Kivuitu's team under fresh
pressure to quit
Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE and CAROLINE WAFULA
10. March 2008
The Electoral Commission of Kenya came under sharp focus Sunday
with leaders saying the team led by Mr Samuel Kivuitu must be
disbanded before investigations into election irregularities begin
Safina leader Paul Muite sparked debate on disbanding the polls
team and called for the commissioners to be investigated “with a
view to pressing criminal charges against them”.
ODM Members of Parliament Musalia Mudavadi and William Ruto backed
supported Mr Muite’s calls.
However, Anglican Church of Kenya Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi
called for caution, saying no drastic measures should be taken so
soon after President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga signed a
power-sharing agreement aimed at ending the political crisis
sparked by the disputed presidential election results.
The Archbishop’s views were supported by Cotu general-secretary
Francis Atwoli who said changes to ECK “must await comprehensive
Mr Aden Sugow (PNU, Fafi) also said the fate of the commissioners
should be decided after an independent review committee publishes
On December 30, ECK announced President Kibaki as winner of the
polls, a verdict contested by ODM.
During mediation talks led by former UN secretary-general Kofi
Annan, negotiators from the Government and ODM agreed that a team
to investigate election irregularities be set up by March 15.
The independent team was to present its findings within three to
four months. The team, to be led by a South African judge, will
also make proposals on how to reform the electoral system. It will
include three foreigners and four Kenyans.
In a statement released Sunday, Mr Muite, the former Kikuyu MP,
said: “The ECK must be disbanded immediately, or at the very least
step aside to pave way for independent investigations of its
conduct of the 2007 General Election.”
He and other political leaders called for the resignation of the
22 ECK commissioners to pave way for the investigations expected
to start before Saturday.
The calls came only two days before Parliament reconvenes Tuesday
to debate four crucial Bills meant to entrench the power-sharing
agreement in the Constitution and pass laws creating the posts of
Prime Minister and two deputies, among other reforms.
Archbishop Nzimbi said that the coalition government to be formed
after Parliament passes the Bills should be allowed “to settle
down” before any drastic action is taken against ECK.
But while supporting Mr Muite, Mr Mudavadi and Mr Ruto argued that
the commissioners should step aside so that the Annan committee
works without any hindrance.
Their views were backed by Law Society of Kenya chairman Okong’o
O’Mogeni, who also called for the resignation of the commissioners.
According to Mr O’Mogeni, the commissioners’ resignation was
According to him, ECK was one of the weakest institutions in the
“There are some institutions that need to be reformed immediately
and ECK is one of them. We should have it reconstituted well in
advance even as we prepare for comprehensive reforms,” the LSK
Mr Mudavadi said the conduct of ECK triggered the political crisis
that left over 1,200 people dead and over 300,000 displaced in one
month of violence.
He said: “The Kofi Annan independent review is coming to inquire
into the irregularities of the elections, which fell under
supervision of ECK. Good ethical standard is that they should step
aside to allow the review to take place as they may try to
obstruct the functioning of that team.”
ECK not only faced a crisis locally, but also internationally, the
LSK chairman said.
But Mr Sugow of PNU and Mr Atwoli urged Kenyans to focus on the
impending formation of a new government when debate opens in
“In as much as we know that there were flaws during the elections
and the ECK takes much of the flak, we should wait for the
findings of the review team. We are trying to heal from the
election wounds and radical steps should not be taken one after
another,” the MP said.
However, Mr Ruto said the ECK commissioners should voluntarily
resign “for overseeing a flawed poll”.
“Any Kenyan who is reasonable expected that as a show of remorse
for taking the country to the dogs, the ECK commissioners should
have voluntarily resigned,” said the Eldoret-North MP.
However, he said the commissioners enjoyed constitutional
protection and could not be easily ejected from office based on
demands from politicians.
Before constitutional office holders can be sacked, the law
requires that the President appoints a tribunal to investigate
Last week, National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende described the
commission as the “epicentre” of the events that plunged the
country into chaos.
On Sunday, Mr Muite, who is a lawyer, proposed that should the
commissioners fail to resign, Parliament must amend the law to
send them packing.
But Archbishop Nzimbi differed. In a telephone interview, he said:
“It is obvious there were serious anomalies but right now we
should allow the present ECK to continue with conducting the
And speaking to the Nation on phone, Mr Atwoli said the country
was still politically volatile and the new government should be
given a chance to look at the issue.
Contacted, ECK commissioner Jeremiah Matagaro declined to comment.