Which way IEBC? Chebukati, Guliye set to retire and commissioners wanted out

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati is whisked away by security officers and the clergy after chaos erupted between Azimio and UDA leaders at the auditorium, Bomas of Kenya Aug 15, 2022. [Jonah Onyango, Standard]

The future of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is bleak as Kenya Kwanza Alliance plots to kick out four of its commissioners from office while Raila Odinga’s Azimio wants whole commission disbanded.

Farmers Party which is affiliated with Kenya Kwanza has petitioned Parliament to kick out IEBC Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera, Commissioners Justus Nyangaya, Francis Wanderi and Irine Masit from office over claims of gross violation of the Constitution and breach of oath.

Azimio leader Raila Odinga has put 2024 as the timeline to have a new commission in place three years before the 2027 General Election and reforms such as the adoption of pure manual voting and transmission of results compared to the current mix of manual and electronic transmission of results.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and Commissioners Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu are set to complete their single six-year term in office and retire early next year while “rebel” commissioners Cherera, Nyangaya, Wanderi and Masit who came to office in September last year were expected to serve until September 2027.

Raila who addressed Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting at Stony Athi retreat in Athi River, Machakos County, Friday said that his coalition had lost the August 9 General Election because of manipulation at polling stations and transmission stage after the process was hijacked by external forces.

“In our proposed reforms of the IEBC we will be looking at the roles of Presiding Officers who play a crucial role of announcing results that cannot even be altered by IEBC Chairman yet they are employed on temporary terms and poorly paid making them vulnerable to manipulation by the political class,” he said.

During his inauguration, President William Ruto showered the IEBC with accolades for doing its work “under challenging circumstances” singling out Chebukati for “resisting bribery and intimidation” to announce the results as required by the Constitution.

IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and Vice Chairperson Juliana Cherera. [Dennish Ochieng, Standard]

"The IEBC did its best in the just-concluded elections with results relayed in the public portal as they came in with Kenyans being in a position to tabulate and get the correct figures, I salute IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati and call him the hero of this election for resisting threats and intimidation to subvert the will of the people,” said Ruto.

The Farmers Party, through a petition by Chege and Sang Company Advocates, avers that the four commissioners’ differences with Chebukati and the boycotting of the official declaration of the Presidential results breached the law and their duties considering that they are public officers.

The party accused the rebel commissioners of swearing affidavits based on falsehoods, a position the Supreme Court upheld.

IEBC faced a crisis in April 2018 when Commissioners Connie Nkatha Maina, Margaret Mwachanya and Paul Kurgat resigned citing a lack of confidence in Chebukati’s leadership while Commissioner Roselyn Akombe quit seven days before the October 2017 repeat presidential election.

“As I prepare to exit as the Chairman of the IEBC in January 2023, I am proud that I have performed my duties as spelt out in the Constitution, I am very grateful to Kenyans for having accorded me an opportunity to serve in this challenging role, I will leave the office with my head high knowing that I did what was expected of me,” said Chebukati.

The dissenting commissioners were forced to eat humble pie after the Supreme Court upheld President Ruto's victory.

Garissa Township MP Aden Duale said that even though the four IEBC Commissioners had accepted the outcome of the Supreme Court ruling they will be held accountable since their actions could have led to a state of anarchy.

“The four Commissioners will be held liable for every action they took immediately after the election results were declared, their activities could have put the country into flames, they cannot be allowed to walk away scot-free, they will be subjected to due process,” said Duale.

The four commissioners had declared the presidential results a mathematical absurdity arguing that with the total aggregation exceeding 100 per cent, more than 142,000 votes were unaccounted for.

Their position was that the total number of registered voters, the total number of votes cast, and the total number of votes rejected were not indicated making the final vote tally lack a critical ingredient.