Wednesday, October 15, 2008



OCTOBER 15 2008

By David Ohito

The countdown to the radical overhaul of the Electoral Commission of Kenya began with the adoption of the Kriegler Report by the Cabinet.

With this, it could just be a matter of time before ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu and fellow commissioners are shown the door.

Setting off the countdown, the Cabinet — under President Kibaki — constituted a committee to, in the next two weeks, draw up an implementation action plan on Kriegler’s recommendations.

And back in Parliament, MPs are awaiting the tabling of the report this afternoon, where all members would get a copy. To underscore the seriousness of the matter, President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga will head the committee, comprising former members of the Kofi Annan mediation team.

They are Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi and ministers Ms Martha Karua, Mr William Ruto, Prof Sam Ongeri, Mr Mutula Kilonzo, Dr Sally Kosgey, Mr Moses Wetangula and Mr James Orengo.

Earlier, reports indicated that coalition ministers had differed over what position the Cabinet would take on the Kriegler report.

Trouble started when a section of ministers opposed the adoption and presentation of the crucial report to Parliament.

The ministers engaged in sharp altercations, with one side proposing it be noted in the Cabinet minutes without necessarily being adopted.

One minister argued against sending Kivuitu’s team home, saying reforming the electoral body was envisaged in a new constitutional dispensation.

The minister is said to have put up a case that the Kriegler Report was one of several that would be received, and cited the Waki Report that could be presented to the President tomorrow.

The minister, according to sources, argued that the best route to take was to adopt the Kriegler Report and all the others, then use them as input in the review of the Constitution.

Common ground

However, the Cabinet struck a common ground and constituted the 10-member committee to oversee the implementation of the report.

"We had a positive meeting and all of us were in agreement that it is time to crack the whip on the ECK team," said a minister who spoke to The Standard.

The Cabinet underlined the importance of providing the way forward on the report and the need to address the issues that came up under Agenda 4 of the Serena peace talks presided over by Dr Annan.

A Cabinet statement released by State House, said: "The Cabinet also agreed on the need to have a united approach in the implementation of the changes recommended made to Kenya’s electoral process due to the importance of electoral reforms in the prosperity of the country".

The call for unity came against a backdrop of sharp divisions over the Kriegler Report, with some calling for the immediate resignation of the ECK commissioners, while others called for their retention.

The recommendations of the Independent Review Commission (Irec) chaired by South African judge, Justice Johann Kriegler, proposed radical reform to ECK or the creation of a new electoral management body.

Political measures

It also recommended that the Government devises and implements appropriate Executive, legislative and political measures to enable the newly reconstituted electoral body perform.

In ECK’s place, Kriegler recommended a lean policy-making professional body and a supervisory board, selected in a transparent and inclusive process.

It is Parliament — where the report will be tabled this afternoon — that has the legislative powers to amend and consolidate all electoral laws into one statute as recommended by Kriegler.

Irec recommended a separate law to be enacted to facilitate the establishment of a special elections dispute resolution by the ECK.

These would include matters that cannot be resolved by the ECK, or matters to which the ECK is a party, and post-election disputes, including election petitions.

The law should entrench a statutory limit to ensure that election petitions are finalised in good time — six months should be adequate.

Irec also recommended a broad consultative process prior to appointment of ordinary members and the chairman of the ECK, and be given legislative grounding.

Alternative means

It also recommended the consideration of alternative means of picking commissioners, including appointment by Parliament.

The Cabinet was considering the Kriegler Report, one month after it was handed over to President Kibaki.

The Kriegler Commission was constituted following the Serena talks necessitated by last year’s disputed presidential election, which threw the country into a spiral of violence, which left more than 1,000 dead and hundreds of thousands others displaced.

A section of envoys also piled pressure on the coalition government to adopt and implement the report.

In his parting shot, Kriegler cautioned Kenyans to adopt the report or prepare for another bloodbath when elections are called in 2012.

The Cabinet also ordered acting Finance minister John Michuki to closely monitor the global financial crisis and its likely impact on Kenya’s economy.