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Petitioner claims 'collusion to alter outcome' of State House contest

Steve Owuor makes his submission before the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee at County Hall, Nairobi. November 25, 2022. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Two petitioners seeking the removal of four IEBC commissioners are hinging their petitions on a nexus between Azimio-One Kenya coalition and the “Cherera four” during the August 2022 electioneering period.

They have also singled out and put commissioner Irene Masit in their cross-hairs arguing that she illegally holds office in accordance to a ruling by Justice Anthony Mrima delivered in June.

When the process kicked off yesterday, Geoffrey Langat, who is seeking the ouster of commissioners Juliana Cherera, Justus Nyangaya, Francis Wanderi and Masit, over alleged gross misconduct, violation of the Constitution, and incompetence, appeared before the National Assembly’s Justice and Legal Affairs Committee (JLAC) to defend his petition.

However, none of the commissioners was  present and neither were their lawyers who staged a walked on Thursday accompanied by Azimio MPs

They had argued that JLAC lacked the jurisdiction to hear the petitions and that the commissioners enjoyed immunity as public officers and thus the process was unconstitutional.

They also tore into the petitions, saying they were not backed by the evidence, presenting a hurdle on their part as they could not “cross-examine” evidence not presented to them.

But yesterday, the petitioner sought to convince the George Murugara-led committee that the four were working in cahoots with one side of the political divide to alter the outcome of the presidential election.

Langat relied on an affidavit by IEBC chair Wafula Chebukati, where he had made revelations of being visited by Azimio official Raphael Tuju, and former Attorney General Amos Wako and later members of the then National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) during the vote counting process in an attempt to either declare Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga as president-elect or cause a re-run.

He claimed that by virtue of their positions, this was  a clear pointer of collusion between the four commissioners and Azimio party, party leaders, and/or its agents and thus their conduct was contrary to the IEBC code of conduct.

He also cited August 16 press conference where the four disowned the results declaring William Ruto as the President-elect, citing  factually incongruent and erroneous mathematical figures.

On the same day, he said, almost immediately after the four Commissioners issued a presser, nearly a replica of their statement was issued by Raila at KICC.

“The same made a lot of buzz on social media platforms, trending on Twitter, and exposed the level of incompetence of the whole team,” added Langat.

He also highlighted the fact that soon after the announcement of the results by Chebukati, Azimio moved to court where its contentions were against Chebukati, who they accused of committing irregularities and violating the law.

“The four commissioners filed replying affidavits in support of the petition and argued fully against the chairperson and IEBC. The actions and conduct of the four commissioners were a confirmation of the existence of a cozy and flourishing relationship with the Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya Coalition Party and/or its agents,” observed Langat.

He argued that this was contrary to sections 26 and 30 of the IEBC Act.

Langat was, however, hard-pressed to explain why he was pushing for their removal as opposed to the disbandment of the entire commission.

The committee also questioned the intention of the push to have the four vacate office before January. Langat argued that it was their actions that put the country in a crisis, leading to violence that broke out at Bomas of Kenya.

“I am aware that the removal of the commissioners will affect the composition of the IEBC. They should however leave office after handling the pending by-elections,” added the petitioner.

Another petitioner, Steve Owuor, premised his petition on the violation of Article 251 of the Constitution on the part of the commissioners.

“The fact that the commissioners issued a similar statement similar to that of a Presidential candidate whereas they were expected to be referees in the elections cast aspersions as to their impartiality,” stated the petitioner.

Owuor further trained his sights on Masit, who he argued was unconstitutionally in office since she unsuccessfully vied for political office in 2017.

In June, Justice Mrima ruled that Masit was not eligible for appointment as a member of IEBC since five years had not lapsed from the time she contested an MP seat in 2017. She was appointed in September 2021.

The court, however, declined to revoke Masit’s appointment, saying she would remain in office to avoid interfering with preparations for the August 9 General Election and to avert any constitutional crisis in the country.

Owuor held that there will be no crisis this time since IEBC operations can be suspended and if need be, the by-elections postponed.