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Cablegate: Ninth Parliament Wrap Up (Corrected Format)


DE RUEHNR #4483/01 3231200
R 191200Z NOV 07




E.O. 12958: N/A


E. 06 NAIROBI 04336

1. (U) President Kibaki dissolved the Ninth Parliament of
Kenya on October 22, 2007, ending its five year term.
Overall, its record was mixed. Parliament made strides
strengthening its role as an independent branch of
government. At times Parliament served as an effective
counterweight to the historically-dominant executive branch,
particularly in the field of financial oversight. The Ninth
Parliament also had the highest number of women MPs of any
Kenyan parliament, 18 out of 222 members. Women members made
substantial contributions to key legislation, although their
numbers remain low in absolute terms. It passed significant
legislation in governance and ethics reform and established a
community development fund, an important devolution of
decision-making power over development assistance. Yet,
domestic political infighting surrounding the 2005
Constitutional referendum caused the parliament to lose its
way. Parliamentary party discipline collapsed as a result of
political defections by members of both the government and
opposition, causing critical legislation to stall: no bills
were passed from January 2005 until May 2006. Parliament
picked up the pace thereafter, and passed a raft of
legislation in its final year and a half. It passed important
framework legislation in the economic sector, potentially
laying the groundwork for future economic growth and also
passed a landmark Political Parties Bill, which is expected
to reduce the number of political parties, curtail
aisle-hopping defections, and create public political
party financing.

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2. The Ninth Parliament, however, failed to pass anti-money
laundering, anti-terrorism legislation and plea bargaining
legislation - all key USG priorities. We saw major red flags
when Parliamentarians instead voted themselves enormous pay
raises in the last year of their session. Now earning over
$15,000 a month with an extremely lucrative
'golden-parachute' package, Kenya's legislators are among the
most richly compensated in the world. They also introduced
anti- reform amendments and tried to unsuccessfully weaken
the mandate of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission. End

A Strong Start: Governance reform to the fore

2. (U) The Ninth Parliament began its session in February
2003. Reflecting the comprehensive victory of the coalition
of the newly-elected President, Mwai Kibaki, the government
had a 42-seat majority. Parliament quickly adopted a raft of
governance reform measures, many of which were prepared with
the assistance of USG-funded programs. These included the
Public Officer Ethics Bill, the Anti-corruption and Economic
Crimes Bill, The Privatization Bill, and The Public
Procurement and Disposal Bill. These measures provide a
strong framework to bring Kenya's public sector in line with
international standards.

3. (U) One of the most popular pieces of legislation adopted
by the Ninth Parliament was the Constituency Development Fund
(CDF) Bill of 2003, landmark legislation which set aside 2.5
percent of the development budget to be directed to
parliamentary constituencies for local development projects.
The funds are controlled by the MP of each constituency.
While some complained that certain MPs did not use the funds
for their intended purpose, CDF projects represent an
important step in devolving development funds to the local
level and have proved extremely popular with the public. The
Act was later amended to increase to 7.5 percent the earmark
for CDF. Strengthened Parliamentary capacity

4. (U) The Ninth Parliament took measures to strengthen
capacity and increase its independence from the Executive
branch. Parliament stood up a Parliamentary Service
Commission, a key step in institutionalizing legislative
independence. It also created a parliamentary Budget Office
and a Legal Counsel office. USG financed advisors worked
with parliamentary staff to increase staff capacity to
provide objective and professional advice. Parliament also
created a new standing committee, the Fiscal Analysis and
Appropriations Committee, which will have the responsibility
to engage the Ministry of Finance on the budget process when
it first constitutes as a body next year. These measures
bore fruit: in the final year of the Ninth Parliament, MPs
introduced and passed more than 25 amendments to the Finance
Bill and rejected the government,s attempt to weaken the
independence of the Central Bank Governor.

5. (U) The parliament committee system was increasingly
utilized during the Ninth Parliament. Committee meetings
were held more regularly and reported to the body more often.
Committees prepared 67 oversight reports compared to 27
reports prepared for the Eighth Parliament. Two
parliamentary committees, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
and the Public Investments Committee (PIC) aggressively
asserted their prerogatives to investigate shady public
dealings. The PAC conducted an investigation of the
Anglo-Leasing corruption scandal. Although the report was
never released publicly, it was leaked by a
parliamentarian creating a public outcry and putting pressure
on the government to prosecute those involved. The PIC also
conducted an investigation into the ownership structure of
Safaricom, uncovering a questionable transfer of 5 percent of
ownership in the partially publicly-owned telecommunications

The Role of Women

6. (U) The Ninth parliament had the highest number of women
parliamentarians of any parliament inQenya,s history, 18
out of 222, although this number remains low in absolute
terms. Women legislators successfully proposed the Sexual
Offenses Bill of 2006, and played key roles in the passage of
important legislation such as the Suppliers Practitioners
Management Bill of 2007.

Losing the plot: the 2005 Constitutional Referendum
--------------------------------------------- -------

7. (U) The divisive political battle over the President,s
attempt to pass a new constitution paralyzed Kenyan politics
for much of 2005, as the entire parliament became obsessed
with the constitutional review. Shifting political
alignments after the failed 2005 referendum caused confusion,
with the line between government and opposition blurred by
mutual defections. Parliamentary party discipline collapsed
as a result, causing critical legislation to stall. As a
result of the political paralysis, the Ninth Parliament
passed no legislation from January 2005 until May 2006.

Post-Referendum: Some Success

8. (U) When the Ninth Parliament resumed activities, economic
measures featured prominently. It passed legislation aimed
at boosting the cotton industry, better regulating maritime
affairs, and reforming the statistics bureau. It also passed
significant legislation regulating microfinance, the
insurance sector, and established a unified energy regulatory
body. The Ninth Parliament ended on a positive note, with
the eleventh hour passage of the Political Parties Bill,
which is expected to consolidate the number of political
parties (now at 110), curtail aisle-hopping defections, and
create public political party financing. It also continued
work on reforming its internal rules of procedures. As
drafted, the new rules would make parliament,s work more
transparent and public: it envisions committee proceedings
open to the public, introduces provisions allowing the public
to petition parliament directly, and compels ministers to
respond to questions filed by MPs within 48 hours. We expect
ratification of the new rules of procedure to be at the top
of the agenda for the Tenth Parliament.

Post-Referendum Red Flags

9. (U) However, the Ninth Parliament also became notorious
for its shamelessly self-serving and greedy legislation. It
voted itself a shocking pay increase and generous severance
benefits, causing public outcry. Kenyan's parliamentarians
now earn over $15,000 a month, which along with an extremely
lucrative 'golden parachute' package, make its members among
the most highly compensated in the world. Members,
furthermore, introduced anti-reform amendments to the Media
Bill of 2007 and sought to grant immunity to acts of
corruption occurring prior to 2003, although both ultimately
failed to pass due to President Kibaki,s refusal to consent
to the measures. Parliament also failed to enact anti-money
laundering and anti-terrorist legislation- key USG priorities
- and legislation to enable plea bargaining, a critical step
towards decreasing the backlog of cases choking the Kenyan
criminal justice system.


10. (U) With the anticipated high turnover of MPs following
the December 27 national elections in Kenya - and most
pundits estimate that well over 60 percent or more of Kenya's
incumbents will lose - Post will wait to map out a specific
legislative strategy after the elections. We are on the
campaign trail now, however, and building relationships with
future MPs that should serve us well over the next 5 years.


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