Kenya's assembly speaker threatened
Nairobi - The speaker of Kenya's parliament said he had been threatened with impeachment ahead of his ruling later on Thursday in a row over the appointment of top judicial figures that has shaken the fragile coalition cabinet.
President Mwai Kibaki set off a political storm by nominating senior judicial figures, with Prime Minister Raila Odinga accusing Kibaki of violating the country's new constitution by not consulting him.
The law requires the nominees to be endorsed by parliament before they can take office, and speaker Kenneth Marende said on Tuesday he would rule on whether lawmakers can vote on the appointees whose nomination has poisoned Kenya's politics.
Analysts said that if he blocks the vote, Marende will make Kibaki lose face and may suffer the wrath of the president's allies, who have the numbers to vote him out as speaker.
Odinga, facing a rebellion in his party that has seen his political influence dwindle, could lose out to Kibaki's allies in parliament, who have said they will support the nominations.
"The threats must be from the Party of National Unity. They are the ones with something to lose," said human rights lawyer Harun Ndubi, referring to Kibaki's PNU party.
Marende, who was elected largely by Odinga's party, said the threats came through third parties.
"I have not received threats directly, but through third parties. In my view those would be veiled threats," Marende said in a statement.
The PNU said it was not behind the threats.
"The allegations that PNU is behind the threats are baseless, and are meant to portray the PNU as the obstinate side in this matter," Jeremiah Kioni, a senior party official, said.
Separately, the High Court is expected to rule on Thursday on whether to block Kibaki's appointments after several rights groups challenged their appointment.
Kibaki's aides say the judicial nominations are meant to improve public confidence in the judiciary and support Kenya's case for holding trials of those suspected of orchestrating the post-election violence of 2008 in Kenya instead of at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.