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IEBC deputy CEO Ruth Kulundu interdicted over poll results debacle

IEBC Deputy CEO Ruth Kulundu with Chairperson Wafula Chebukati (right) during a past meeting in Migori County. [Caleb Kingwara, Standard]

The fallout in the electoral commission over the management of the August 9 General Election has claimed its first victim.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Deputy Chief Executive Officer Ruth Kulundu has been interdicted barely two weeks after the Supreme Court upheld President William Ruto's victory.

Sources said Ms Kulundu, in charge of operations, was interdicted at a plenary meeting of three commissioners, including Chairman Wafula Chebukati.

News of her firing was revealed Wednesday by Azimio allied MPs during a media briefing at Safari Park hotel, Nairobi, where MPs of the 13th Parliament are in an induction workshop.

Attempts to confirm the development were fruitless as IEBC CEO Marjan Hussein Marjan and Kulundu did not pick up calls nor respond to text messages.

A source said Mr Marjan was held up in a management meeting for the better part of yesterday. "I am not aware of what you are saying. I have not heard that. We are in a management meeting and everybody is here. I can't see her. It may be true," the source added. 

In the vicious war in the commission, Kulundu was a pawn as she has been in the crosshairs of the three commissioners led by the chairman after she appeared to take sides.

IEBC Vice-Chair Juliana Cherera, and commissioners Irene Masit, Justus Nyangaya and Francis Wanderi broke ranks with Chebukati questioning the manner in which presidential results were being verified.

However, IEBC chair and commissioners, Abdi Guliye and Boya Molu accused the quartet of having disowned the results after they failed in their attempts to influence the outcome.

The Commission deputy CEO was linked to the four, at one point sitting in a breakaway plenary meeting of the four commissioners questioned the decision to suspend elections in Mombasa and Kakamega.

Wednesday, Azimio allied MPs described the interdiction as a witch hunt by three IEBC commissioners and demanded her reinstatement. Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi claimed the three had used their powers to "victimise" Kulundu. 

 Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

"What is suspicious is the fact that prior to her sacking she had been served with two show-cause letters within a span of three weeks. She responded to the first within two weeks but before she could respond to the other which was due Tuesday 4pm, she was interdicted," he said. 

Kitui Senator Enock Wambua said the top leadership of IEBC has, with the latest act, crossed the line of public decency.

"Whatever the CEO and chairman of IEBC elect to do in their sunset days in the commission, due process of the law must be seen to be followed. You can't interdict a member of staff on account of mere accusations. If accusations are sufficient grounds for interdiction, then perhaps the chairman and CEO should have been interdicted a long time ago," he said.

Nairobi Woman Representative Esther Passaris claimed that Kulundu had been victimised for dispensing her duties in a free and fair manner as envisioned in the Constitution. She also called for an end to the alleged witch hunt.

"Just because we as Azimio accepted the outcome of the ruling by the court on presidential results doesn't mean we accepted what IEBC did. We will also do not accept what they are doing," said Ms Passaris. 

Nominated MP Sabina Chege termed Kulundu's interdiction an affront to the rights of women. "As Azimio, we will not sit and allow whistleblowers to be victimised for putting their best foot forward," she said. 

They further, claimed that the three commissioners were planning to extend their contracts set to expire in January next year. 

"Should they not leave office at the lapse of their tenure, we will force them out," said Wandayi.