” said Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo.

Mutula warned that failure by Parliament to pass the six Bills by the end of the month could see Chief Justice Willy Mutunga being called upon to dissolve Parliament. “By now, Leader of Government business and his deputy should have written to Speaker after consulting coalition partners,” added Mutula.

He warned that it will be a herculean task for the ouse to pass seven laws in nine days left.

“The issue of land was the second agenda item in the Serena talks after elections. I do not think we shall ask members to rush through the process yet it has been the most explosive issue that was even the cause of post-election violence,” said Mutula.

And to make matters worse, all Bills on lands and devolution that are supposed to be passed by February 26 are yet to be published.

They include those on land, National Land Commission Bill, Land Registration Bill, and Management of Public Land.

Under devolution, sections pending include Removal of County Governor under Article 181, vacation of office of a member of County Assembly under Article 194 and the controversial issue of revenue funds for county governments under Article 207.

Normal circumstances

The last Bill, which is to provide funds for counties had for many months created a rift between former Finance minister Uhuru Kenyatta and his counterpart in Local Government Musalia Mudavadi.

Uhuru had insisted that proposals made by a task force constituted by Ministry of Local Government were too costly for the Government to fund. Under normal circumstances, Government is supposed to request the Speaker to reopen the House to transact Government business or members can also petition the speaker if they have specific private member business they want transacted.

House clerk Patrick Gichohi has defended Speaker, absolving him from any blame.

Gichohi told The Standard that there were only two ways in which the speaker can reconvene Parliament both by request according to standing order number seven.

“The first is for Government to petition the Speaker if there is any business they want transacted and that has not happened so far,” he added. Gichohi further noted that the second one is for 50 plus one members, which translate to 112 MPs to petition the Speaker to reconvene the House, which has also not happened. He said the Speaker has no role in reconvening the House if none of those requests are made and therefore, he can do nothing but to wait.

Last week, Cabinet sub-committee on implementation of the Constitution chaired by Prime Minister Raila Odinga approved one of the land Bills namely the National Land Commission Bill. It is supposed to be forwarded to Cabinet for approval before being published for debate.

However, a source at the meeting told The Standard that they would not forward it alone and that the sub-committee is set to meet this week to go through the other two Bills so that they can all be forwarded together to Cabinet for approval before being published.

Kilonzo and Chairman of Parliamentary Oversight Committee on Implementation of Constitution (CIOC) Abdikadir Mohammed raised the red flag warning of a serious crisis ahead. He warned that there seems to be little concern from Government over reform process.

Unacceptable

“What is happening now is what happened last time when we had to rush through the process by sitting up to midnight and extending the sitting period of Parliament. It seems the Government has not learnt anything at all,” a furious Abdikadir said.

CIOC chairman said he had last week shuttled between the Office of the President and that of the Prime Minister to try and alert the two offices on the need for Parliament to reconvene immediately.

“It seems so far my pleas have landed on deaf ears because I even contacted the clerk’s office in Parliament but they said they have not received any request from the Executive to reconvene the House,” he added.

Abdikadir warned continued closure of Parliament was “untenable and unacceptable” adding that the House will have no option but to extend its sittings as well as its hours if has to pass the six Bills before the end of the month.

He said he has convened a meeting tomorrow for his committee to seek ways of addressing the matter and chart the way forward.

By Martin Mutua, The Standard

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