ECK given marching orders
Story by GITONGA MARETE
11. March 2008
A group of activists stormed an Electoral Commission of Kenya
meeting Monday and demanded that the commissioners resign in seven
The activists threatened to mobilise the public to evict the 22
commissioners from office unless they stepped down.
But ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu later issued a statement saying
the commissioners deserved a hearing at the Kofi Annan-led
Independent Review Committee scheduled to inquire into the
December 27 election irregularities.
The group meeting under the National Civil Society Congress also
threatened to evict the commissioners from the Sun ‘N Sand Beach
Resort in Kilifi where they were meeting to review the
commission’s performance last year.
Among those who confronted Mr Kivuitu and the commissioners was Mr
Okiya Omtatah Okoiti, who challenged them to quit to pave the way
for an inquiry expected to start before Saturday.
In January, Mr Okoiti was briefly arrested after he chained
himself to the gate of Police Headquarters in Nairobi.
“We are giving you seven days to vacate office, failing which we
shall mobilise the public to evict you,” Mr Okoiti said.
The demand came only a day after former MP Paul Muite challenged
the commissioners to resign.
Mr Muite’s call was supported by two ODM MPs. However, Anglican
Church of Kenya Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi, Cotu secretary-general
Francis Atwoli and a PNU MP called for caution.
During Monday’s confrontation, which lasted over an hour, Mr
Kivuitu did not respond to the protesters.
But he later issued a statement in which he took issue with media
reports demanding that his team resigns. He said the calls
amounted to “public condemnation of the ECK”.
Like other constitutional office holders, ECK commissioners enjoy
security of tenure and their removal can only be recommended by a
tribunal appointed by the President.
Mr Kivuitu said the commission should be given an opportunity to
defend itself in a competent forum.
“The press reports undermine the review of the electoral process
recommended by the Annan mediation team,” Mr Kivuitu said. “Due
process must be followed in determining any wrongdoing by the
commission or its staff”.
Mr Kivuitu reiterated that the commission supported an impartial
investigation by a competent body into its conduct of the General
Last December, the ECK came under criticism for declaring
President Kibaki winner of the elections, a verdict contested by
ODM. The dispute over the results sparked month-long violence in
which over 1,200 people were killed and 350,000 displaced.
On Monday, the more than 50 activists sang songs condemning the
ECK before singing the National Anthem. They accused ECK of “being
responsible for the chaos which rocked the country.”
“The ECK is to blame for the death of over 1,000 people during the
post-election violence because they had presided over a deeply
flawed election,” said Mr Sam Ongoro, who had organised the
As the group took turns to lecture the ECK officials, commission
members including Mr Kivuitu sat and watched.
“You have no business remaining in office pretending to be holding
brief for the Kenyan people,” Mr Ongoro said.
According to him, the commissioners were spending millions of tax
payers money in hotels “yet they failed Kenyans at the hour of
The ECK commissioners have been under pressure to resign.
Sabatia MP Musalia Mudavadi and his Eldoret North counterpart, Mr
William Ruto were among those who supported calls by Mr Muite. Law
Society of Kenya chairman Okong’o O’Mogeni also supported the
He described ECK as one of the weakests institutions in the
Mr Okoiti, who read a statement on behalf of the NGOs, said the
commission did not have the moral authority to be part of the
national healing and reconciliation. He demanded that the hotel
management evicts the commissioners.
“The commissioners at least owe this country an apology for what
they did,” said Sheikh Ramadhan of the Nubian Forum.
During the four-day workshop that ends on Wednesday, the
commissioners and senior ECK staff are expected to evaluate their
performance during last year’s General Election.
In their report, the EU said that the civic and parliamentary
elections had commanded the confidence of Kenyan people. But
according to them, the presidential election had fallen below
As part of efforts to resolve a dispute over the presidential
election results, the African Union mandated former UN
secretary-general Kofi Annan to mediate peace talks between
President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
The two leaders signed a power-sharing agreement on February 28.