NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 7 – Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) staff threatened go on a hunger strike should Parliament pass a Bill to disband their employer and replace it with an interim body.,
One of the staff members Stephen Kinyua on Sunday described the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2008 as unfair as it sought to terminate the services of all staff under Section 41(14).
“We are saying that if this Bill goes through, we shall go on hunger strike and camp in parliament until our grievances are listened to,” Mr. Kinyua stated.
He said firing all ECK staff would contravene the Employment Act which spelt out the mode of dismissal of employees.
“We believe that his Excellency the President who believes in human rights will not accent to a Bill that is likely to violate the human rights of very innocent Kenyans,” he sated.
The staffers said if the Bill was to be passed then only the constitutional office bearers should be removed from office and regular civil servants have their jobs guaranteed until the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) was set up and proceed with an employee vetting process.
Another staff member Ken Owino said: “We do the logistics. We do the administrative part of the elections. A tea girl who served tea at the end of the day what (wrong) did she do? A procurement officer who made sure that ballot boxes were there, who made sure that T-shirts were bought, what wrong did they do?”
Joan Mundidi another staff member said the inclusion of ECK staff in the published Bill came as a shock since the Kreigler Commission in its report made findings to the effect that the staff who handled the elections were professional.
She read the following passage from Chapter 3 of the report: “The ECK has professional staff in many of its departments- all departmental heads at least are professional. Given the Commissioner’s committee system, however, they would continue to be nothing more than ‘senior assistants’ to the commissioners if they are not given room to apply their professional minds to the issues.”
The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2008 was published last week and is expected to be debated in parliament this week.
According to the document, IIEC’s chairman will be nominated by the National Accord Mediation Team and appointed by President Mwai Kibaki upon approval by Parliament.
The head of the new organ will be a Kenyan and a person who has held or is qualified to hold the office of a judge of the High Court. He will also be required to have "proven experience in electoral matters."
The Bill also seeks to institute other crucial reforms including the creation of an Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission which shall consist of a Chairman and eight other members.
The new body is also to take over the role previously played by the ECK and will make recommendations to Parliament on the delimitation of constituencies and local authority electoral units and the optimal number of constituencies.