NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 14 – The Court of Appeal has suspended all election petitions until an interim electoral body is constituted.
Appellate judges Riaga Omollo, William Tonui and Phillip Waki ruled that cases cannot be heard without electoral officials after the dissolution of the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) last month.
Their ruling was made as they began hearing an ongoing petition case between Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru and her rival Maina Kamanda.
President Mwai Kibaki sealed the fate of the ECK by assenting to the Constitution of Kenya Amendment Bill 2008 late last month.
The assent gave way to the disbandment of the ECK, which the Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Johann Kriegler accused of bungling the 2007 presidential poll.
But the process of nominating nine members to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission was again thrown into doubt after officials of the disbanded ECK moved to court to block the establishment of the IIEC.
The case filed by Samuel Kivuitu and his fellow commissioners also wants the government ordered to continue paying them their salaries on the basis that the process of disbanding the commission was irregular and setting up another body would be unlawful.
The commissioners through lawyer Kibe Mungai said in papers filed in court that the parliamentary select committee which had already invited applications to the new electoral body lacked powers to nominate their replacements.
The case is due in court any time this week.
These developments came as the chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on the Constitution Review Abdikadir Mohammed said that a list of commissioners would be presented for Parliament’s approval a week after the January 30 application deadline.
Upon approval by lawmakers, the Chairman and other members of the commission will be appointed by the President in consultation with the Prime Minister.
“We have advertised the nine positions in the local dailies. We are encouraging Kenyans who are qualified and especially women to apply, so that we have the best crop to choose from,” Mr Mohammed said.
A person shall be qualified to be appointed to the commission if he/she holds a degree from a recognised university and has knowledge and proven experience in public administration and management of public affairs. He or she must also be a Kenyan citizen.
The IIEC shall be responsible for the reform of the electoral process and the management of elections in order to institutionalise free and fair polling.
They will also be mandated to establish an efficient and effective secretariat and conduct fresh registration of voters as well as the creation of a new voter register.
The PSC Chairman has also said members of the committee of experts that are to guide the constitution review process would be appointed by February 2.
He said the African Union represented by the Panel of Eminent Personalities chaired by Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan had already nominated five candidates to the panel.
The nine constitutional experts, six locals and three foreigners will harmonise various documents to come up with a final draft that will be presented to Parliament for approval, before a referendum is conducted.
The PSC will select three of names to the panel during their next meeting on January 20.
Mr Mohammed stated: “We will review those names and if we agree with all the names we will forward them to the National Assembly. If we need some names to be changed we will ask the AU to do so.”
He spoke after the first meeting of the 27-member committee this year at County Hall, Nairobi.