Wednesday, October 15, 2008



October 15, 2008

By Kipngeno Ruto And PPS

Factional differences pitting the key partners in the grand coalition government led to a stand-off over the fate of the discredited Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) during a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Mwai Kibaki yesterday.

The cabinet differed sharply over how recommendations made by the Kriegler report on the embattled ECK should be effected, with Prime Minister Raila Odinga leading his Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) wing of the cabinet to demand the immediate and unconditional disbandment of the electoral body.

Raila’s team says the ECK commissioners should be swept aside after being paid their dues and a caretaker committee inaugurated to hold the fort in the interim.

However, Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka and Justice minister Martha Karua led ministers allied to the Party of National Unity (PNU) in suggesting that the disbandment of the ECK as recommended by Kriegler report should be carried out gradually through a process that would also ensure the amendment of laws that create the ECK and govern the electoral process.

They argue that the replacement of the current electoral body should be done through a sessional paper to be debated and adopted by parliament.

And after failing to reach a middle ground on the issue, the Cabinet decided to form a ten-man committee to be chaired by President Kibaki to work out an action plan on how to implement recommendations of the Kriegler report.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga will deputise Kibaki on the team that has been given 14 days to come up with the road map towards the implementation of the commission’s recommendations.

But the cabinet at least resolved to adopt the entire Kriegler report that is expected to be tabled in parliament today.

The committee will be composed of the President, the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi. Others are ministers Martha Karua, William Ruto, Sam Ongeri, Mutula Kilonzo, Sally Kosgey, Moses Wetangula and James Orengo, all who represented their parties during the Serena talks that negotiated the power-sharing agreement led by former United Nations secretary general Kofi Annan.

The stormy meeting had initially differed on the composition of the committee before they found a common ground to retain the Serena team to carry out the mandate. Kibaki and Raila were coopted to strike a balance in the implementation of the report that has since elicited divisions in the cabinet.

The cabinet’s adoption of the report focusing particularly on the electoral body comes amid blatant resistance by the Samuel Kivuitu led commission to resign.

The commissioners have protested their innocence over accusations of bungling the 2007 elections whose results sparked off a deadly dispute that cost hundreds of lives and displaced several hundred thousand others.

The report was also adopted at a time when former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is expected in the country for the third time since the signing of the peace accord between President Kibaki and Raila Odinga. Annan is set to receive the report of the Waki Commission on post-election violence as well as follow up on the decisions taken to start reforming the electoral process as proposed in the Kriegler report. The Kriegler and Waki Commissions are products of the Annan-mediated talks that gave birth to the Grand Coalition government.

Annan is also in the country to join Kibaki and Raila to receive honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Nairobi in recognition of their efforts to restore peace in the country following the post election violence.

Meanwhile the report will be tabled in parliament today and copies of which will be circulated to all Members of Parliament. 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 talks.

The cabinet also agreed on the need to have a united approach in the implementation of the changes recommended for the country’s electoral process. Special programmes minister Naomi Shaban was directed by the cabinet to ensure that food supplies are distributed more efficiently to areas severely hit by acute food shortages.

The current global financial crisis also became a major concern of the cabinet meeting, and the Finance minister was directed to closely monitor the trend and its possible impact of the Kenyan economy with a view to coming up with strategies that would mitigate the situation in case the country is adversely affected by the crisis.

The proposed salary reviews for constitutional office holders, legal staff of the Judiciary and State Law Office was also approved for presentation to parliament. Former Members of Parliament who served from 1963-2002 will now get retirement benefits which also was approved by the cabinet in yesterday meeting..

The former legislators have been up in arms fighting for retirement benefits in recognition of their service during their tenure.