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Gloomy days ahead for ECK staff

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – The Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs has maintained that the entire Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) staff should go home.

The committee which met on Tuesday over the controversy created by Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2008 proposed that junior staff be redeployed to other positions within the civil service. They however said the Bill does not include this provision.

Chairman Abdikadir Mohammed said the envisaged Interim Electoral Commission of Kenya would have an uphill task reforming ECK should the current bureaucracy remain.

“The institution is more than the Commissioners. Removing the Commissioners alone will not be helpful. It is imperative that the new commission be formed from the ground up,” Mr Mohammed said after their meeting at Parliament Buildings.

Earlier, six backbenchers threatened to shoot down the Bill should the clause calling for the sacking of all ECK staff not be amended. The legislators said they would lobby their colleagues to throw out the Bill once it comes to Parliament.

“We find it completely absurd that we can wake up one day and say pack and go,” Imenti Central MP Silas Ruteere stated.

Addressing a news conference at Parliament, Wajir West MP Aden Keynan said; “We are telling them we are with them and they will not be punished for taking instructions from their bosses.”

The Bill to kick start the Constitution review process was expected to go for its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon should Justice Minister Karua get the approval of the House to shorten the time required before a Bill is tabled in the House. According to Standing Orders, a Bill has to be tabled not less than 14 days after publication.

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The Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill was published on December 3 and the earliest it could be tabled is December 16.

Parliament was also expected to extend its sitting hours in a bid to discuss the Bill and complete other crucial House business before they take a Christmas break.

Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka, the Leader of Government Business in Parliament, said the motion to extend sitting hours would be tabled on Wednesday.

If approved, then Parliament would extend debate to 8.30pm on Wednesday and Thursday.

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