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Kenya: MPs Shield Moi in Pension Battle

By David Mugonyi and Kennedy Masibo

Daily Nation


 June 3, 2003

Kenya - Twenty Kanu MPs yesterday warned the Narc government against harassing retired President Daniel arap Moi .

The MPs also accused Narc of trying to scuttle the Constitutional review by introducing its factional differences into the Bomas of Kenya conference.

It was not clear what prompted their public defence of Mr Moi, but references to the Presidential Retirement Bill suggest they were unhappy over the clause which bars beneficiaries of the pension scheme from participating in politics.

The MPs, led by opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta, called for changes in the Bill, which provoked an angry exchange between Mr Moi and the government when it was published nearly two months ago.

Three of them, Mr Nick Salat, Mr Musa Sirma and Mr Joseph Lagat, urged Kenyans to respect Mr Moi for having steered the country through 24 years of political stability.

Mr Sirma said peace in Kenya owed its stability to the leadership of President Moi after he succeeded President Kenyatta in 1978.

Mr Lagat said Kanu MPs were unhappy with parts of the Bill, which required a retired President to keep off politics in order to qualify for the statutory pension and other benefits.

"We want to know what mistake Mr Moi made in his 24-year rule to treated like this," asked Mr Sirma.

The MPs, speaking at a party to celebrate Kuresoi MP Moses Cheboy's victory in the last General Election, also declared their support for Mr Kenyatta's bid for Kanu chairmanship.

Under the new bill, the former president is expected to step down as chairman or risk losing all his retirement benefits.

The Bill provides a retired president with benefits worth Sh2.6 million a month, which include Sh200,000 a month for a city house and another Sh100,000 for an upcountry home.

Some speakers at the meeting, held at Kiptororo, attacked nominated Narc MP Franklin Bett, who was reported last week as preparing to testify at the Goldenberg inquiry on the link between Mr Moi and Goldenberg International. 

Mr Sirma dared Mr Bett to go ahead and appear before the commission and stop claiming that his life was in danger.

"Who stopped him from testifying? If he is a really Kalenjin why can't he just go head and stop saying that his life is in danger?"

He asked the Government to investigate the former State House Comptroller.

Mr Uhuru said it was not too much for Kanu to demand respect for Mr Moi. "As a country, our future will be determined by how we recognise and treat our past leaders," he said.

Mr Biwott said the former president should be allowed to go about his business unhindered. "Nobody should try and politicise his pension or other benefits that he is entitled to." 

The benefits of retired presidents should be discussed dispassionately and not in relation to Mr Moi or President Kibaki, he added.

The MPs cautioned Narc against "personalising" the writing of the constitution, apparently reacting to public squabbles between two factions of the ruling party over the creation of an executive prime minister's post. 

The Kanu leaders accused Narc factions of trying to influence the writing of the Constitution by forcing their will on delegates at the Bomas talks.

MPs allied to the Liberal Democratic Party many of them rebels who broke away from Kanu have been pushing for the introduction of an all-powerful Prime Minister similar to the French one while members of the National Alliance (Party) of Kenya favour a premier subordinate to the President. 

The dispute opened new fault lines in the wrangling within Narc, which is a coalition of several parties.

It was Belgut MP Charles Keter who first touched on the Constitution, saying some Narc politicians saw the document in terms of personalities.

"We want the Constitution to be written by Kenyans and not by a few individuals. Narc should not bring its internal wars into the writing of the constitution," Mr Keter said.

Kacheliba MP Samuel Poghisio said some people in the Narc Government were afraid of the possible outcome of a Constitution independently developed by the Bomas delegates. 

"We have heard that some people in the Government are wondering what to do about the conference writing the new constitution."

Mr Biwott said the constitution review should be respected because the people had proposed what they wanted.

He asked Kenyans to respect President Kibaki but asked the Government to treat all Kenyans equally, irrespective of where they came from.

Other politicians present included Dr Sammy Ruto, Mr Philip Rotino, Mr John Koech, Mr Sammy Koech, Mr Samuel Moroto, Mr Joseph Korir, Mr William Boit, Mr Henry Kosgei, Mr David Koros and Mr Joseph Lagat.

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