Wednesday, December 17, 2008



Okech Kendo

The 600 employees of the disgraced Electoral Commission are yet to understand it is too late for the ‘It wasn’t me’ excuse: They cannot evade the tightening noose.

Rank and file staff of the electoral body want the public to believe they are innocent victims of gullible commissioners, who singularly presided over last year’s executive tragedy. Facing a purge about a year after they should have been punished, some are appealing for compassion.

These employees, some managers and others receptionists, want to be pitied because they, too, are parents with responsibilities. They want their jobs secured so they can feed and educate their children, pay medical bills and so on.

One such ECK employee told the public, with a temper that invites pity: "I have to put food on the table and pay school fees. This was my first formal job in seven years. We have not committed any offence to cost us our jobs. It is, indeed, disturbing."

These people, now pleading to be seen as "junior employees" of the dying commission, want the public to believe they did nothing wrong. They claim the mess we saw was entirely the handiwork of 22 commissioners, who worked alone in some isolated floor at Anniversary Towers, the headquarters of the ECK. They claim they had nothing to do with the policies, decisions and indecisions that caused the crisis that ended in the deaths of more than 1,200 innocents, the displacement of about 500,000, the dispossession of many more in tribalised violence. This blunder also undermined public confidence in the ballot.

That ECK has lived this far — about a year after it should have been buried — illustrates the absurdity of institutionalised impunity, the death of trust and moral depravity in public office. This appeal to pity shows how low national institutions have fallen. The petition to secure personal good only proves the blinding nature of self-interest.


Employees who now ‘realise’ they have family responsibilities were silent for as long as they were assured of their personal interests. They were complicit for as long as they knew their jobs were secure. The ‘junior’ employees protected their personal interests even as partisan decisions and indecisions set the country on the road to destruction.

Survival was all that mattered to the 600, even in the face of an avalanche of lies and the incompetence the Kreigler Report exposes. They kept quiet in the face of duplicity, contradictions and conspiracies that undermined last year’s General Election.

To be sure, employees have a right to retain their unga. But the 600 also had a duty (which they still have) to protect public interests, even in the face of executive threats. They can still spill the beans even as they walk out.

Now, the employees want the public to help them secure their bread and butter. But they were indifferent as ECK bungled the presidential election. Now, they want to go on a hunger strike to secure self-interests!

The mess that robbed the electoral body of all credibility was an accumulation of blunders that may have taken more than two years to plot. But during the time, these employees found no reason to speak out.

Now, they are appealing for public pity. Now, they want the public to defend their personal interests.

Most of them may not have sat in ECK’s plush boardrooms, but they knew of the conspiracies to bungle presidential election. They did not speak out when rigging talk enveloped their offices. The 600 may not have attended executive meetings on how to undermine free and fair elections, but they must have heard of those intrigues. Commissioners and ECK technocrats may be the first on the list for the purge, but they should not be the only ones. Commissioners were not the hands on voter registers. It is not them who registered the dead or de-registered the eligible.

The commissioners may have made the decision to admit two million dead voters into the registers, but it is rank and file employees who executed the dirty deed. Those now appealing for compassion did not report there were clerks hired to manipulate voter registers. This information was in the public domain months before the election, yet none of the 600 employees blew the cover on lying commissioners.

The 600 claim they were not given a chance to be heard, but they never demanded the opportunity to speak out. They never went on hunger strike to demand to be heard.

Whistle-blowing may not be in their job descriptions, but the 600 employees had a moral duty to protect the public interest. They failed so badly, their petition now for compassion is hypocrisy of a criminal hue.

The writer is The Standard’s Managing Editor, Quality and Production.