Raila Odinga vows to boycott elections if IEBC is not overhauled

ODM National Chairman John Mbadi flanked by other party leaders during a press conference in Nairobi in which they said they will march to IEBC offices on Monday morning to fight for their rights. [PHOTO: WILLIS AWANDU/STANDARD]

Opposition leader Raila Odinga has vowed to boycott next year's elections if the electoral commission is not reconstituted, even as 11 envoys urged dialogue.

Raila warned that there would be "no reason for us to participate" if the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), over which he is leading protests to oust the commissioners, was not overhauled.

"We need to address factors that may lead us to a state of violence that we witnessed in 2008. We will not go into the gallows. If the electoral commission is not properly reformed, there would definitely be no reason for us to participate in the coming elections," Raila told Al Jazeera's TV in an interview.

The ODM leader spoke even as the ruling Jubilee coalition and the Opposition's Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) welcomed the proposal by the envoys in Nairobi for talks for electoral reforms ahead of the next General Election.

But the rival coalitions clashed bitterly over the agenda of those talks.

Jubilee wants the talks to deal with electoral reforms, agree on pending issues ahead of the next election, but not the removal of the commissioners.

CORD, on the other hand, has in its agenda the removal of the commissioners named in the multi-million procurement scandal of ballot papers, for which the givers of the bribe have been jailed in the UK.

CORD remains adamant that the current commissioners have to go before the next elections.

But for the IEBC, the doors are open for dialogue but that has to be done in a "structured manner". The commission has called a press conference tomorrow.

Yesterday, IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba reiterated the commission's position that all political parties were free to engage the commission in a structured manner but if they have queries about the commissioners, then the Constitution had an elaborate procedure for their removal.

"In our electoral road map, we are very clear on the priorities of the commission. We need to build a political environment that inspires public confidence in the electoral process," Mr Chiloba told The Standard.

The IEBC and politicians spoke shortly after the US Ambassador Robert Godec, British High Commissioner Nic Hailey and nine other envoys from Western countries issued a joint statement that called for dialogue to build confidence in the country's electoral commission.

"To ensure a credible, peaceful poll in 2017, we call on Kenya's leaders and citizens to come together through dialogue to build confidence in the electoral system. While the responsibility for doing so rests first with elected and appointed officials, this is a challenge for all Kenyans and everyone should join in good faith," the envoys said.

In a terse statement couched in diplomatic language, the envoys from US, Canada, Britain, Norway, Finland, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark criticised the countrywide demonstrations against IEBC by the Opposition.

"Everyone must reject rhetoric or actions that incite violence," said the envoys in their joint statement. Yesterday, Raila's lieutenants in ODM under the banner of the 'Firimbi Movement' insisted that 'Occupy IEBC' will resume next Monday.

The Opposition has also joined the churches and the civil society in warning that if the electoral commission was not disbanded and a new one picked, then the next polls would be a recipe for chaos.

"Decisions on questions such as the future of the IEBC's leadership must be broadly acceptable, achieved through dialogue, and made in accord with Kenya's constitution and laws," said the diplomats.

They asked President Uhuru Kenyatta's government to speed up the issuance of national identity cards to ensure all Kenyans above 18 years get a chance to participate in the next General Election.

"All eligible voters must have the opportunity to vote. All Kenyans must be able to obtain national identity cards through a process that is timely, fair, and reasonable," said the envoys.

They warned that all efforts must be made to avert political strife before, during and after the 2017 polls.

"It is the shared responsibility of the Government, the Opposition, and the people of Kenya to ensure a free, fair, and peaceful election in 2017," they said.

In a rare united response to a foreign assessment of a local situation, both the Jubilee and CORD leaders in the House welcomed the statement.

Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) said: "For the first time, I agree with the envoys. Let's talk. As Jubilee coalition, we have issues. If the IEBC wants to call us even tomorrow, we will go and talk about electoral reforms, and insist that we address all those issues within the law. If it will require amendments, we will bring those amendments here."