Saturday, December 6, 2008



December 4 2008

MPs took the first step to replace the Electoral Commission of Kenya when they adopted the Kriegler report in Parliament on Thursday.

The decision paved the way for the Government to introduce a Bill that will bring an interim commission to replace the team led by chairman Samuel Kivuitu.

Justice, Constitutional Affairs and National Cohesion minister Martha Karua has already published the Bill, which seeks to form a five-member Interim Independent Electoral Commission to replace the Kivuitu team that has 21 commissioners.

The move is in line with the recommendations made by an international commission chaired by South African judge Johann Kriegler to investigate last year’s presidential election results, which ODM disputed.

On Thursday, MPs unanimously adopted the Kriegler report, which had recommended that the ECK be disbanded and renamed to restore public confidence in the electoral system.

If passed, the Karua Bill will establish an interim independent boundaries commission to review constituency borders and administrative districts, prepare a new voters’ roll and supervise any by-elections or referendum, which might come in the next 15 months.

There will also be an interim constitutional court, which will determine any matters arising from the constitutional process.

Debate on the motion to adopt the Kriegler report was started by Ms Karua who also blamed politicians, the media, civil society and election observers for the violence that rocked Kenya after the December 27 General Election.

MPs were agreed that the ECK was not the only organisation responsible for the events that led to the violence in which more than 1,133 people were killed and over 300,000 displaced from their homes.

The MPs said that politicians, the media, civil society and observers should bear the same blame as the ECK and stated that only wide-ranging reforms would ensure there was no repeat of the unprecedented violence witnessed between December and February this year.

Ms Karua said: “This report is an indictment of all of us. Our conduct collectively is what led to the violence immediately after the elections.

Dwell in the past

“The reasons for adopting this report is not so that we dwell in the past, but so that we find the way forward, ” she said.

She blamed the Electoral Commission for retaining in its register 1.2 million dead voters who, she said, were used in vote rigging witnessed in some constituencies.

She said a Bill to reform electoral laws and disband the ECK had already been published and the Government will move fast to put in place new structures to manage future elections.

“We will totally have a new electoral system with a lean and professional electoral body whose work is to prepare policies leaving the running of elections to the secretariat, " she said.

However, ODM-K nominated MP Mohammed Affey said that the junior staff of ECK should not be sent home when the commission is disbanded.

It took only 40 minutes — from 5.45pm to 6.25pm — for the House to adopt the report, which said that a systems failure at ECK was to blame for the disputed presidential election results.
The ECK has in the past week gone to court to oppose moves to send them home. The commission has obtained a High Court order restraining the Government from taking “any executive or legislative” action against it.

In its case, the ECK argues that the law on how to remove constitutional office holders should be followed when removing them.

Constitutional office holders have security of tenure and the law recommends that a tribunal be set to investigate them before they can be dismissed.

Despite the court case, a Cabinet committee whose members include President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga has been working on a formula that will pave the way for the exit of the ECK commissioners.

While seconding the motion on the report, Medical Services assistant minister Danson Mungatana called for a lean electoral body. He said that some countries that have carried out credible polls had only one or two commissioners.

Mr Mungatana said that the Public Order Act should also be reviewed to outlaw two political rallies from being held at the same venue or in close proximity.

He also said that the electoral laws lacked the power to deal with offences committed during campaigns and elections.

“Are we able to punish offences as they are happening during elections? There is need to reorganise the entire management structure of the ECK,” he said.

Defence assistant minister Joseph Nkaissery said the ugly scenes of violence were caused by the ECK’s declaration that President Kibaki had won the elections and said the Kivuitu team should be disbanded immediately.

“Our country was visited by the devil after the ECK declared fraudulent results. This incompetent ECK should be disbanded immediately,” he added.

Mandera Central MP Mohamed Abdikadir (Safina) said impunity was to blame for the violence.