House Team Rejects Ethnic
The Nation (Nairobi)
15 July 2008
A parliamentary committee has rejected the legislation proposing
the creation of a commission on ethnic and racial discrimination.
Members of the Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs
Committee scrutinised the National Ethnic and Race Relations
Commission Bill, who were meeting in Mombasa last weekend, said it
They agreed it had numerous flaws that should be fixed and
proposed that it be returned to the originator - Justice, National
Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua for
Parliament had debated the Bill for two days and it was clear that
MPs were divided over it. Some MPs welcomed the proposed law,
saying the public had failed to frown on ethnic and racial
discrimination, and that it was time to have a law in place to
punish perpetrators of ethnic disharmony.
However, several members dismissed the Bill, arguing that the
Government could misuse the proposed commission to witch-hunt
those it deemed to be its enemies.
The Bill has its origin in the Serena Hotel deliberations of the
National Dialogue and Reconciliation Committee, formed after the
post-election political crisis. The committee felt that it was
important to start the fight against ethnic and race
The proposed law states that Kenya has realised that equal access
to various opportunities without ethnic discrimination was a
prerequisite for cultivating goodwill, lasting peace and
co-existence among its various communities.
The Bill includes in its definition of "ethnic relations" racial,
religious, tribal and cultural interactions, and provides for the
commission to ensure individuals or groups don't misuse such
important facets of life.
If enacted, the commission shall have 12 members, comprising a
chairperson appointed by the President from among 15 nominees
cleared by the relevant committee of Parliament.
Of these, eight shall be commissioners, while three shall be
ex-officio members - the chairpersons of the Kenya National
Commission on Human Rights, the National Commission on Gender and
Development and the Public Complaints Standing Committee (Ombudsman).
Members of the Legal Affairs committee who spoke to the Nation,
but asked not to be named, said they realised a number of
provisions in the Bill were weak. Committee meetings are held in
"Maybe those at Serena were emotional because of the violence that
was taking place then," the committee member said.
Supporting the move by the MPs, Centre for Governance and
Development executive director Kennedy Masime said racial and
ethnic discrimination don't have to be addressed by a commission.
"The Bill of Rights defines human rights, while section 82 of the
Constitution criminalises all forms of discrimination based on
tribe, ethnicity, creed or religion," said Mr Masime.
The CGD boss said that what the Bill wanted to do was already
within the mandate of the Kenya National Commission on Human
Rights Act (2002).
Among other things, the KNCHR defines human rights as "fundamental
rights and freedoms of any individual protected under the
Constitution and any human rights provided for in any
international instrument to which Kenya is a signatory".
Mr Masime warned Parliament against legislating the formation of
so many commissions to the extent of straining the public coffers.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary committee on Administration of
Justice and Legal Affairs is this Thursday expected to interview
applicants hoping to replace Mr Maina Kiai as KNCHR commissioner.
Mr Kiai whose term as chairman of the commission has ended did not
wish to extend his stay. He has been replaced by Ms Florence Jaoko.
Sources said the committee went through a list of 203 applicants
and shortlisted 20 for the Thursday interview. Three of the names
that qualify will then be taken to Parliament for nomination
before they are finally forwarded to the President who will