Bill to dissolve ECK back in Parliament

December 15, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – The government has re-published the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill with major amendments, finally paving way for the disbandment of the Electoral Commission of Kenya.

The Bill which was shelved last Wednesday to allow further consultations now has new nomination rules for the members of the Interim Independent Electoral Commission.  Under last week’s Bill, they were to be nominated by the National Accord Mediation Team but that task will be undertaken by a Parliamentary Select Committee.

“The chairman and other members of the commission shall be nominated through competitive process by the Parliamentary Select Committee and upon approval by the National Assembly be appointed by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister,” the new Bill reads in parts.

The fresh Bill that was published by Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua stipulates the IIEC will consist of a chairman and eight commissioners up from four as earlier proposed.

It’s understood that discontent over the nomination procedure and a decision to sack all staff at the ECK were among reasons that prompted the shelving of the Bill last week.

During a meeting last Wednesday that was by President Mwai Kibaki at Parliament’s Old Chamber, the lawmakers demanded for amendment of the Bill to provide only for the dismissal of the ECK commissioners and not all staff.

The government has partially given in to their demand and provided a soft landing for the commission’s who will now “be absorbed in the public service.”

Section 41 (14) of the Bill reads: “Provided that a member of staff affected by this section shall be eligible for redeployment in the Public Service.”  They will however not be qualified to work for the IIEC.

The PSC will also responsible for nominating judges to a special court that will be set up to handle disputes arising from the Constitution review process.

The time for the dissolution of the interim teams has also been increased by nine months to 24 months after the commencement of the new law, or three months after the promulgation of the new Constitution.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also the leader of government business in Parliament, withdrew the Bill last Tuesday after the government sought more time to gather support from like-minded lawmakers.

“The Bill has been temporarily withdrawn and is now back to the committee of legal affairs and the Serena mediation team. Thereafter we will come to members so that we can garner the general consensus required to pass the constitutional amendments,” said the chairman of the parliamentary committee on legal affairs and justice, Abdikadir Mohamed.

The Bill is a product of the Independent Review Commission (Kriegler Commission) which was appointed to look into last year’s disputed presidential results.

Meanwhile, Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) staff want to be allowed to stay in office until their redeployment to the civil service is effected.

In a statement faxed to newsrooms on Monday, the officers took issue with sub-section 14 of the amended Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill (2008), which sets the stage for the disbandment of the entire ECK and institute an independent interim body in its place.

The officers said that the clause, which provides for their redeployment after dismissal, is ‘ambiguous’. They are further seeking an assurance on how their benefits would be protected.

The staffers’ demands come as the government published the amended bill and scheduled it for debate in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

Amendments made to the bill are to cater for the welfare of the officers after pressure from Members of Parliament, who challenged their dismissal.

President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga attended two ‘Kamukunjis’ last week that doctored the amendments, which centre on the redeployment and appointment of commissioners to the Independent Interim Electoral Commission.


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