News 2008

 

Crucial files lost in ECK drama



Daily Nation

Story by GITONGA MARETE

12. March 2008



Mystery surrounds the disappearance of three files containing vital information on the December 27 General Election.

The files went missing on Monday when a group of activists stormed into an Electoral Commission of Kenya meeting in Kilifi.

On Tuesday, it emerged that files went missing when the group confronted ECK chairman Samuel Kivuitu and other commissioners at the Sun ‘N’ Sand Beach Resort.

The activists were demanding that the commissioners resign to pave way for investigations into claims of election irregularities. However, Mr Kivuitu has said his team would not step down before presenting its side of the story to an independent review committee set to start its work by Saturday.

It is believed that the missing files contain crucial information about the tallying of the presidential votes in some provinces.

Their contents include Mr Kivuitu’s comments about his commission’s preparedness to conduct the elections.

Police spent the better part of Monday evening searching for the documents in the hall in which the activists were also meeting at the resort.

And Tuesday, Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua asked civil society activists to steer clear of the electoral commission.

Unjustifiable

“It was unjustifiable for members of the civil society to storm the Electoral Commission meeting the way they did,” she said in a telephone interview.

She said some of those who stormed the ECK meeting had been parliamentary candidates in the December elections while others were “crusaders for certain political parties”.

The minister urged the public and activists to give the Independent Review Committee a chance to carry out its duties.

The team is this week expected to start investigating allegations of irregularities during last year’s elections and give recommendations on how to avoid such pitfalls in future.

“It is true that the commission could be having its own problems, but it has continued to discharge its duties in a responsible manner and the result is the 204 members of Parliament,” she said.

Search rooms

On Tuesday, attempts to search the activists’ rooms were thwarted when the group denied the officers access, demanding search warrants.

“The police demanded they search our rooms, but we declined because we know they are crafty,” said Mr Jeff Birundi of Name and Shame Corruption Networks Campaign.

Meanwhile, seven activists from Mombasa were arrested and about 40 others dispersed when they tried to present a memorandum to Mr Kivuitu.

The four men and three women who included Muslims for Human Rights coordinator Hussein Khalid and Youth Agenda leader Evans Gachie, were arrested when they defied police orders to disperse.

They waved placards denouncing ECK commissioners and demanding that the commission be disbanded for allegedly failing Kenyans during last year’s General Election whose results were marred by allegations of irregularities.

Later, Mr Jacob Muoga, secretary-general of the Coast Civil Society Congress, protested against the arrests. In a statement, he said the activists had a constitutional right to express their opinion.

After the Monday incident, Kilifi OCPD Nehemiah Langat confirmed that some files containing vital information had gone missing. “We are searching for the ECK files that we understand the commission has lost,” he told Nation.

He did not, however, disclose the type of information contained in the files.

As the search went on, Ms Ann Njogu, the executive director of the Centre for Rights’ Education and Awareness said: “If indeed the commissioners were in possession of the files, how did they get access to them yet the chairman is on record that they needed a court order to access the documents? When did they obtain the order?”

However, Attorney-General Amos Wako in January said that a court order was not necessary to peruse the documents.

Begin investigations

But according to Ms Njogu, the commissioners were on a mission to frustrate the efforts of the Independent Review Committee that was scheduled to begin its investigations into the disputed presidential election results on Saturday.

Ms Njogu vied for the Kamukunji parliamentary seat, but results for the elections were nullified over alleged irregularities. The matter is pending in court.

 

 

OGIEK HOME