Members of Parliament have mooted a plan to cripple and eventually paralyze the National Cohesion and Integration Commission ahead of the March 4 general elections. The term of the commission headed by MzalendovKibunjia is due to end on September 7.
A section of MPs who are unhappy with the commission are reportedly planning to defeat a motion to be tabled by Nominated MP Mohammed Affey in which he seeks to have the term of the current commission extended for one year effective September 8. "Noting that the full functionality of the commission is critical to sustained peaceful co-existence among communities in the build up to the general elections and as the devolved governance structure are set up, this House approves the extension of the term of the current NCIC commissioners for a period of 12 months with effect from September 8, 2012," reads Affey's motion.
However, the MPs want the whole process started afresh instead of extending the term for Kibunjia and his team. If they succeed, this means that the country will go to the next elections without the commission which is tasked with creating public awareness on cohesion and integration and monitoring those propagating hate speech.
If the MPs' plot succeed, the process of getting new commissioners will be long and tedious and is unlikely to be completed before Parliament goes on recess in December. This is because the Public Service Commission will have to advertise the vacancies, receive applications, short list, interview and forward the names of prospective candidates to President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga who will consult and present their nominees to Parliament for vetting.
By the time this happens,Parliament might be on recess and the vetting and appointment will have to wait for the next Parliament! Yesterday, a worried Affey said he had decided to table the motion to extend Kibunjia's term as it was imperative that the commission continued to carry out its mandate. The MPs had earlier on June 20 defeated an amendment proposed by Attorney General Githu Muigai to give President Kibaki powers to re-appoint the current commissioners. The amendment to the National Cohesion and Integration Act, 2008 was deleted from the omnibus bill Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, which contained other changes to other laws.
This means that when the commission's term ends next month, the President will not be able to re-appoint them. To complicate matters further, two weeks ago, Cabinet approved the National Cohesion and Integration (Amendment) Bill 2012 that seeks to give commissioners terms similar to those of other commissions. This bill is yet to be approved by Parliament.
If it is passed by Parliament, the process of recruitment is expected to take at least four months. Parliament has less than four months as it stands to be dissolved in mid-January 2013 if it is to keep to the elections timetable. NCIC commissioner Yassin Ahmed expressed concerns that the executive and legislature were unworried about the crucial role the commission will play as the election campaigns heat up.
The NCIC has acted as a deterrent to many politicians who are known to make inflammatory and inciteful utterances during campaign rallies. The NCIC has been at loggerheads with the MPs for its dogged pursuit and prosecution of those who have engaged in hate speech or incitement.
Key politicians the NCIC has so far charged with hate speech include Fred Kapondi (Mt Elgon), Wifred Machage (Kuria) Joshua Kutuny (Cherangany) and more recently Trade Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere and Limuru MP Peter Mwathi. The commission also wanted Makadara MP Gideon Mbuvi charged with hate speech but did not get the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako.