The standoff between Kenya’s Attorney General Paul Kihara and the National Assembly is set to delay the determination on whether lawyers from Burundi and Rwanda will be allowed to practise in Kenya.
Speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly Justin Muturi, in a communication to the House, rejected a proposal by the Attorney-General to introduce two amendments to the Advocates (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to accommodate more the EAC members.
The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee had written to the Speaker requesting to withdraw the Bill before its second reading to accommodate the Kenya School of Law (Amendment) Bill and the Council for Legal Education (Amendment) Bill as proposed by the AG.
Tanzanian and Ugandan lawyers are currently allowed to practise in Kenya in accordance with the provisions of Sections 12 and 13 of the Advocates Act.
Parliament, through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) Act, 2012,, amended the two sections to include Rwanda and Burundi, but the Court of Appeal in 2019 struck the changes, locking out the two countries.
The House committee chairman Muturi Kigano wrote to the Speaker seeking to withdraw the Bill to accommodate an amendment to the Advocates Act, Cap 16, to allow admission of practitioners from Rwanda and Burundi to the Roll of advocates in Kenya in the spirit of the EAC.
“The matter falls within the doctrine of reciprocity among the community of nations, in this case being the member states of the East African Community,” Mr Kigano said in the letter.
The AG said his office was formulating the Kenya School of Law (Amendment) Bill and the Council for Legal Education (Amendment) Bill which would, among other things, address the concerns of the petitioners.
But Mr Muturi said that to withdraw a Bill in favour of proposals being developed by the AG would be tantamount to an abdication of the duty of parliament to legislate.
“Perhaps the Committee was not alive to the express provisions of Article 94(5) of the Constitution, which states that no person or body, other than Parliament, has the power to make provisions having the force of law in Kenya except under authority conferred by this constitution or by legislation,” Speaker Muturi said. “Any reasonable person would therefore read mischief in the attempt by the committee to seek withdrawal of the Bill.”
Mr Muturi noted that the prayers being sought are within the authority of parliament, hence withdrawal of the Bill from the House is prejudicial. He wondered why the committee wants to withdraw the Bill to include the views of more stakeholders yet, in its report, it indicated that it had taken into account the submissions from stakeholders, including the Attorney General.
Mr Muturi has given the committee until December 20 to communicate to his office on whether it will continue with the withdrawal of the Bill or it will move it for second reading.
In the event that the team refuses to move the Bill, the Speaker said any other member outside the committee would be free to sponsor it.
Mr Kigano has said his team will not move the Bill until all the proposed amendments are factored in.
“It is a decision by the committee that we will not move it. All we want is that all amendments to be considered wholesomely instead of bringing piecemeal amendments. If any other member wants to move it then it’s okay,” the MP said.