15h45 Local Time - Historic Day for Kenya
Kenya parliament is currently debating historic bills. The Justice Minister had earlier moved the motion seeking to pass the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2008. The next motion will be the National Accord and Reconcilliation Bill. Both bills are aimed at legalising the peace agreement that was signed by Raila Odinga and President Kibaki on 28/Feb/2008.
President Mwai Kibaki has just arrived (nearly two hours late) in parliament and is surprisingly occupying the seat of Leader of Government Business, and has asked Raila to join him on the government side. It is significant that Kalonzo was initially forced to move to No.3 on government front benches, but is now sitting next to Mudavadi on the official opposition benches. Both Raila and Kibaki are now contentedly seating on government side and those who were at the end of that bench have now had to move to the back bench. Is he discreetly telling us that Raila is NOW leader of government business? Only time will tell.
Earlier, George Saitoti had raised tension in the house by launching a scathing attacking on some MPs who supported violence in Rift Valley, particularly where innocent people were burnt in a church in Eldoret. (I wonder why he did not mention those who were burnt to death in Naivasha or was it an attempt to campaign for the Deputy PMs seat)
All speakers have supported the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2008 and it is likely going by the mood of the house, this bills will sail without a hitch. The Kalonzos, Mutulas, Nyongos and Kajwangs of this world are singing the same song.
The speaker reminded members that the last time the Kenya constitution was amended by parliament in 1982 when the then KANU government (outlawed multi-party) and made Kenya a dejure one party state, it took ten long painful and agonising years to undo this amendment.
Update added by Chris 5:23 pm Kenyan Time
For the first time in the history of Kenya a sitting president has contributed to debate in parliament. Usually Kenyan presidents just give speeches.
President Kibaki gave his lengthy contribution in his capacity as member for Othaya shortly after that of Prime Minister designate Raila Odinga as member for Langata.
I was touched by the impact this crisis seems to have had on our president's health. I have never heard him repeating himself or rambling on and on which is exactly what happened at one juncture and seemed to cause considerable anxiety on the government front benches but fascination from the rest of the house.
The president emphasized that God must love Kenya a great deal and went on to mention God more times in this speech than in all his previous speeches (since he became president) put together. He went on to insinuate that the place where the country was going before the peace deal was reached, was really scary. His excellency Mwai Kibaki also emphasized the fact that the young people of Kenya (new generation) have no room for tribalism in the way they think or do their things. He noted that this younger generation have settled all over the world and are making a huge impact in many societies, not to mention the fact that they send money back home for development and other activities.
President Kibaki caused laughter and indeed surprise when he pointed out that all that was needed to have a new constitution in Kenya was to give the whole job to Orengo (James). He added that Hon Orengo knows all that they have been discussing in the previous failed attempts to get a new constitution and was bound to come up with a document that would be acceptable to all, the president said.
The mood in parliament was one of unanimous agreement to the bill and cordial behaviour to each other. This was only broken briefly on two occasions. Firstly when in an apparent slip of the tongue Gitobu Imanyara while contributing to debate said that the rest of Africa would always measure the standards of their election against the one that took place in Kenya. There was uproar from the ODM side and even the PNU back benches and it took several minutes for the speaker to restore order. The other time was when the mover of the motion Martha Karua stood to move the motion after debate and warned against the use of insensitive language referring to member Otieno Kajwangs referring to a "stolen election" in his remarks.
Voting is now going on and although the ayes have it, since this is a constitutional amendment bill, numbers have to be verified so that the two thirds majority required to pass the bill is attained.
Update by Chris 6:21 PM Kenyan Time
Parliament has voted to extend sitting beyond the usual 6:30 PM Meanwhile the first bill has been passed unanimously with all 200 members in the house voting for it. There were no nays and no abstentions. The Constitutional amendment bill has been passed and now awaits presidential accent to become law.
Last Update 10:05 PM Kenyan Time
The Two Bills; Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2008 and the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill have sailed through parliament both receiving unanimous support from the members. The first one has already been signed into law by the President and the second one is expected to be signed later tonight.
Effectively Kenya has changed forever and it is expected that even tomorrow the president could announce his new cabinet and officially acknowledge Raila Odinga as Prime Minister since the post is now entrenched in the constitution. This is hardly the time to go to sleep. Kenyans need to be as alert as ever. This is just the beginning of the long hard road to true change in Kenya.
P.S. As if to confirm my earlier story on William Ruto, Internal security minister George Saitoti told parliament earlier today that inciters, perpetrators and financiers of post election violence will not be spared. President Kibaki while attending a passing out parade for police cadets at Kiganjo earlier in the day said exactly the same thing. It seems that a major purge is in the offing. Let us now wait and see what happens.
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