The ECK has finally announced that by-elections will be conducted in five constituencies and 55 wards civic wards on June 11th 2008. The constituencies are: Ainamoi, Emuhaya, Embakasi, Wajir East and Kilgoris.
No, no, you’re not imagining things. Oh yes, the one and only Samuel Kivuitu, Kihara Muttu, Muturi Kigano and the rest of the crowd, are all set to supervise elections in June, just six months after bungling the general elections!
With the country deeply divided, upwards of 1500 Kenyans dead; more than half a million others living as refugees in their own country and the constitution having had to be amended so as to accommodate a power sharing deal, one would imagine that the individuals responsible for this unfortunate turn of events would be sitting at a remand jail awaiting to be taken to court to face criminal negligence charges. And how WRONG one would be.
Sure, there are some positive things that have arisen out of Kivuitu’s massive cock-up, but the negative aspects far outweigh them. The 2007 election failure impacted on many lives, affected businesses, disrupted education and agriculture plus much more, not just in Kenya, but throughout the Eastern African region. Yet, the clumsy and inept ECK commissioners who are 100% responsible for this tragedy still sit pretty in their red carpet aircon offices enjoying hefty emoluments on tax payer account. All this while thousands of Kenyans mourn their dead relatives and many others sleep in rain soaked tents. What an insult!
Out of step with the real world
Admittedly, there is urgent need for constituencies without MPs to get representation in parliament. But should current ECK commissioners, now hiding behind constitutional security of tenure, be allowed to oversee by-elections, let alone hold public offices? Personally, recalling events at KICC in December 2007 and Kivuitu’s arrogant attitude ever since, I wouldn’t trust any of those ECK commissioners to serve as members of a village borehole committee.
It would seem that Kivuitu’s fate and that of his fellow commissioners lie in the hands of Mwai Kibaki as president. The ECK is governed by Chapter 41 of the Constitution of Kenya which inter-alia says: “....... 5) A member of the Commission may be removed from office only for inability to exercise the functions of his office (whether arising from infirmity of body or mind or from any other cause) or for misbehavior, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with this section.
(6) A member of the Commission shall be removed from office by the President if the question of his removal from office has been referred to a tribunal appointed under subsection (7) and the tribunal has recommended to the President that he ought to be removed from office for inability as aforesaid or for misbehavior.
(7) If the President considers that the question of removing a member of the Commission under this section ought to be investigated, then—
(a) the President shall appoint a tribunal, which shall consist of a chairman and four other members selected by the President........” The big question is whether the president will listen to the voices of reason and appoint the tribunal. Highly unlikely!
The Independent Review Commission headed by Justice Johann Kriegler set up to investigate general elections fiasco will hold countrywide meetings to gather evidence and has given interest groups up to 16th May to submit their written memoranda.
The influential Kenya National Commission on Human Rights Chairman, Mr Maina Kiai, has called for the Kenya Government to seek assistance from the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division (UNEAD) to oversee the by-elections. Maina reckons that the fact that there is an official inquiry into the conduct of the ECK is enough reason to ask for international assistance. He adds that the ECK lost credibility and integrity to conduct other elections after they messed up last year's polls.
On their part, the Secretary General of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya Sheikh Mohammed Dor has said that the Government ought to abolish the ECK and create a new representative commission so as to ensure free and fair elections.
Safina Party Leader and former Kikuyu MP Mr Paul Muite has also called for the reconstitution of the ECK before the June by-elections. Muite said it would be unacceptable for the ECK as currently constituted to run the repeat polls. "A majority of the commissioners are partisan, having being handpicked by one side of the political divide. Elections are like justice - they must not only be free and fair, but they must also be perceived to have been free and fair," said Muite. Instead, he urged for "an urgent constitutional amendment" to be fast-tracked in Parliament to put in place a professional ECK to conduct all future elections. Muite is foreseeing violent protests ahead citing Embakasi constituency which has the potential to easily become a flashpoint constituency to trigger off fresh violence if the outcome of the repeat polls was disputed.
It might be recalled that the European Union (EU), the Commonwealth and the African Union election observers all condemned the ECK saying that it failed to meet "international standards of transparency in key areas of its mandate".
All the international observer reports recommended that ECK be completely overhauled to build confidence in its independence and professionalism and also to ensure that it is credible, transparent and impartial.
I can only see more trouble for this country if the ECK, as currently constituted, goes ahead to oversee the by-elections in June.
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