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Friday, November 12, 1999 Published at 14:56 GMT

World: Africa

Joy as Kenyan parliament secures new powers

Parliament's decision represents a 'sea change' for Kenyan politics

In an historic move, the Kenyan parliament has voted to change a key part of the constitution which enabled the president to control it.

Members of parliament cheered and stamped their feet when the vote was passed on Thursday night.

The 185 MPs voted unanimously to withdraw the president's right to appoint the clerk of the house - a position which commands considerable influence over the workings of parliament.

And the opposition MP who initiated the bill, Peter Oloo Aringo, described it as "the most historic day since independence".

"Today we are reclaiming our power," he said.

"Parliament is freeing itself from the emasculation of the executive. It is the beginning of Kenya's second liberation."

'Sea change'

One ruling party MP said the vote heralded "a sea change in Kenyan politics".

[ image: 'A humiliating blow' for President Moi]
'A humiliating blow' for President Moi
Last week 25 ruling party MPs told Moi they would vote for the bill and with enough government backbenchers prepared to defy him the cabinet was forced to climb down.

Veteran parliamentary observer Emman Omari of the Daily Nation newspaper also described the move as an historic one.

"Even in the press galleries everyone is excited. Scenes like this are very rare.

"It is history in the making like I have never seen in the 18 years I have covered parliament."

Setback for Moi

Parliament will now have the right to choose its own clerk - a power taken away from members by the country's first President, Jomo Kenyatta.

And it will effectively control its own destiny as the powerful clerk manages everything from the assembly's agenda to its budget. He also appoints and controls parliamentary staff.

Previous incumbents, appointed by the president, have been accused of bias towards the ruling party in the way they have conducted parliament's affairs.

Correspondents say the move is a humiliating setback for President Daniel arap Moi, a vocal opponent of the bill.

Mr Moi, in power since 1978, has been criticised in the West for his reluctance to broaden democracy.

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