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Kibaki signs Bill, sends ECK home

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 24 – President Mwai Kibaki has assented to the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2008, setting into motion the realisation of a new constitution and effectively disbanding the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK).

A dispatch from the Presidential Press Service on Wednesday read, “The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Act 2008 is set to jumpstart the review process that will ensure that the country gets a new constitution.”

Already a 27 member Parliamentary Select Committee has started work on the realisation of a new constitution but had indicated it could not move forward without the presidential signature on the Bill. The recruitment of a panel of experts to guide the process is expected to kick off soon.

The PSC is also expected to appoint commissioners to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Independent Boundary Review Commission which will guide the electoral reforms in the country.

It is expected that the new law will be in place in a year’s time and the Prime Minister Raila Odinga has urged Kenyans to be ready for a referendum on the new law next year.

Simultaneously the government has sent the entire staff at the ECK on compulsory leave pending their planned redeployment to the civil service.

Capital News got hold of a copy of the ‘confidential’ letter authored by the Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura dated December 24 and sent to the ECK Secretary Suleiman Chege.

“As you are aware, the government is in the process of working out modalities to facilitate the transitional arrangements of the Electoral Commission of Kenya. In this regard, it has been decided that all ECK staff proceed on leave with immediate effect,” the short letter read and instructed Mr Chege to ensure that the directive was effected immediately.

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The letter was copied to ECK Chairman Samuel Kivuitu and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service Titus Ndambuki.

The government had given the workers until Wednesday to sign an option form indicating their response to their planned redeployment.

However our source at the ECK headquarters revealed that most workers had refused to fill the form since the government had failed to guarantee them automatic absorption and their current well remunerated terms of service.
“About 95 percent of us have not signed it,” he said. “We decided we are not going to fill it because nobody owns the document. The memo accompanying it does not even have a letter head.”
A clerical officer at the ECK earns around Sh60,000 but his equivalent in the civil service takes home about Sh15,000.
The officers who have been holding consultative meetings in turn wrote a memo to their Chairman Samuel Kivuitu asking him to raise their concerns with the government.

Parliament on Tuesday passed a Bill to dissolve the embattled body, but moved to save the jobs of the officers and pushed for an amendment to Bill that allowed for their absorption into the civil service.

As the head of state sent the electoral body packing the ECK commissioners’ filed an amended petition at the high court against their axing.

Through lawyer Kibe Mungai, the 22 commissioners now want` the Constitution Amendment bill of 2008, declared unconstitutional. They further want the court to declare that they are entitled to payment of salaries and allowances of their remaining term as members of ECK.

They also want the 210 seats for elected MPs declared vacant. 

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