A Kenyan lawmaker says parliament will ensure that the rift between President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga would not undermine legislative work.
Doni Khalwale, chairman of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee said there is need for Kenyan parliamentarians to focus on priority areas such as a new constitution, rooting out corruption and addressing the 2007 post-election violence.
“The opening of parliament today (Tuesday) by the president will not be accompanied by a lot of activities on the floor of the house for the simple reason that traditionally the state opening of parliament limits the speeches to only be done by the speaker and the president… (The president) will set the agenda for his government on how he wants parliament to proceed,” he said.
President Mwai Kibaki is scheduled to reopen parliament Tuesday despite tensions within the coalition government after the recent dispute over Prime Minister Odinga’s suspension of two cabinet ministers.
An anticipated meeting between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga aimed at resolving the rift is yet to take place despite a reported telephone conversation between the two leaders.
Khalwale said there seem to be low expectations for President Kibaki’s speech to parliament.
“We do not expect too much to come out of the president’s speech other than diplo-speak because we know what is preoccupying the two principals is a power struggle. On the one hand the prime minister wants to demonstrate to all and sundry that he is an equal partner in the grand coalition government and on the other hand the president wants to show that he is the big man,” Khalwale said.
Meanwhile, Kenya’s media quoted Prime Minister Odinga’s Orange Democratic Party (ODM) of accusing President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) as well as the Security Intelligence Service of blackmail and a smear campaign tactics against its leaders - - charges the PNU denies.
Khalwale said parliament has implemented a mechanism to ensure it doesn’t lose its focus.
“We have created a new something in the house called the Parliamentary Caucus on Reform. This Caucus, we hope will be able to create a critical mass of members of parliament who will make sure that the voice of reason will rise above the two divisions so as to pave way for the reform agenda led by the desire to have the new constitution,” Khalwale said.
He praised a group of lawmakers from President Kibaki’s party for putting the interest of ordinary Kenyans above “mere partisan” politics.
“Something very nice has happened today that members of the PNU led by three fairly strong young members of parliament, Kabando Wa Kabando, Cecily Mbarire and Mwangi Kiunjuri have today released a strong statement condemning any attempt by the PNU side to create side shows (in parliament). So, I’m hoping that we are going to start hearing such strong voices of reason,” he said.