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I last met Raila in 2007, IEBC chairman nominee tells MPs

By Wilfred Ayaga | Published Wed, January 11th 2017 at 00:00, Updated January 10th 2017 at 21:21 GMT +3
Wafula Chebukati, the IEBC chairperson nominee during vetting by the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs committee at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi yesterday. [PHOTO: WILBERFORCE OKWIRI/Standard]

Electoral commission chairperson nominee Wafula Chebukati yesterday said the last time he met ODM leader Raila Odinga was during the 2007 elections.

Mr Chebukati told the National Assembly's Justice and Legal Affairs committee vetting him that Raila, in the company of Deputy President William Ruto and other ODM Pentagon members, campaigned for his failed attempt to capture the Saboti parliamentary seat.

He was responding to the team led by Samuel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi) who asked him to explain his relationship with the Opposition chief and the party after he said he was an ODM life member until a month ago.

Chebukati, who was seeking the seat on an ODM ticket, lost to Eugene Wamalwa, the Water Cabinet secretary, who was the candidate for the Party of National Unity.

Mr Chepkonga wanted to know if the nominee, who is seeking to take over the chairmanship of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), is allied to any political party.

"Tell the committee, have you ever run for any political office? Are you a member of any political party?" Chepkonga asked.

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That is when Chebukati told the MPs he had hosted Raila, together with ODM Pentagon members, in Saboti prior to the elections after which he had retained his ODM membership for the last 10 years.

"I last met Raila in 2007 when he came to Saboti. He came to campaign for me in the company of Deputy President William Ruto," Chebukati told the committee.

"What is your relationship with the ODM leader, knowing you just left ODM? If this position did not come, would you have contemplated going back to politics," asked Raheem Dawood (Imenti North).

"Do you see any conflict of interest since you were an ODM life member?" Florence Kajuju (Meru) wanted to know.

However, Chebukati said he was not an active member of ODM. "I have not participated in elections since 2007 and I have not also participated in party matters since then. After losing the election, I retreated to my law firm. The issue of returning the membership certificates was just a formality," said Chebukati.

He was also questioned on his relationship with former Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Philip Kinisu and said he represented Mr Kinisu in a case where one of his companies had been said to have done business with the scandal-ridden National Youth Service.

The team is vetting nominees set to replace the nine IEBC commissioners who resigned last year.

Others vetted were Roseyne Kwamboka, a political economist and current advisor to the United Nations under secretary for political affairs, Boya Mulu, and Consolata Nkatha, an administrator and public relations practitioner.

Dr Kwamboka said she qualified for the position by virtue of her long experience in monitoring elections across the globe, including in Burundi, where she said she advised the UN on the tense situation ahead of the country's disputed polls last year.

"I believe in the charter of the UN and the Kenya Constitution. I'm non-partisan. I do not belong to any political party. I see myself as a person who comes with integrity," she said.

Ms Nkatha found herself in trouble when it emerged she has no bachelor's degree, contrary to requirements for the position.

Despite having two masters' degrees, Nkatha has no bachelor;s degree, which forced a member to question whether she really met the requirements of the job.

She said she was admitted to an overseas university for her masters' degrees based on the strength of two diplomas she had obtained locally.

The committee is expected to table its report in the National Assembly next week.