Wednesday, December 10, 2008



December 9, 2008

Group tells Kibaki that diluting Bill would be contrary to National Accord

Four Cabinet Ministers on Tuesday thwarted a last minute attempt to give a lifeline to the Electoral Commission team.

The ministers cut short their meeting on how the Waki report would be implemented and rushed to Harambee House where three top civil servants were trying to prevail upon President Kibaki to relax the disbanding of the ECK.

It is understood that the civil servants wanted the President to direct that the Bill that seeks to dissolve the ECK be diluted to give commissioners some room to negotiate.

But ministers Martha Karua, Mutula Kilonzo, James Orengo and Moses Wetangula intervened, saying that any move to dilute the Bill would be contrary to the National Reconciliation Accord.

This happened as Prime Minister Raila Odinga sent a message of hope to ECK staff that they will be allowed to re-apply for their jobs once the 22-member team led by Samuel Kivuitu is disbanded.

Run contrary

He said this in Kericho as Parliament put the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill on hold until today to lobby among members and ensure that the requisite 145 MPs, or 65 per cent of the 222-member House, come to Parliament to enact it into law.

The differences extended to the House Business Committee last evening as members were divided on whether the Bill should be listed for Wednesday.

However, it was decided that the Bill will be listed on the order paper pending the decision of MPs at Wednesday’s kamukunji.

Sources said the ministers convinced President Kibaki that any move to tamper with the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill and allow Mr Kivuitu and his team to negotiate with the Government would run contrary to the spirit by which the Kriegler team had called for a total overhaul of the ECK and electoral laws.

The senior civil servants had allegedly attempted to convince the President that the ECK commissioners held a lot of information on the outcome of the last General Election and that it could be dangerous to send them home in an acrimonious way.

Some ministers who spoke to the Nation said that the same civil servants, two of whom are based at Harambee House and one of them a former politician, were behind the move by the ECK staff to block efforts to send them home.

The ministers’ dash to Harambee House meant that the Cabinet Committee discussing the implementation of the Waki report could only meet for an hour.

And in Parliament, the Government put on hold the introduction of the Bill until today when it will have held enough consultations to ensure that the proposed law is not shot down.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka requested House Speaker Kenneth Marende to defer the First Reading until Wednesday when the Government will try to rally support during a kamukunji that will begin at 12.30 pm.

Earlier, the Parliamentary Committee on Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs had warned Ms Karua that although the Bill was good, it risks being rejected by members on grounds that it contained a clause to send dismiss ECK staff.

They told the minister to either remove the clause or give a Government undertaking on the floor of the House that the 575 employees would be retained on payroll.

In addition, the committee said that the employees should be eligible for employment in the civil service or in the interim Independent Electoral Commission.
As this happened, ECK commissioners and staff met separately and vowed to fight for their jobs.

The commissioners argued that if they were sent home, the Registrar of Political Parties would be affected, thereby throwing the ongoing efforts to comply with the Political Parties Act into disarray.

According to them, this would mean that major parties like PNU and ODM would not meet the December 31 deadline.

If the Bill passes, the commissioners argued, there would be no voters’ register and parties might miss the 200 members from every province required by the Act.

However, Ms Karua dismissed the arguments, saying removing individuals did not mean institutions ceased to exist.

ECK staff members questioned the decision to appoint an Interim Independent Electoral Commission for only 15 months, saying it would not be independent.

The commissioners also argued that the eight-member Serena negotiating team would be usurping the powers of the Executive if it is allowed to appoint the lean interim team of five commissioners as proposed in the Bill.

No contradictions

Elsewhere, the Cabinet committee on Waki discussed how to blend both international and local laws so that there are no contradictions.

The team chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi was also rushing to ensure that a draft Bill was in place before Thursday’s Cabinet meeting.

Mr Mudavadi said that once the issues on the laws are reconciled, the draft Bill will be amended.

As a result of the time limit given by the Waki commission, the meet will meet again today to complete its deliberations before presenting its report to the wider cabinet.

Mr Mudavadi dismissed allegations that the committee had discussed issues related to amnesty.