BY MZALENDO REPORTER
President Kibaki on Thursday March 6, 2008 opened the second session of the tenth Parliament and set a crowded though ambitious agenda for Parliament in the next 5 years. This includes over 20 Bills and a raft of Sessional Papers. Four of the Bills, according to the President, must be accorded top priority by the Coalition government and the whole House in general.
The top priority Bills are:
1) the National Accord and Reconciliation Bill
2) the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill
3) the Establishment of Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission Bill
4) the Establishment of the Ethnic Relations Commission of Kenya Bill.
The National Accord and Reconciliation Bill, perhaps the most urgent, is aimed at putting into legislation the power sharing deal signed by President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga after one month’s mediation talks chaired by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan. The Bill seeks to create the position of Prime Minister, and two deputy prime ministers. It also seeks to transfer the roles of the head of government from the President to the Prime Minister leaving the president as the head of State. It will also provide clear roles of the new posts as well as criteria of appointing and dismissing the prime minister and the deputies.
The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill is aimed at giving Kenyans a new constitution, which has been elusive for over 15 years. PNU and ODM agreed that there will be five stages in the review of the Constitution, in and outside Parliament, culminating to a referendum.
The Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission Bill seeks to create a special commission mandated to inquire into human rights violations, including those committed by the state, groups, or individuals. This includes but is not limited to politically motivated violence, assassinations, community displacements, settlements, and evictions. The Commission will also inquire into major economic crimes, in particular grand corruption, historical land injustices, and the illegal or irregular acquisition of land, especially as these relate to conflict or violence. Other historical injustices shall also be investigated. The Commission will inquire into such events which took place between December 12, 1963 and February 28, 2008.
The Ethnic Relations Commission of Kenya Bill on the other hand seeks to establish another commission with the mandate of probing how various communities have related to each others and causes of conflicts amongst them.
According to President Kibaki, the government is focused on improving market performance of several key commodities. The government has proposed amending the Coffee Act 2001 to provide for direct sales of coffee and to amend the Sugar Act 2001 to restructure the sugar industry. It also plans to introduce bills and Sessional papers covering the dairy, poultry and fishing industries, among others. To boost the tourism industry, the government will be tabling three bills; the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations Guidelines, the Tourism Bill and the Wildlife Bill.
The government also plans to table a Sessional Paper on Cooperative Development Policy and a bill on Savings and Credit Cooperatives. These are aimed at giving an impetus to the role played by cooperatives in the production and marketing of produce as well as mobilizing savings and providing credit to the majority of Kenyans. The government will also introduce legislation that will regulate the role of non-public entities such as civil society and international education providers as well as propose the establishment of a Technical Industrial Vocation and Entrepreneurial Training Authority. This is inline with implementation of the free primary and free secondary education programmes, which according to the President, require legislation to entrench the reforms in the entire education sector within the country’s laws.
Entrenching a culture of science, technology and innovation in the society and boosting the country’s dream of Vision 2030 is also in focus. In this relation, the government will introduce a National Policy for Science, Technology and Innovation. It has also proposed a bill to upgrade the National Council of Science and Technology to the National Commission of Science and Technology. On the way as well is a bill that will lead to the creation of the National Science Foundation and National Innovation Agency. To deal with poverty and inequitable development, the government plans to table a Sessional Paper on Cooperative Development Policy and a bill on Savings and Credit Cooperatives.
In the health sector, the Government has proposed to review the Public Health Act so as to consolidate 23 different Public health laws into a single Act of Parliament. It plans to table policy papers on Health Care Financing, Health Services Commission and Decentralised Funding of Health Facilities. With regard to the youth, the government has proposed amendments to the Armed Forces Act to enable youth trained under the National Youth Service be absorbed in the armed forces. It will also table a bill to provide for the creation of a National Youth Council. Further, the Government will re-table the Sessional Paper on Employment Policy for discussion in the House on the urgent and critical matter of providing enough jobs for young people. With regard to the protection of the family and children, the government has proposed amendments to the Children’s Act 2001 for better implementation. The government also plans to introduce the Information Communication Technology Bill as a regulatory framework for broadcasting, electronic transactions and cyber crime.
In the water sector, the government will table the National Water Harvesting and Storage Policy to facilitate harnessing and storage of recurrent floodwaters as well as the National Shared Water Resources Policy to promote equitable development of water resources nationally. Government plans also to introduce a policy on the registration of contractors as well as the creation of a national construction company to build capacity among local contractors. It will also introduce legislation touching on the Protection of Road Reserves, Registration of Engineers and Architects as well as Quantity Surveyors.
With regard to local authorities, the government plans to bring to the House new amendments to the Local Government Act to enable the direct election of mayors and county council chairmen.
According to President Kibaki, this particular reform is long overdue and this Parliament should deliberate on it as a matter of priority. To ensure proper planning and development of urban areas as well as the proper enforcement of laws and by-laws for regulation of urban development, the government plans to table proposals to set up a National Urban and Metropolitan Areas Authority.
To promote the development of affordable housing the government will present the Housing Bill and a Landlord and Tenant Bill. The government also plans to table the Organised Crimes Bill to contain the emergence of organized gangs and militias which bode ill for our society. It also plans to table the Anti-money Laundering Bill as well as introduce amendments to the Chief’s Act and Firearms Act.