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A Win For Kenya's New Constitution


The President of Kenya Mwai Kibaki (file)

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has ended a dispute over top government appointments that threatened to stall implementation of the new constitution.

Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki has ended a dispute over top government appointments that threatened to stall implementation of the new constitution, withdrawing four controversial nominations and beginning the selection process anew. The nominations had been ruled to be unconstitutional by the Speaker of Kenya's parliament and its High Court. By pledging to make the new selections in a transparent and credible manner, the president is helping fulfill the promise of Kenya's new constitution and its democratic reforms.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga objected to the president's picks for Chief Justice, Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions and Controller of Budget, saying Kibaki acted without his input. Civil society groups also objected, arguing that constitutional requirements such as consideration of gender equality and acting on the recommendation of the Judicial Services Commission for the Chief Justice nomination hadn't been followed. The controversy also served to undermine the president's effort to boost confidence in Kenya's judiciary.

After reconsidering, President Kibaki said the chief justice post nomination would be made in accordance with a recommendation of Kenya's Judicial Service Commission; the Attorney General nomination would be made in consultation with the Prime Minister; and the other two other positions would be advertised through the Public Service Commission. The National Assembly will need to approve all the candidates once nominated.

Adoption of Kenya's new constitution was a major milestone in implementing democratic reforms set out by the National Accord. The accord, establishing the nation's unity government and written into the constitution's transitional provisions, calls for the president and prime minister to consult with a view of achieving compromise on key issues. Full implementation of the letter and spirit of the constitution is crucial to realize the promise of a democratically stable and prosperous future for all Kenyans.

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