Saturday, December 6, 2008



By Joseph Murimi

The die is cast, that was Justice Minister Martha Karua’s message to the Electoral Commissioner of Kenya (ECK). She asked Kenyans to see electoral reforms as a rite of passage to nationhood and be prepared for the challenge.

"It’s going to be a total renewal. Let us see it as an initiation to nationhood. We are going to create a new creature,’’ she said.

Karua said Kenyans have been asking for reforms for a long time and roadblocks to a new electoral system must be removed. This includes sending home ECK commissioners and staff.

She said some of the envisaged reforms will affect every Kenyan and would have implications on politicians. Karua said nobody has been condemned and those affected should accept it because the reforms are urgent and necessary.

Karua said ECK was only one of the institutions set for overhaul as agreed during the mediation talks early in the year.

She added the envisaged referendum on the new constitution had made reforming the ECK an urgent issue because a new voter’s register must be prepared, among other key things.

"ECK comes first because of the referendum. We must do it (overhaul) early so that we will begin with a new registration of voters,’’ said the minister in a telephone interview on Saturday.


The Independent Review Commission into the conduct of the last election, popular known as Kriegler Commission, called for the overhaul of the electoral system and concluded that the country has been holding sham elections.

The Bill published by Karua borrows heavily from its recommendations on how to reform the electoral system.

Reacting to protests by ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu, commissioners and staff, Karua said the decision to send them packing was final.

She said claims by Kivuitu that the Constitution Amendment Bill 2008 that seeks to dissolve ECK was in conflict with the Political Parties Act were misplaced and smacked of a desperate attempt to hold on to office.

"They are trying to hold on to anything. It is the same Kivuitu who criticised the Political Parties Act and now he is trying to use it to argue his case,’’ said Karua.


She said when the Bill she published on Friday comes into force Kivuitu, commissioners and staff will have to go to allow for electoral reform. Karua said arguments by ECK staff that they were not policy makers and therefore bore no blame for last year’s election fiasco did not hold any water.

Karua said the staff implement decisions made by the commissioners, including manning offices.

"When the commissioners sit in Nairobi, it is the secretariat staff who run the affairs of ECK at the district level. They cannot now blame the commissioners entirely,’’ said Karua.

Karua was emphatic that the commissioners and staff are not getting the sack because they are guilty but because the electoral system needs to be reformed drastically to reclaim its integrity.

She said their departure is a sacrifice that must be borne if the system was to be reformed. She asked them to see their departure as retrenchment that is a normal feature in the Civil Service.

Karua asked Kenyans to be ready to make some sacrifices for the sake of the nation and not to resist reforms.

Panic gripped ECK staff and commissioners after Karua published the Bill seeking to send all of them home.

The staff immediately wrote a petition to President Kibaki and MPs asking them the repeal the clause calling for the sacking as they blamed the commissioners for the election fiasco.

They further heaped blame on returning officers whom they said contributed to the election mess, but could not be held to account.