, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 22 – The Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) has asked the Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura to immediately withdraw Permanent Secretaries and senior government officials from campaigns for the proposed Constitution.
Chairman Issack Hassan told journalists on Thursday that PSs and the Provincial Administrators should stop taking sides in the debate and instead ensure peace and sobriety. Mr Hassan said the Public Officers Ethics Act prohibits civil servants from participating in politics.
“I know there might be different justification by the government but we think they should not participate in any electoral process or in the referendum campaigns,” he said adding that the officers should stick to their core mandate.
“They should continue offering services to Kenyans across the board irrespective of which camp they belong to.”
Mr Muthaura had written to the PSs and accounting officers requesting them to head to their home districts and campaign for the draft. District Commissioners had been given the task of convening meetings of opinion leaders.
The letter dated July 15 read in part: “Following the decision of the meeting of Permanent Secretaries which was approved by both his Excellency the President and the Rt. Hon, Prime Minister, you are authorized to travel to your respective regions between 12th July and 3rd August 2010 to participate in civic education and mobilising support for the new Constitution before the referendum.”
The letter asked District Commissioners to invite at least 200 leaders to the PSs’ meetings. “Permanent Secretaries may be accompanied by senior government officials and high ranking private professionals from their respective areas to strengthen presence.”
The Head of the Civil Service also led a delegation of Permanent Secretaries to Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s home recently, where the civil servants were told not to fear publicly backing support for the draft law.
The No camp had protested to the commission to address the matter and ensure a level playing ground. Mr Hassan said the commission would be writing to Mr Muthaura on the matter.
“We met this morning and the resolution of the commission is that the officers should not be involved in the campaigns,” said the IIEC Chairman.
While campaigning for the Greens in Eldoret last Friday, President Mwai Kibaki paraded some officers from the area and urged residents to “trust their own” signaling the use of a new strategy. Mr Odinga has also in the past defended the role of the officers saying they were merely championing a government agenda.
“This involvement of government officers can be used by the No camp to contest the outcome of the results,” said Mr Hassan.
The IIEC boss was speaking at a press conference convened by the five Agenda Four commissions on the state of the campaigns. The IIEC, Committee of Experts on Constitution Review, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission (IIBRC) as well as the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission have formed a joint initiative to deliver a peaceful and transparent referendum.
In their joint statement, the reform commissions issued an alert that the campaigns have taken to incitement and violence. They highlighted the confrontations between supporters of the two camps in Suswa, Machakos and Kerugoya. NCIC Chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia said his commission was investigating incidents of incitement from some leaders of the rival groups.
“In all the cases we have done we use a process. We have now asked for the materials of the meetings where the statements were made and we are investigating,” said Mr Kibunjia.
President Kibaki was also criticised for announcing the creation of new districts while on a campaign in Garissa on Wednesday. IIBRC Chairman Andrew Ligale disputed the new administrative units and said they were illegal.
“The fact that they are pronounced by the President does not make them legal,” he said.
Currently they are over 280 districts although the Kisii High court last year dismissed them saying the law only recognises the original 47 administrative units.