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Kibaki Urges Reforms in Run-Up to Kenyan Elections

  • Michael Onyiego

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki arrives at the parliament building in the capital Nairob,i March 22, 2011

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki arrives at the parliament building in the capital Nairob,i March 22, 2011

With Parliament back in session, the Kenyan government has begun a new push to enact reforms before the country’s next election in 2012.

More than six months since the promulgation of Kenya’s new constitution, the Kenyan parliament has come under increasing pressure for falling behind schedule in implementing the new laws.

But as Parliament reopened Tuesday, President Mwai Kibaki challenged Kenya’s lawmakers to meet their deadlines and pass the required laws on time.

The task will not be easy. The entire government was seized in a battle in late January over key judicial appointments such as chief justice and attorney general. And while some measure of calm has been restored, the deadline of February 27 for outgoing Chief Justice Evan Gicheru passed without the appointment of his successor.

Parliament now has until the end of the year to pass 10 laws and enact several other crucial reforms that are critical in the country’s transition to the new constitution.

President Kibaki highlighted reforms involving the country’s judicial and electoral systems, saying parliamentary action would be necessary as the country approached its next presidential election in 2012.

“It is my hope that we shall play our role in ensuring that these institutions are fully operational,” Kibaki said.

In his speech, the president specifically urged passage of the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission Bill and the Elections Bill, which he said were crucial to the effective administration of the poll in 2012.

The two bills have already been drafted by the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution and were presented to the attorney general on Monday for passage by the parliament. CIC Chairman Charles Nyachae said the group would continue its efforts to enact the laws necessary before the deadlines.

“We are working around the clock to ensure that we keep not within but ahead of the timelines that are set out in the constitution and that we are able to implement the constitution through legislation effectively,” said Nyachae.

The president’s speech comes on the heels of fresh controversy over the coming elections. It was recently announced the next elections would come in August of 2012 as outlined in the new constitution. But some members of parliament have argued the next presidential election should not take place until December, after the current term has finished. Members of the CIC - including Nyachae - say there is no basis for such a delay.