IEBC boss Issack Hassan sets out terms for commissioners' exit

IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan (left) with Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir when he met church leaders at the commission’s offices in Nairobi yesterday. Only a political deal arrived at after dialogue and made law would allow the commissioners to exit office honourably, the IEBC boss has declared. (PHOTO: WILLIS AWANDU/ STANDARD)

Only a political deal arrived at after dialogue and made law would allow the commissioners to exit office honourably, IEBC boss Issack Hassan has declared.

The embattled chairman of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ruled out resignation

that is being pushed by the Opposition, insisting that in the absence of such a political deal and legislation, anyone seeking their ouster must follow the constitutionally stipulated procedure of a tribunal.

His explanation was contained in an exchange with lawyer Donald Kipkorir, who in a social media forum, publicly asked the IEBC boss and his commissioners to exit office.

But Hassan quickly responded: "Don (Donald), if you listened carefully to my presentation yesterday, you will know that I said there needs to be political dialogue on IEBC, which can be reduced into law that will allow for the dignified, no fault and without liability exit of commissioners and entry of new ones. Absent that, we require those who want our removal to follow the law".

Hassan maintained a similar position at a joint press conference with the National Council of Churches of Kenya and the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, explaining that the current impasse can only be resolved through political dialogue, whose resolutions must be given legal status through an Act of Parliament to ensure their honourable exit.

"The current debate on whether IEBC should go is a matter not in our hands; it requires political dialogue for those outside the commission and if there's any agreement reached, it should be taken to Parliament," said Hassan after the commission's meeting with religious leaders.

Hassan said the commissioners were alive to the growing political temperatures, but would not resign as that would amount to abdication of their constitutionally-handed down mandate.

 The protests

"The commissioners hold their offices by virtue of the Constitution and we will continue to discharge our duties. We will not resign because this will amount to abdicating our responsibilities," he said.

The IEBC boss said the commission was ready to engage any stakeholders on electoral matters as they prepare to hold next year's polls, saying the solution does not lie in demonstrations.

Kipkorir, who is coincidentally Hassan's legal counsel and a friend, had attracted the response from the IEBC boss after he publicly advised him to resign.

In his social media post, Kipkorir told Hassan that "resigning isn't a sign of cowardice but courage".

"I write to you as my friend and client... This is a pro-bono (free) advise and thus not privileged," said Kipkorir. He went ahead: "CORD has been camping outside your office the last few Mondays and they say they will continue till you leave. You say you can't leave other than provided for by law. Yet, that is the big dilemma."

"Our Constitution says you can't be removed other than by a petition to Parliament. The same Constitution says Kenyans have a right to demonstrate, picket and present petitions to public offices. In "textualist" interpretation of the law, you are right. But in "spiritualist" interpretation, you are wrong. When it comes to spirit of the law, moral responsibility takes precedence," said Kipkorir.

But Hassan rebuffed the advise, accusing his lawyer of employing double standards.

"You support the decision by Justice Tunoi to go through the tribunal but you don't want that for us. Why? Irene Keino refused your advice even after she was offered an honourable exit. That is not the case for us now," said Hassan.

The IEBC boss added: "In any case, how do you build a strong electoral body if you force commissioners out or pressurise them to resign through extra-judicial means?  Don, you don't quit school because there is a bully taking your lunch box."