NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – Hundreds of Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) staff started a hunger strike on Tuesday, protesting plans to sack them through the disbandment of the electoral body.,
The workers had planned to launch their hunger campaign through street demonstrations, but their efforts were thwarted by the police who declined to permit their demo.
“We will continue with our services in our offices and because we draw salaries from tax payers, we are still working although we are (also) on hunger strike,” said their spokeswoman Joan Mundidi.
The 600 staff want the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2008 withdrawn. The Bill, which was published last week, is due to be presented to Parliament anytime.
It seeks to establish an Interim Independent Electoral Commission to replace the ECK, which would mean a termination of employment for ECK staff.
Ms Mundidi called on parliamentarians to reject the Bill, pledging that the staff would support all efforts to reform Kenya’s electoral process.
“Our holding of office cannot and will not interfere with the reforms that Kenyans are yearning for,” she stressed.
The ECK staff are also protesting that should the Bill be passed, it would set a dangerous precedent that would see employees of other constitutional bodies sacked over mistakes made by their superiors.
“The staffs are still appealing to Members of Parliament to consider deletion of the clause relating to dismissal of the staff,” she said.
On Monday, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) opposed the government’s plans to sack ECK employees.
Chairperson Florence Jaoko had argued that the move was tantamount to victimisation of all staff including those who were not implicated directly in the debacle.
She instead asked the government to launch investigations to find out those directly involved in bungling the elections. She had also emphasised that any guilty individual either at the Commissioners or staff level should face the law.
Ms Jaoko also urged ECK staff members who would face wrongful dismissed to seek legal redress as stipulated in the Employment Act as this was the only way they would have their grievances addressed effectively.
According to the new Bill, the IIEC’s chairman will be nominated by the National Accord Mediation Team and appointed by President Mwai Kibaki upon approval by Parliament.
The IIEC will take over the duties and functions of the ECK, including all assets and liabilities.
“The IIEC shall be the successor to ECK established by section 41(now repealed) and subject to this Constitution, all rights, duties, obligations, assets and liabilities of ECK shall automatically and fully transfer to IIEC,” the Bill reads in part. "Any reference to the Electoral Commission of Kenya shall, for all purposes, be deemed to be a reference to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission."
When the Bill is passed, the 22 obstinate Commissioners led by Chairman Samuel Kivuitu will cease to be office holders of the ECK.