Why IEBC is facing an uphill task in boundaries review

IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati during the parliamentary committee proceedings. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]
The besieged Electoral agency is facing challenges in commencing the boundaries review ahead of the National Census next year and the 2022 polls.

This is because the three commissioners resigned in April this year from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) making it difficult for the remaining three to have a plenary.

The current IEBC commissioners were sworn into office in January 2017 and were reduced to six when Roselyn Akombe resigned before the repeat presidential polls on October 26 last year.

The further resignation of vice chairperson Connie Nkatha Maina and Commissioners Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat now leaves it with Chairman Wafula Chebukati, Prof. Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu.

SEE ALSO :MPs want Chebukati and team out of IEBC

Yesterday, the Electoral agency chair Wafula Chebukati explained that lack of quorum in the commission and the upcoming national census next year will greatly jeopardize the preparations for the proposed boundaries review of Counties, constituencies and the County wards.

Appearing before the National Assembly Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC), Chebukati urged the lawmakers to speed up filling up the vacancies of the three commissioners who resigned in April so as not to obstruct any of the commissions’ activities.

Article 89 of the Constitution requires IEBC to periodically review names and boundaries of constituencies and wards.

“There shall be 290 constituencies for the purposes of the election of the members of the National Assembly provided for in Article 97 (1) (a)... the IEBC shall review the names and boundaries of constituencies at intervals of not less than eight years and not more than 12 years but any review shall be completed at least 12 months before a General Election of Members of Parliament.”

According to Chebukati the commission will rely on census data to be generated next year, an exercise conducted every 10 years.

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He told the Jeremiah Kioni (Ndaragwa) led committee, that although the commission has its own primary projections of numbers, that can be used for the boundaries review, they cannot be used unless approved by the commissioners.

 “The benchmark for us is the census data. Unfortunately, we cannot use previous data or any other data because it will not give us accurate information. If the census goes on well then it might be used for 2022 if not then it will be used for 2027 polls,” said Chebukati.

He went on: “Given the intricate nature of boundary review process in Kenya, the delimitation process will involve broad and intensive public hearings and stakeholder consultations to ensure give and take and enhance national cohesion.”

Commissioner Guliye while giving his views on what the commission explained that after receiving the census data, IEBC will need another six months to analyze it before using it for the boundary review process.

He said of immediate concern to the remaining trio, is the replacement of the commissioners to be done urgently so that the new ones can participate in the boundaries review process.

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“We would like other commissioners to also oversee the boundaries delimitation. We will soon start the introductory induction for the available commissioners as we wait for others to join us,” explained Guliye.

Lawmakers also expressed concerned about the state of preparedness of IEBC in conducting the delimitation process.

“We are worried whether the commission will be able to effectively conduct the boundaries review as it is currently constituted. You must move with speed in the preparations for the review process and avoid putting the country into unnecessary crisis,” said Kioni.

The Ndaragwa legislator said the country needs to tread carefully in the boundaries review process as its legality might be challenged in court due to the composition of IEBC.

However, Chebukati stated that the boundaries review exercise is political in nature because it defines the geographical areas for leaders and their subjects, access and distribution of economic benefits and in some areas it defines identities of a people owing to their historical attachments to certain geographical features of significance.

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