27 February 2013

Kenya: Colleagues Pay Tribute to Humorous, Candid Kivuitu

"He was a workaholic and team player," the now defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya commissioner Jack Tumwa says of his former boss Samuel Kivuitu who died on Monday.

Tumwa, who worked under Kivuitu for nearly a decade, said he was saddened by his death. "I saw him last month and he was very jovial. He was confident that he would come out strong," he said.

Kivuitu, aged 74, died at the MP Shah Hospital in Nairobi where he had gone for a a routine check-up on Monday afternoon and had some X-rays taken before collapsing and being admitted. He had been battling throat cancer that has seen him in and out of hospital for two years.

Although many people blamed him (Kivuitu) for the December 27, 2007 chaotic elections, Tumwa said Kivuitu did his job but some people messed him up.

"Kivuitu was the electoral commission boss in 1997 and 2002 and we were all happy with what he did," said Tumwa. "We seem to have forgotten the 2005 referendum which was peaceful and Kivuitu was the boss which the international community and Kenyans all applauded as one of the best. He carried the cross of others in 2007."

Kivuitu was largely blamed for the bungled election which saw more than 1,300 people killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

The Kriegler review team set up to investigate the 2007 polls in its findings said that the election was so gravely flawed that it was impossible to determine the winner in the presidential elections.

Kivuitu absolved himself from blame, saying his work was to announce results and he just did that. He said his business was to announce what was brought to him by returning officers.

"I did nothing wrong," Kivuitu said when asked what he felt about the 2007 elections by journalists. "I did my part. I announced the results; which was expected of me."

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka said he learnt of Kivuitu's death with deep sorrow, sense of loss and sadness.

"I had known the late Kivuitu as a close parliamentary colleague, lawyer and friend for many years," said the VP in a statement. "Samuel was a humble, stoic, philanthropic and a social person who always strived to give his best to humanity and in particular to his country."

Former Speaker of National Assembly Francis ole Kaparo said although he did not interact much with Kivuitu, he had known him as a straightforward man. "He was strict and always kept time. In meetings we both attended, he was always on time."

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said in his considered assessment, Kivuitu was a forthright man who often spoke his mind, without fear or favour.

"Many are those who may have misunderstood him, but he certainly shepherded over our previous elections from 1997, in 2002 and in 2007," said the PM in a statement.

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